Streak Runners

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This article originally appeared in our July/August 2013 issue and was written by Dave Dunham.

When I think of streaking the first image to pop into my head is the scene from Old School where Frank the Tank is running down the street naked and his wife (Marissa) drives up.

Marissa: Frank, what are you doing?

Frank: We’re going streaking!  We’re going up to the quad and to the gymnasium.

Marissa: Who is?

Frank (looks around and realizes he is alone): There’s more coming.

Marissa: Frank, get in the car.

Frank: But, everybody’s doing it!

Sadly, “streaking in the quad” is not what this article is about.  I’ve always been interested in numbers, especially “unbroken or uninterrupted series” of them, and streaks are of particular interest to me.  Most runners would think of a streak in terms of consecutive days run, but there are many more types out there.

I contacted some local streakers and found some cool stuff about each of them and also learned a lot about what gives some of us that drive to accomplish unusual and difficult things.  I don’t personally know any local streak runners who are Mileage Streakers but after doing a little research on the United States Running Streak Association (runeveryday.com), I found that the longest streak by a New England runner is Dr. Stephen Reed from Wiscasset, ME.  He has run every day since June 16, 1976.  The longest streak on the website was just short of 44 years.  The USRSA defines a streak as a “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).”  That is a perfect example of a clear definition of a streak.  Personally I wouldn’t count a run of less than three miles. That is part of the fun of a streak, as Boston Marathon director and marathon streak runner Dave McGillivary has said, “It is my Game, so it is my rules.”

When I contacted Reno Stirrat he noted, “I’ve never been much of a streak runner, but my most significant was 1500 days averaging 103 miles a week, 14.8 miles per day during that time period.”  In my book that counts as a pretty sick streak!  However, I wasn’t even thinking in terms of mileage when I contacted Reno.  He is a prolific racer and I wanted to hear about his streak of consecutive decades with sub-2:45 marathons.  He hadn’t really thought of it as a streak.  He ran his first sub 2:45 in 1976 and says that he is hoping to “run sub 3 hours for as long as my body lets me.” He is hoping to become the first person to make 6 decades with a sub 3 hour marathon.  Reno is highly motivated and felt “the only thing that will stop me would be a physical ailment.”  I think it is amazing to find someone who has kept a high level of motivation over such a long span of time without burning out.

A more common form of streaking is running the same race year after year.  Mike Beeman is a great example of this.  The former Derry, NH resident lives in Georgia now but makes the annual pilgrimage to the Boston Marathon.  He has a streak of 35 years and counting.  There are 47 runners with a minimum of 25 straight years and Mike is currently ranked 9th.  Mike told me he watched the race in 1976 and thought “I want to run this thing,” and the rest is history.  There hasn’t been a decision about how to tabulate streaks for this year as 28 of the 47 were not allowed to finish the 117th running due to tragic events at the finish line.  Mike has a great attitude which is definitely helpful for a streaker.  He hopes to “stay healthy, keep going, and never take my health for granted.”  Needless to say, he’ll be back in Hopkinton next April.

Probably my favorite streak is held by mountain runner Richard Stockdale.  I have a certain fondness for the USATF NE Mountain running series (probably because I was the guy behind the scene who got it started in 1996).  Richard’s fondness exceeds mine as he has run 70 straight Mountain series races: “I found out there was an actual Mountain racing series…(and) started going to every race” and “never thought about the steak” until I started posting streak totals a few years ago.  Like most of the streakers I’ve talked to, Stockdale says, “I started doing this series by chance but found immediately that it was something I wanted to do.”  Not surprisingly, it appears that most people aren’t thinking “I’m going to do 100 straight” when they do a race or series for the first time.  Stockdale has covered over 440 miles during his streak and more incredibly has climbed over 133,000 feet (and perhaps a more difficult descent of over 55,000 feet).  He is a tough racer and when asked about future goals noted, “There has been a lot of competition in my age category over the years and that has been a big inducement to showing up and competing as hard as possible.”

