Friday, May 15, 2009

Running Streaks

Check out what MDRA Grand Prix founder and still current scorer Hal Gensler has been up to for oh say the last 19+ years.....

7,000, 9,000, 11,000 days in a row - runners won't quit
by Connie Midey - May. 14, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
For anyone unable to muster the energy or time to jog an occasional mile, what some runners do is unfathomable.

Craig Davidson, 55, of Phoenix, has run every single day since Nov. 5, 1978. That's 11,149 days in a row, as of today, of rising at dawn, lacing up his running shoes and hitting the streets.

Hal Gensler, 62, of New River, hasn't skipped a day since Dec. 4, 1989, a total of 7,102 days.
And Robert Bartz, 74, of Phoenix, racked up 9,246 consecutive days before an injury told him it was time to slow down. He ended his streak with a run on his 70th birthday.

"It was really hard to stop," he said. "I took the attitude that you brush your teeth every day, and you need to move every day."

They are among an elite national group known for one thing: running every day regardless of bad weather, injury, illness or any number of life's obstacles that can trip up the most dedicated enthusiast.

Mark Covert, a 58-year-old teacher and coach in Lancaster, Calif., may lead the pack of these resolute runners. He holds the longest registered streak, starting July 23, 1968. Unless something stands in his way, he'll reach 41 years, or 14,975 days, on July 22.

But streak runners let nothing stand in their way. Not a broken kneecap nor 119-degree temperatures nor the imminent birth of a child.

And when something finally does, "they're devastated," Gensler said. He has talked with a few of them, and he hopes to avoid their ranks until his streak hits 25 years. That's more than five years away, a realistic goal, given his current good health.

His and the other men's perseverance - and this until lately has been largely a male preoccupation - has earned them membership in the U.S. Running Streak Association. (The gender imbalance may be due to a previous lack of competitive distance-running events for women, women's predisposition to knee- and hip-overuse injuries and their worries about running alone, the group's founders and fitness experts say.)

Joining the USRSA registry (runeveryday.com), which is operated on the honor system, is like publicly declaring a New Year's resolution: This is what I promise to do, come blizzards, cross-continental flights or repetitive-trauma injuries.

Members must run at least one continuous mile each calendar day under their own power, the only exception being for runners with prosthetic legs, said association president John Strumsky.

But for certain members, a 1-mile run is barely squeaking by, something you do only when an ambulance is waiting to take you to the emergency room.

Strumsky, 69, wasn't satisfied with just one streak. For more than 15 years, he ran a minimum of 1 mile twice a day. He also ran in at least one race a month for 22 years.

"I'm a little bit hard-core," he said from his home in the Baltimore area.

One stormy day this winter, ice glazed the street where he usually runs, so he dressed in layers and headed to a nearby soccer field. There, he knew, his feet would crush through the ice to the dead grass underneath, giving him at least minimal traction for his run.

The end of his running streak occurred Feb. 9, after 9,395 days, or 25 years and 263 days.

Davidson, who works at Runner's Den in Phoenix, averages 12 to 13 miles a day. He can count fewer than five times, which he dismisses as "soft" streak days, when he ran the minimum.

"Running with a torn hip flexor was the toughest," he said.

The broken kneecap and the suspected burst appendix presented challenges nearly as daunting. But the day his wife, Irene, was in labor with their daughter might only have made Davidson run a bit faster.

Gensler averages 7 miles a day, cutting back during tax time - he's a certified public accountant - and taking the miles a little more slowly than when he started his streak.

Running when you're sick or injured "is not any fun," Gensler said, "but I don't get sick very often. And if I get an injury, I just run through it."

A windy, 25-degrees-below-zero day in Minnesota didn't deter him. Nor did a 119-degree day in Phoenix. But an unexpected snowstorm in Happy Jack, where he and his wife, Janet, used to have a cabin, came close.

On that day, Gensler decided running a mile's worth of circles in the unfurnished, 12- by 15-foot basement of the cabin would have to do. He duly logged it in that year's record book, one of a collection that tracks his every mile, including track workouts and races.

He knows it all sounds crazy. But Larry Woodruff, an exercise and wellness faculty member at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus in Mesa, gets it.

"I'm a bit obsessive myself," he said. "If I don't do some kind of physical activity every day, I don't feel quite right."

While managing fitness centers years ago, Woodruff saw how daily exercise improves people's brain waves, reducing the potentially harmful epinephrine secreted under stress and increasing the feel-good endorphins. For distance runners especially, exercise becomes addictive.

Besides, he said, solid research indicates that one of the most effective ways to develop and maintain a good habit is to turn it into a ritual, and that's what streak runners are doing.

"Running every day is something you just do, period," Woodruff said. "You don't think about it. You just do it."

He stays fit, however, in a way he considers safer: varying his activities. His main cardio-respiratory exercise is bicycling, which is easier on the joints and less likely to cause micro-tears in the connective tissue than running every day. The USRSA encourages participants to ease into a running streak.

But lest anyone think all this is too much pain for the gain, streak runners say their rewards go far beyond the health benefits that may have motivated them in the beginning.

The desert surrounding his New River home is a Siren luring Gensler outdoors every day.

"I like to run where there aren't a lot of people around, so I can think about different things and take it easy," he said. "It's relaxing, most of the time."

Bartz, who traveled as vice president of marketing for General Foods, Nabisco and Nestle, saw sights and experienced moments he won't forget during runs at home and in about 55 other countries, on all seven continents, before ending his streak.

"It's like living on a different plane," he said. "I would love to get back to it."


Reach the reporter at connie.midey@arizonarepublic.com

or 602-444-8120.

1 comment:

john said...

I am @ a poultry 453 straight days of riding a lifecycle machine at least one hour burning 800 to 1000- calories. I guess you can say I am warming up for the big boys.