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Out There: On a Hot Streak

Could you run for 17,155 consecutive days? Jon Sutherland has.

Could you run for 17,155 consecutive days? Jon Sutherland has.

My job writing for a running magazine requires copious amounts of…well, running. Which is great, because I love running.

And yet some days I just don’t feel like doing it. Take today, for example. Here I sit in my bathrobe, making excuses for why I shouldn’t tick off today’s workout: Last night’s episode of “Game of Thrones” gave me nightmares, and now I’m tired; it looks like it could rain any second; my dog is sleeping on my feet, and I dare not wake him up; either PMS or M&Ms have caused me to feel bit bloated, and I really, really, really shouldn’t go for a run…right? Right? Anyone backing me up here? No?

They’re all BS excuses, of course. Especially when you encounter people like Jon Sutherland, who holds the U.S. record for the longest run streak. As of today, the 65 year-old from West Hills, Calif., has ignored the excuses and run every single day for 17,155 days.

That’s 47 years, you guys.

That’s longer than I’ve been alive.

When I first heard of Sutherland’s run streak, I assumed he must be some sort of militaristic runner who rarely deviates from his routine. Quite the contrary: Sutherland is a writer who covers the rock music scene, which is about as far from militaristic as one can get. The hours are inconsistent, the deadlines pressing, and the travel demanding.

Sutherland runs anyway. Every day, without fail.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put on some pants and go for a run.

Q&A With Jon Sutherland U.S. Run Streak Record Holder

How many days does your run streak have?

On May 26, 2016, it is 47 years.

What “rules” do you have for this streak?

Running at least one mile every day unassisted. I kept up a minimum of three miles a day for almost 40 years now I’m thankful for the one mile days! I’ve averaged 11 miles per day for over 193,000 miles during the streak.

Was this an intentional thing? Did you wake up one morning and say to yourself, “I think I’ll run every day for the next 40 some-odd years”?

No, never! A teammate of mine, Mark Covert at LA Valley College, mentioned that he had run every day for a year, so I thought, “I’ll try that.” I was always 307 days behind Mark until he stopped his streak.

Do you log things formally, or is it just a matter of running for running’s sake?

I’ve written down every workout I have ever done going back to 1968. I fill a 3-inch notebook every year with my lifetime mileage stats, running diary and mementos from that year.

I’ll be honest—there are days when I look at my training plan and I’m just not digging it. Do you have days like that, too?

I bet I hold the world record for this. I’ve gone to over 1,000 rock concerts which put a lot of morning runs in jeopardy.

So how do you get out the door on those days?

I have two dogs, Puck and Pixie, to remind me every day. In all, I run about 10 times a week—I can’t do doubles everyday anymore.

Do you ever just check off the required mile and go home?

Usually when I run a mile just to keep the streak alive I feel guilty and run more.

Yeah, that first mile usually leads to more for me, too. What about injuries or illness?

I’ve had 10 broken bones during the streak: four ribs, a shin, pelvis, vertebrae, radius, and a couple stress fractures in my feet. I don’t get sick much – mono in college and strep throat a couple of times.

Was your streak ever threatened?

I had an avulsion fracture, where muscle pulled off the bone, during a half-marathon in 1988. I felt a big pop slipping on ice going at 5:00 min/mile pace, and the runner next to me heard it! I finished the race! The next day I could barely lift my right leg off the ground. That injury took nine months to heal.

A lot of people make a big deal about rest days—obviously, with a streak, that doesn’t happen. How do you build in that recovery time?

My trick was to run early one day and late the next to get the most rest in between runs.

How in the world did you go for a run the day after a race, when most people are zombie-walking?

I always used running the day after a race to analyze my performance. If I ran poorly, I’d be determined to train harder. If I ran well, I’d be excited—You’re getting there, man!—and I’d run harder. Races motivated me to do the work I needed to be competitive.

Do you still race?

Not anymore. I think 615 races are enough.

Some people view running (and especially run streaks) as a selfish endeavor. Has your streak ever been a source of conflict with your loved ones?

My parents thought sports were noble, so no problem there. My family brags about me and I have fun with that. I tell people, “It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. I’m a runner, runners run.”

I’ve found that the more time I spend running, the more I experience the world—I see more cool/interesting/crazy things, encounter new people, and have experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed of. Have you had the same experience? What has running brought to your life?

People. I have met so many fascinating runners. I’ve run with some of the greatest runners of all time. I remember a run I took in New Zealand with Dick Quax, Dave Bedford, John Walker, Jos Hermans and Rod Dixon—all world record holders! Wow! Traveling all over the U.S., Europe and New Zealand to race has been fun too.

In all your days of running, does one stick out as the best you’ve ever had?

Any time I can run at the bottom of Huddart Park in Woodside, California, I’m incredibly happy.

What advice do you have for building a long and healthy run streak?

Run on soft surfaces with good shoes as much as you can! Keep races on your calendar that will motivate you to get out there when you don’t feel like it.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke