Traversing the Tundra at 60
By: Steve DeBoer
In case you have not noticed, the trend is for streak runners to get older. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the alternative. Within the last year, our top two streakers reached the 60 mark, age-wise. We now have the most 60 and above streak runners ever, quite a change from 1984, when Wendell DeBoer became the first 60-year-old with a running streak. By 1990, only two more were added – Len Burton and Walt Byerly. Barbara Latta became the first 60 year old woman streaker in 2001.
Currently, 16 of the top 22 spots on the Active streak list are age 60 or older. As of June 1, 2011, 89 of the 258 active streakers have passed their 60th birthday. Another 18 will reach 60 within the next 18 months (41.5% of total). The aging of the US streak runner is also obvious when the average age of our group is calculated, having gone from 26 years in 1975 to 45 years in 1993 to 52.5 years at present. We have been picking up a few younger runners recently, including 12-year-old Bradley Blaszynski, who was 11 when his running streak reached one year on August 30, 2010. He replaces Stephanie Kammerzell as our youngest daily runner and is the 3rd youngest ever to start a streak.
Have you noticed how long you have to run daily to get very high on our list? In 1993, if you had run every day for 20 years, you would have one of the 15 longest running streaks in the US ever. Now there are 97 runners at 20 years or more, plus several others I am aware of who have not certified their running streaks. The certified 20-year streaker list will be at 100 by the end of this summer.
Another trend that involves the number 60 has to do with % of lifetime in a running streak. For most people, it will require one to begin daily running before age 30 and to continue at least into his or her 70s. Even though Walt Byerly is over 80 years old and has a 36-year running streak, he will have a very difficult time reaching 60%, as that won’t happen until he is 110 years old, since he did not begin daily runs until age 44.
The number of streak runners who have done it daily for over 60% of their lives is now at an alltime high. Bob Hensley was the first to reach 60% in 1992. Mark Covert followed in 1995 and Steve DeBoer in 1996. For comparison, Ron Hill, who began his running streak December 1964, at age 26, did not reach 60% until 2005 (he is now at 63.9%). Five years ago there were only 9 runners in this category in the US. Now there are 22 and would be 23 if Dick Vincent had not had to end his streak in October 2009, as he was at 59.8% at that time.
Bob ended his 3rd running streak on December 6, 2006. At that time, his streak covered 70.51% of his life. He had a 4th streak from January 9, 2008 to July 31, 2009, which brought his percentage back to 70.0%. Mark and Steve reached 70% in November and December 2009. If they keep up their daily runs, they will both reach 71% in November 2011.
Here is the list of those who have run at least 1 mile daily for at least 60% of their life as of June 1, 2011:
Mark Covert 60 70.79%
Steve DeBoer 56 70.77%
Jon Sutherland 60 69.22%
Nick Morganti (2 streaks) 55 69.17%
Steve Gathje 56 68.98%
Dave Hamilton 56 68.52%
Bob Hensley (4 streaks) 56 67.75% (dropping, as not currently running daily)
Gary Jones 59 66.63%
Joel Pearson 25 65.33%
Alex Galbraith 60 65.04%
Brian Casey 52 64.69%
William Benton (2 streaks) 61 64.47%
John Roemer IV 51 63.48%
Steve Morrow (2 streaks) 47 62.53%
Robert Kraft 60 62.12%
Don Slusser (4 streaks) 59 61.86% (63.38% if count 5th streak of 361 days)
Timothy Woodbridge 53 61.62%
Jim Pearson 67 61.55%
Layne Party 51 60.92%
John Wallace III 35 60.73%
Jay Kammerzell (4 streaks) 54 60.57%
Grant McAllister 47 60.08%
Note that if you are age 56 or 60, you have much greater odds of reaching 60%. If you add in those less than 12 months away from those ages, 12 of the 22 fit the profile, with odds better than 1 in 2. Joel Pearson, being one of only 2 daily runners who began before age 10 (and the only one with an active streak), continues to climb up the list, now in 8th place, having been 11th place 3 years ago. He will hit 75% before age 36.
Of course, there are more of us closing in on 60, as follows:
Bill Robertson 58 58.87%
Ken Young 69 58.81%
John Carlson 57 58.61%
Bruce Sherman 56 58.30%
Dick Vincent 59 58.14% (dropping, as not currently running daily)
Rick Porter 58 57.74%
Scott Ludwig 56 57.55%
George Hancock 58 57.01%
As for women streak runners, Julie Maxwell, has been running for 33 of her 60 years. This puts her lifetime percentage of daily runs at 54.6%. With only 3 women having active streaks longer than 20 years, Julie is the only one who might reach 60% within the next ten years.
As runners, I think we reach directly back along the endless chain of history. We experience what we would have felt had we lived ten thousand years ago, eating fruits, nuts and vegetables, and keeping our hearts and lungs and muscles fit by constant movement. We are reasserting, as modern man seldom does, our kinship with ancient man, and even with the wild beasts that preceded him. This, I think, is our remarkable secret, one we share every time we go running.
- James F. Fixx in “The Complete Book of Running” (1977)
As runners, we all go through many transitions – transitions that closely mimic the larger changes we experience in a lifetime. First, we try to run faster. Then we try to run farther. Then we learn to accept ourselves and our limitations, and at last, we can appreciate the true joy and meaning of running.
It’s not about how fast you go. It’s not about how far you go. It’s a process. As we run, we become. Every workout reveals new truths and releases new dreams.
- Amby Burfoot in “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life” (2000)