Tuesday, August 3, 2010

He's run for 11,616 straight days ... and counting

Streak running is a very different type of running. It's not about distance -- that's for marathoners and ultramarathoners to obsess over. It's not about speed -- there are plenty of former high school and college track stars out there vying for overall and age-group awards at local races.

No, streak running is all about the streak, about getting out there day after day after day after day after day after day after … well, you get the picture.

David Todd, a custom home builder in the Marvin and Weddington area, has been building on his running streak for more than 11,000 consecutive days. In sweltering heat, in freezing cold, in rain, and -- on at least one occasion -- in shoes and clothes that weren't at all designed for running (more on that shortly).

Now 58, he keeps plugging away at a pursuit he's worked on for better than half his life, and that ranks him 30th on the U.S. Running Streak Association's list of active streakers.

Todd, a Charlotte native who now lives in Matthews, tells me: "The streak started Oct. 14, 1978. I was 26 and recently separated so I needed a distraction, and running at least one mile every day became that distraction. I’m not sure who started first, me or Forrest Gump, but I’m still doing it.

"I don’t run competitively. It’s usually me and my golden retriever running in the evening through the neighborhood. I’m again recently separated -- this time after a 28-year marriage and two wonderful children -- so again as a distraction, I have changed my routine and I now run a little over two miles daily instead of one."

According to the USRSA website, the official definition of a running streak is "to run at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices). Running under one's own body power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill. Running cannot occur through the use of canes, crutches or banisters, or reliance on pools or aquatic devices to create artificial buoyancy."

A mile may not sound like much, but there's no question Todd is a real runner. He estimates he's probably run about 15,000 miles since the streak started. That's a lot. As a younger man, he posted PRs of 43:09 for a 10K and 5:24 for a mile. That's fast. Today, he runs about an 8:00 to 8:30 pace. That's respectable.

I caught up with Todd recently to talk about the streak, and how he's kept it alive.

Q. So when you went out that first day, on Oct. 14, 1978, you told yourself ... what?

As I said, I originally started running as a distraction from a failed marriage. I needed something to make me feel good about myself. I had actually been running daily for about six weeks before the streak started. I was driving back from Colorado with my best friend, and we drove until late one night in a pretty bad rain. I missed that night but decided that I would not miss again until I was physically unable. I am extremely lucky and blessed that I have not been physically unable to run in that amount of time. I’ve had a few close calls, a bad back, a knife wound in my shin, but nothing so bad that I couldn’t get in a mile that day.

Q. But you also say it was just a few years ago that you learned of the USRSA. Was it just a coincidence that the association's eligibility requirements were also "at least one mile"?

It truly was a coincidence. I actually read a story in The Observer about a guy from Black Mountain that had a 20-plus-year running streak and was a member of the USRSA. I had been running longer than that so I contacted them and joined.

Q. Before you knew about the USRSA, did you have any other personal "rules"?

The only rule that I ever had was to run every day for at least one mile and not to run on a treadmill. ... I never have enjoyed running in place. When I was much younger I would always time myself and make sure that I ran a pace of less than 7 minutes. Now I only check my time every so often just to see if I’m slipping any. I’m not sure I could break 7 minutes now but I could come pretty close.

Q. What's your current running routine?

Unless I am traveling, I pretty much run the same 2.1-mile route every day with my dog. I do leave him home on occasion if the weather is too bad. I probably run more in the evening than any other time but I do enjoy running in the morning. If I know I will have a busy day and evening, I will make it a point to get out early and run. It just takes me a little more time to get warmed up in the mornings. I have never been one to stretch or warm up before I start. If I am not loose, I just run a little slower until things start loosening up.

Q. Do you ever run with other people, or just with your dog?

I run alone (with my dog). No particular reason for this, but I do enjoy the time I spend running as an opportunity to reflect on what is going on in my life. If I allow my mind wander while I run, it makes the time pass quickly. I don’t mind running with others, but the opportunity rarely presents itself unless I’m traveling or something. My dog (Bear) lives for it. He is the fourth generation that I have raised and all three before him were a part of my streak.

Q. Have you kept a log of your total mileage?

I do not keep a log of my mileage. For most of the nearly 32 years of this streak, I ran exactly one mile. I would always know exactly how far from my house I would have to run to finish a mile at my house. Back when I was running some 5 and 10K races, I would run a lot of three-mile training runs. I don’t think I’ve ever run more than about seven or eight miles. About nine months ago, after another failed marriage and desperately in need of another distraction, I increased my mileage to 2.1 daily. If I had to guess, I’ve probably run about 15,000 miles since the streak started. I am sure that I have run at least halfway around the world by now.

Q. Do your friends/family members think you're crazy?

I think that most of my family and friends think that I am pretty normal. My kids are 25 and 26 now so I’ve run every day of their lives. I’ve run into a few people that probably think I am “certifiable.” I had a couple of buddies that thought I was crazy for running in the Linville Gorge while we were on a two-night backpacking trip, but to me, there was no choice. Another time I had to leave a bar at the beach at 11:50 p.m. and run in street clothes and shoes in order to keep the streak alive. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy when they see me running in some really nasty weather conditions.

Q. How do you stay motivated?

Once this streak was maybe a few months old, motivation came easy. It is a rare day that I dread hitting the pavement. Weather is never an issue for me. When you have been doing it for as long as I have, you have run in every condition imaginable. I have clothing for about any condition other than ice. I just have to be really careful when it is icy, which isn’t often.

Q. Did you have a running background prior to 1978?

Other than running track in the eighth grade (880 mostly), I didn’t have a running background prior to 1978. Prior to that, I would usually choose to run (a mile) if I was looking to improve my fitness.

Q. Those are pretty solid PRs. How old were you when you clocked those/at what period of your life were you in what you would consider you "peak" running shape?

I am pretty sure that those times were clocked back in my early thirties. I’m 58 now so it is hard to remember. I could run a sub-6-minute mile without much effort back then. My 10K PR was in one of the Charlotte Observer races and my mile PR was on a track at Quail Hollow. It was just a training run.

Q. What's the most valuable thing streak running has taught you?

I know for a fact that if I did not run every day, I would not run regularly. The motivation would not be there. That is probably not the same for everyone, but that is how I am wired. I’m not sure what running has taught me, but I can tell you that it (running) is a great time to reflect on what is going on in your life. There are obvious health benefits of course as long as you don’t wear out your feet or knees. I’ve just been very fortunate that I have not experienced any adverse wear and tear after all these years. I am a person that needs a structured routine in my life. I wanted marriage to be that for me but for reasons outside of my control, that did not work out. Running daily is something that only I can control.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing!

beth said...

this is really great!

Scott Helms said...

I've known David for a bit less than a decade, and I didn't even know about this streak until a few years ago. That's how non-chalant he is about it. Anyone else who did this I would probably think of as a little crazy. David? Not at all. Great story, and an amazing feat. Thank you for sharing.