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Tue May 27, 2014
High School Coach Sports A Running Streak Even Forrest Gump Would Envy
Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:53 am
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: And I'm Melissa Block. Every day for the last 45 years - that's 16,438 days straight - Jon Sutherland has laced up his running shoes or, sometimes, gone barefoot and run at least one mile, but often much more. Today, the 63-year-old Sutherland broke the record for the longest running streak in the U.S. He ran three miles in Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Park in Los Angeles.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Half a mile to go for history.
BLOCK: Cheering him on were students from Notre Dame High School, where he coaches cross-country.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVAL RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: All right, coach.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: Congratulations coach.
BLOCK: And Jon Sutherland joins me now, post-run, from that park. Congratulations. How was today's run, John?
JON SUTHERLAND: It was a lot of fun. And the girls are my team brought balloons. A bunch of boys showed up. It was a lot more than I expected. It was really a lot of fun.
BLOCK: Let's think back to the first run that started this streak - May 26, 1969. Do you remember that run?
SUTHERLAND: Oh, yeah. I'd been running for about a year. And I had a really, really bad injury. Missed two months. Couldn't run a step. And I just remember saying a little prayer - Lord, if you let me run, I'll run everyday the rest my life. And I didn't really know what I was saying. I just said that. And then I started running and I got back into it. And about three months later, one of my teammates, Mark Covert - he told me that he'd run everyday for a year. I said, wow, I'm going to try that. And then it just grew from there. And since then, I haven't missed a day.
BLOCK: And how many miles that all add up to?
SUTHERLAND: I've run 190,715 miles, as of right now.
BLOCK: Wow. Do you ever just stop and think about that and think that that's just crazy?
SUTHERLAND: Yeah. You know, because it was so cumulative - it was such a long period of time, it's like, you know, did you eat breakfast every day? It just becomes part of your life. I'm not that impressed with it, to be honest to you. I think other people make it a bigger deal than I think it is. I mean, there's a lot of people that have run more miles me. Probably forty or fifty in the world. But I'm proud of what I've done.
BLOCK: Here's what I don't get, Mr. Sutherland. You have had - from what I've read - 10 broken bones, a fractured hip, arthroscopic surgeries on both knees. I don't understand how you could run consecutive days through all of those injuries.
SUTHERLAND: Yeah. I've had 10 broken bones. If I can remember them right - two tows, two metatarsals, four ribs, a vertebrae and a hip.
BLOCK: But how were you - how're you running? Why were you running, if you were so injured?
SUTHERLAND: You know, when you do it when you shouldn't, that's vanity. And that's the crazy part that we do. But to keep the streak alive. I mean, there was one period where I ran the same two mile course for like a hundred days in a row because it was all I could do. And I was too embarrassed to go out on the streets and limp around, so I just did it where nobody could see me. I was like an animal that was hurt. I wanted to hide. But I wanted to run. And you just really miss it, you know. You miss the sweating and the wind blowing through your hair and, you know, the movement and just the exercise. You really miss it. It really is a physical addiction.
BLOCK: Was there ever a time in all these 45 years of running consecutive days that you said, OK, I'm done. I've reached a goal and I'm going to stop.
SUTHERLAND: No. No. I've always loved it. I mean, you know, I miss the fact that I can't win races anymore. And I miss the fact that I can't run fast and my times are slow. But I definitely love running. Right now, I'm happy just to run with my dog, run five or six miles a day, and, you know, jog with the team every once in awhile. That's what I really try to do. I've never said, aw, screw this. I'm walking away. Never.
BLOCK: You know, I heard you say earlier that you were going to run every day for the rest of your life. You really think that?
SUTHERLAND: I want to run as long as I can. I don't see any stop sign, so why should I stop, you know? And my buddy, Mark Covert, when he retired from running to cycle full-time, he said, you know, Jon, go out on your own terms. That's the way to do it. But I'm only 63. I'm really healthy. I can still run pretty fast. I feel really good. I don't see why I can't run another 15, 20 years.
BLOCK: Well, Jon, congratulations. All the best to you. Thanks for talking to us.
SUTHERLAND: Oh, wonderful. Thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's Jon Sutherland. He just broke the record for having the longest running streak in the United States. Forty-five years - 16,438 days straight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.