Runners go to crazy lengths to keep streaks alive

ROCHESTER, Minn. – When Steve DeBoer broke his ankle the doctor put him in a walking boot and advised him to apply only as much weight as he could tolerate.

The doctor didn't realize who he was dealing with.

"The next day I took off the walking boot, taped up my ankle, and tolerated a one mile run," DeBoer says.

And his doctor?

"I didn't tell him," smiles DeBoer.

Welcome to the world of "streak running" where participants would sooner cut off a limb than end their running streaks – even if that meant hopping a mile on one leg.

The U.S. Running Streak Association oversees a list of more than 500 runners who have registered their streaks. To list a streak, a runner must have run at least a mile for 365 days.

DeBoer, a 60-year-old dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, is currently ranked 3rd in the country with a running streak nearing 44 years.

Jim Pearson, 70, of Marysville, Washington has stretched his streak to more than 45 years, qualifying him for second place.

Jon Sutherland, 64, of West Hills, California owns the nation's longest active running streak at nearly 46 years.

Minnesota currently has 33 runners on the active streak list, the most per capita. Rochester, Minnesota is first among all U.S cities, with six runners on the streak list.

"We like to say that we should get some extra days for having to run in the wintertime here," jokes DeBoer.

Like several runners on the list, DeBoer started his running streak in high school. He ran to get in shape for basketball, then kept running even after he was cut from the team.

"I know I'm not right," he laughs, "but I know all these other people that aren't right."

Another Minnesotan, Steve Gathje of Minneapolis, owns the 7th longest running streak with more than 42 years.

"I was out for Cross Country and just wanted to run every day and be in the best shape I could to compete, and it became a habit," he says the 59-year-old.

Every streak runner has stories of running through illnesses and events that would sideline others.

Texan Bill Anderson ran through the pain on the day of appendectomy - and again the day after. His daughter pushed his IV pole as he gingerly jogged in a hospital courtyard.

Californian Gaby Cohen secretly ran in a hospital bathroom an hour before her son was born. "When I got pregnant that was my fear," admits Cohen. "I wouldn't be able to keep my streak going."

Through her entire pregnancy, Cohen never missed a day of running. "I was very careful, just plodded along," she says. Cohen's running steak has now extended beyond 22 years, good for 100th place on the U.S. Running Streak list.

Such dedication – some might say obsession - is not uncommon among streak runners.

It's much easier to start a streak, they say, than it is to end one.

"I try and figure out what my escape plan would be if I ended up in an emergency room," says Tom Welch of Victoria, Minnesota, whose running streak has passed 17 years.

"Sort of a New Year's resolution gone awry," Welch says. "I am number three in Minnesota. I'm pretty sure in the city of Victoria I'm number one," he laughs.

During his streak Welch has logged nearly 40,000 miles, a walk in the park compared to runners at the top of the list.

DeBoer is approaching 150,000 miles, equal to six trips around the circumference of the earth.

Welch, who once ran with a kidney stone, has given up trying explain himself to friends and family. "Initial reaction is, 'Wow, that's amazing,' and then they'll think about it for a little bit and say, 'You're nuts."


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