Fred Ross is another mountain streaker, but his streak is an incredible 35 consecutive finishes at the Mt Washington Road Race.  He ran his first Mt Washington in 1975 after hiking all of the New Hampshire 4,000’ peaks that year.  His training partners warned him “to just take it easy the first time and see what it is like.”  Fred just missed earning a certificate which was given to the top 100 finishers, so he decided to return.  The following year he found he was out of the top 100 at half-way and dropped out.  Later he learned that ALL finishers got certificates, and that was fuel for the fire.  He returned in 1978 and hasn’t missed the race since.  Fred has an interesting take on running versus walking (a common practice at Mt Washington): “One year I ran all the way to see if I could, but it was a slower time than mixing in walking.”  Many have found that to be true!  He notes, “I’m at the point now where I walk most of the way,” but also “hope(s) to continue as long as I can.”  Like many of us Fred enjoys tracing stats; he is a serious hiker who recently completed his goal of reaching the 100 highest summits in New England…in winter.  That’s hardcore.

Another fine example of someone who embodies the true spirit of streak racing is Laurel Shortell.  She has a 12 year streak of 152 races in the Western Mass Athletic Club (WMAC) Dion Snowshoe racing series.  The series often has two races on each weekend in January and February.  Laurel was “drawn to snowshoe racing due to the softer running surface” and after two seasons she had the longest streak and notes, “Only a drastic and unexpected event will end my streak.”  Like other streakers she has had to overcome obstacles, and the remote locations for some of the series events and sometimes sketchy weather have tested her mettle.  She plans out her races carefully and even a travel ban in MA couldn’t stop her.  She recalls, “I was careful to leave MA early in the morning to avoid the storm the day before the weekend’s first race, and I stayed out of state all weekend so that I could still participate in both days of racing.”   Laurel is also a fixture on the mountain running scene, although she doesn’t have a streak in the USATF NE mountain running series, she has more finishes than any other woman in the history of the series.  Shortell is another great example of the high motivation of the streak runner and plans to keep at it.  She says, “I hope to surpass the men eventually and hold the most accumulated races for all runners of all genders in that series.”

Prescott Enjoys Her Cake

Sarah Prescott celebrates her streak

One of the most difficult streaks I’ve heard of is Sarah Prescott’s consecutive finishes at the USATF New England grand prix road race series.  She has an amazing run of 93 consecutive finishes.  The series is made up of 7 races ranging in distance from 5k to marathon and typically the races are from February through October.  So, that means Sarah has been able to stay relatively uninjured for over 13 years and race throughout the year at various distances.  She not only finishes the races but last year was one of only ten women who scored in all 7 races (and finished 4th in the 45-49 age group).  Impressive!  Prescott recalls her original motivation: “MVS [Merrimack Valley Striders] had a team competition within the grand prix and I was motivated by seeing my name in the standings.”  She has continued the streak because it is a “good combination of distances and locations,” and offers, “the camaraderie of running friends and being a part of an incredible team [now Whirlaway].”

My training partner Dan Verrington and I both have an unusual streak.  We both have won at least one race every year since 1979.  Dan told me, “My streak is purely accidental.  I never set out with a plan.”  His first win was a high school cross-country meet.  “When I was in my thirties I looked back and saw the pattern so I researched it,” he said.  He continues the streak because “I still enjoy racing and I get lucky and win a few times a year.”  Dan has no immediate plan to let his streak end, although this type of streak can be broken despite the best planning.  He notes that eventually “father time always takes over.”  Dan and I have had quite a rivalry over the years; I believe I’ve raced him more than anyone else.  We’ve raced each other 253 times.  I’ve crossed the line ahead of him 136 times and he’s bested me 117 times.  More importantly there were 14 times that I won and Dan was second, and 16 times Dan was champion and I was first loser.  I hope that either of our streaks ends with an end of the year battle right to the line with both of us giving it all we’ve got.

Although streaks may not be fore everyone, they can help with focus and motivation.  I like Richard Stockdale’s take on racing, “I get beat by some people and then I beat them the next year, so you can only run in the moment and have fun with it.” Along the same lines, The United States Running Streak Association has a long disclaimer page about the possible consequences of a running streak but the final paragraph really sums it up:  “…embrace and enjoy the spiritual opportunity that comes through running.  Own your streak and your life on your own terms.  You only have this one life to live.  Be happy.”  I couldn’t have said it better, so find something you enjoy and go out and do it.  Streak on Legion!

Watch out!  You might just see Dave Dunham streaking at a race near you. 

If you would like to read more from the Jul/Aug 2013 issue, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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