For days without end: In it for the long run

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2012 - 6:26 AM

Injury? Labor? Cold? Some runners refuse to miss a day - for years

hide

Steve Gathje enjoyed his daily run along a path near the Mississippi River

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Julie Maxwell, like so many others, made a New Year's resolution to start running again. Once she starts, she probably won't take another hiatus for a long time.

Literally.

Maxwell, an attorney from Kasson, Minn., ran at least 1 mile every day for 33 years, five months and five days until she fell and broke two bones in her ankle in mid-December. At the time, Maxwell held the longest active running streak by a female in the United States.

That is according to the U.S. Running Streak Association, which tracks the daily progress of this subculture of runners who run every day.

Rochester's Steve DeBoer is No. 5 nationally at 40 1/2 years. Minneapolis resident Steve Gathje is No. 10 at 39-plus years.

The running streak rules are simple: Runners must complete at least 1 mile every day, and they must be honest.

The runners realize the premise of their achievement creates skepticism, but they take the honor system very seriously.

"I don't get paid for this," said Gathje, an actuary at Ameriprise Financial Services. "I suppose there are people who would make this up, but I don't know why."

OK, but why do it? Or better yet, how in the world does someone run every day for 40 consecutive years?

"To be honest, I've run longer than that," DeBoer said.

The association didn't create the 1-mile daily requirement until the early 2000s. DeBoer actually has run every day for 41-plus years. He just didn't meet the 1-mile threshold every day until June 7, 1971.

Since then, he's run more than 136,000 miles, including 48 races of marathon distance or longer.

"Starting a streak is almost unfathomable," Gathje said. "To say I'm going to run for the next 30 years ..."

That's because life offers daily challenges and unexpected events. People get sick, get married, have kids, go on vacation, experience a death in the family, get stuck at the office, stranded at the airport, snowed in. Sometimes you just don't feel like going for a run.

The streakers still manage to run a mile every day.

"Everybody who runs every day has some stories to tell about how they kept their streaks alive," DeBoer said.

'I know it hurts'

DeBoer, a clinical dietitian at the Mayo Clinic, has dealt with pneumonia, kidney stones and an avulsion fracture in his ankle during his streak. Doctors gave him a walking boot to help his foot recover, but he took it off to run and then slipped it back on when he was finished.

"Within a month, I was running 15 miles again," he said.

Gathje once suffered from pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of his lungs. He asked his doctor if running would cause permanent damage.

"He kind of looked at me and said, 'You can't run. It will hurt like crazy,'" Gathje said. "I said, 'I know it hurts. I've figured that out.'"

Gathje's wife woke him early one morning after her water broke with the second of their four children. Her contractions hadn't started yet so ...

"She said, 'You better run before we go because what if we're there all day?'" Gathje said.

Maxwell's most difficult circumstance came in 2003 when she received a call in the middle of the night that her father had died. She went home, grieved with her mother and then put on her running clothes as the sun came up.

"It was a very hard run," she said. "But I knew that he took pride in my having run all those years. I had to get out there for him and for me."

Their streaks continued in places far and wide, on their wedding days and in harsh Minnesota winters.

DeBoer wears ice cleats over his shoes in slippery conditions, but he's suffered frostbite on his face a few times. Gathje avoids treadmills at all cost, so he runs laps in the parking garage of his condo when the weather is bitterly cold or messy.

DeBoer has run in 43 states, South America, Canada, Mexico and England. He kept his watch on central time during a trip to Australia so that he wouldn't get confused by the time change and allow 24 hours to elapse without running.

"I was kind of screwed up," he said, "but I kept my streak going."

Finding a way

Gathje kept his streak alive by running laps around an airport hotel in Newark after his flight was canceled.

Maxwell has run around the deck of a ship crossing the English Channel, under the Eiffel Tower and outside train stations while waiting for the next one to depart. Once, she arrived in Tokyo late, quickly threw her luggage in her hotel room and went for a run at 11:30 p.m.

You can imagine her disappointment, then, when she missed a step and fell while bringing her dogs inside her house last month.

"Nothing exciting or exotic," she said. "No crocodiles or sharks or anything."

She pleaded with emergency room doctors to figure out something that would allow her to keep running post-surgery, but she knew in her heart that wasn't possible. She's not allowed to put weight on her ankle until the end of January.

"As soon as I get the OK from the doctor and it feels good, I'm going to start trying to get back to the jogging," she said. "As soon as it feels strong enough to have a good, solid one-mile run, then I'll be back out there the next day."

Maxwell admits the streak became a compulsion -- "that's about the only compulsive part of me," she said. All three run in the morning before the craziness of a work day begins. They wake up, get it done and then prepare to tackle anything thrown their way.

"There's plenty of days where I don't feel like it, but it's just not an option," Gathje said. "It wasn't one of those things where I started and said my goal is to run every day. It was many years into the streak before I even knew there were other people like me out there."

An obsession

Their backgrounds in running are quite different. DeBoer, 57, competed in cross-country in high school. Gathje, 56, played football, baseball and basketball as a kid. He took up running in eighth grade and later competed in track and cross-country at St. John's.

"The streak was important to me, but I was a competitive runner," he said.

Maxwell, 60, was teaching in Faribault after college and thought it would be good exercise to run between the apartment she lived in and another one she was remodeling.

