Running for Life—25 Years and Counting

On January 21, 1987, Stuart Calderwood went for a run. Nothing unusual in that; at the time he was coaching high school cross country and track in Laguna Beach, CA, and ran five or six days each week. But at age 28, Calderwood hadn't run any personal-best times since his college track days at UC Irvine. Looking for motivation, he made a pact with himself: He'd run—at least a little bit—every day.

On January 20, 2012, Calderwood, now 53, will celebrate 25 years of daily running. That's right: He will log his 9,130th consecutive daily run, representing just over 85,080 miles. He'll do it with a group of friends and colleagues at NYRR, where he's a senior editor and coach; they'll celebrate afterward with breakfast and a toast to (at least) another 25 years. A few days before the anniversary, Calderwood shared insights on a quarter-century of daily runs.

What's the significance of 25 years of running?
At first, it was just part of an effort to get back to top shape, and part of my rededication was a commitment to do at least some running every day. I guess it worked, because I set all my lifetime bests between the ages of 30 and 37. Whatever significance the streak has had has been there since I started it and stayed the same ever since.

What makes a streak official? Any idea how you stack up against other runners who "streak"?
The rules of the United States Running Streak Association say that "a run must consist of at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power." My streak ranks 78th in the USRSA rankings, which isn't too impressive next to guys like Mark Covert, the top guy on the list, who's got 43 years. It's all on the honor system, of course—I don't think they have us all on satellite surveillance, but you never know.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done to maintain your streak?
Nothing very crazy. I did do a one-hour run in a British holding cell (it opened onto a hallway about 15 yards long) in 1992, after immigration officials wouldn't let me into the country without my passport, which had been stolen in Barcelona while I was watching the Olympics. My favorite part of that was that for the whole hour, my steps were pounding on the ceiling of the office where the official who'd detained me was sitting—a very unpleasant woman who'd made a racist remark about one of my fellow "prisoners."

So, we have to ask: Why do you streak?
In my case it's mostly a symptom of trying to keep high standards and not quit on things. I dislike being considered "addicted" to running (or anything else); I don't feel like that at all. I like contests of all kinds—it's a big game that I like to play with life. I almost never think about running daily. It's just part of the routine, like other people's yoga classes or favorite TV shows.

You're a coach. Is streaking something you recommend to other runners?
I'd never recommend it. Days off, and longer periods, are clearly a good thing; most top runners take time off after their seasons are over. Running reasonably high mileage works for me; I've had more racing success as an older runner than I ever did as a young guy, and I think that's partly due to my consistency—but the streak is a separate thing, really.

Any ideas about ending your streak?

I know exactly how it will end: I'll die, or I'll be rendered physically incapable of running. I've never considered missing a day.