"One day led to another day and then another day," she said. "The months and years just passed. It became an obsession."

All three agree that a running streak requires some creativity and an understanding spouse. And dedication, of course. Gathje recalled a favorite saying of decorated Minnesota distance runner Bruce Mortenson: "The first step is that first step out the door," he said. "Once you've done that, it's easy."

The trick is to repeat that process again the next day. And the day after that.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Denver 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Carolina 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Detroit 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Denver 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Portland 7:00 PM
Houston
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Toronto 7:00 PM
Chicago
Atlanta 7:30 PM
Dallas
LA Clippers 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Sacramento 9:30 PM
Golden State
Ottawa 6:00 PM
Washington
Nashville 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Florida
Arizona 9:00 PM
Vancouver
San Jose 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Calgary 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ark-Little Rock 51 2nd Half 7:16
Bradley 40
Brown 60 2nd Half 5:45
Central Conn St 46
Stetson 38 2nd Half 10:00
Florida State 46
Ill-Chicago 35 2nd Half 7:13
Northwestern 45
Ohio 34 2nd Half
George Washington 43
Southern Utah 2:00 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Elon 21 1st Half 8:08
Kennesaw St 26
Dartmouth 3:00 PM
Penn State
Green Bay 3:30 PM
UC Irvine
DePaul 3:30 PM
Colorado
Lewis & Clark 4:00 PM
Portland
SC State 4:30 PM
Abilene Christian
Manhattan 5:00 PM
Fordham
Truett-McConnell 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Citadel 5:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Ohio 5:00 PM
Ohio State
Gardner-Webb 5:00 PM
Purdue
Idaho 5:00 PM
Northern Ky
Fairfield 6:00 PM
Albany
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Alcorn State
UT Martin 6:00 PM
Butler
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
UCF
Oakland 6:00 PM
Clemson
Florida A&M 6:00 PM
East Carolina
Eastern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
IUPU-Ft Wayne 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Norfolk State 6:00 PM
James Madison
Binghamton 6:00 PM
Mount St Marys
Towson 6:00 PM
Navy
Long Island 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Notre Dame
William & Mary 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Liberty 6:00 PM
Princeton
Delaware 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
MD-Eastern Shore 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Colgate 6:00 PM
Syracuse
Kansas 6:00 PM
Temple
Mercer 6:00 PM
Tennessee
East Tenn St 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Va Military 6:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
Alabama A&M 6:00 PM
Western Mich
New Orleans 6:05 PM
Indiana
Columbia 6:30 PM
Connecticut
Long Beach State 6:30 PM
St Johns
Wofford 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Southern U 7:00 PM
Baylor
UAB 7:00 PM
Chattanooga
Char Southern 7:00 PM
Colorado State
North Florida 7:00 PM
Iowa
NC Central 7:00 PM
Jackson State
Rice 7:00 PM
Lamar
Central Mich 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Coppin State 7:00 PM
Michigan
Furman 7:00 PM
Minnesota
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Ole Miss
Weber State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma
Grambling St 7:00 PM
TCU
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Incarnate Word 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Penn 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Chicago State 7:00 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Simpson 7:05 PM
Drake
Tenn Tech 7:05 PM
UMKC
Murray State 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Oral Roberts 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Arkansas
Wisconsin 8:00 PM
California
Coll of Charleston 8:00 PM
LSU
North Dakota 8:00 PM
Marquette
Northern New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
UC Santa Barbara 8:00 PM
Oregon
Miami-Florida 8:00 PM
Providence
Northeastern 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Kent State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
UC Davis 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Lewis-Clark State 8:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Walla Walla 8:05 PM
Portland State
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Marshall 9:00 PM
Nevada
Boise State 9:30 PM
Houston
UC Riverside 10:00 PM
San Diego St
Tulane 10:00 PM
Washington
Loyola Marymount 10:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Hawaii
BYU 21 2nd Qtr 4:55
Memphis 24
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Holy Cross 78
Temple 59 FINAL
Villanova 64
Georgia Southern 68 FINAL
Southern U 52
Xavier 60 FINAL
Kennesaw St 61
Eastern Michigan 52 FINAL
Michigan 81
Brescia 56 FINAL
Marshall 127
(21) West Virginia 48 2nd Half 9:35
Ohio State 67
UMBC 68 2nd Half 7:32
MD-Eastern Shore 57
Cornell 61 2nd Half 9:06
Loyola-Maryland 41
St Bonaventure 53 2nd Half 7:48
Georgetown 53
New Hampshire 34 2nd Half 8:51
Northeastern 51
Eastern Washington 32 2nd Half
Florida 27
Rice 24 1st Half 8:30
Texas Southern 16
Butler 3:05 PM
Illinois State
UC Davis 4:00 PM
(16) Stanford
Washington St 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Sacramento St 4:00 PM
San Jose St
SIU-Edwardsville 4:30 PM
UMKC
Oakland 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Belmont 6:00 PM
(14) Georgia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Longwood
Kansas 6:05 PM
Creighton
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Kansas State
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Missouri
Hampton 7:00 PM
DePaul
Florida State 7:00 PM
Tulane
Murray State 7:00 PM
Illinois
Fla Gulf Coast 7:05 PM
Arkansas State
BYU 8:00 PM
Utah State

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Twins off-season moves so far?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close