As we embark on our optimistic New Year's resolutions, I'd like to share this inspirational story.
In sports, Americans admire athletes who achieve streaks that are extraordinary. My streak heroes are Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken and the Raven. Gehrig played in a record 2,130 consecutive games; Ripken broke Gehrig's record playing in 2,632 consecutive games. While the streaks of Gehrig and Ripken are well known, the Raven's running streak of 16,435 days on Miami Beach is relatively unknown.
On Dec. 31, Bob Kraft, affectionately known as Raven, celebrated running 8 miles every day on Miami Beach for 45 years. Unbelievable. That's every single day, never missing a day, overcoming challenges of hurricanes, extreme heat, illness, injury and girlfriends who like to travel.
On Dec. 30, my daughter Eliza and I, along with others from around the country and as far away as China, joined the Raven on his pre-anniversary run. It was my third time in 15 years running with the Raven.
Like clockwork, at 4:15 p.m. he appeared at Miami's South Beach 5th Street lifeguard stand. He greeted his guest runners and briefly stretched. His uniform was, of course, in Raven motif – all black: shorts, socks, shoes, headband and one black glove which he wears on his left hand that he found years ago on the beach. It's his good luck charm.
That evening, upon his command, the Raven Run began at 4:45 p.m. The 8.7-mile run on sand ended in darkness. During the run, magic happened.
The Raven, like a great diplomat with the skill of Ronald Reagan, created a special bond between his runners. The run was rich with conversation. His runners shared life stories. He shared his wisdom when asked. If you complete the 8 miles, he honors you with a nickname and induction into the “Raven Run Record Book.” My Raven name is Strikeout and my daughter's is Trendsetter.
There is a little-known association called the International Streak Running Association. To become a member, you must run a minimum of one mile every day for one year (see runeveryday.com).
Raven's streak is legendary. What makes his streak so unique is that he has run in the same location, 8 miles, every day for 45 years. Most runners run wherever they are, but the Raven has committed to running only on Miami Beach. He can't travel.
Among the runners that evening there were four ISRA members with a combined streak of 106 streak running years (Raven, 45 years; Mark Washburne, ISRA president, 30 years; my daughter, 161/2 years; and me, 141/2 years). It was special to run together.
The Raven's 45-year running streak is more than just running. It is a life story exemplifying the positive results of extraordinary commitment and dedication. Here is what I've learned running with the Raven:
• 45 years ago, he began running because he didn't like the direction his life was heading. The discipline of running every day gave him the courage and confidence to change. He advises that when life is headed in the wrong direction, find something positive and commit to it.
• Every day the Raven shares his love of running. He believes love should be shared.
• Running every day can be viewed as obsessive but he believes an obsession, when channeled positively, drives achievement.
• During the run, you will never hear a negative word from the Raven. He believes a positive attitude is strong medicine.
• The Raven has a memory unlike any other person I've ever met. Despite a family history of dementia, at age 69, he credits his extraordinary memory to the benefits of running.
• When he was asked the obvious question, what drove him to run 8 miles every day for 45 years, his answer was, “I just take it one day at a time.” He believes that achieving the seemingly impossible is possible by breaking down a challenge into small, bite-sized pieces. No fanfare – just dedication and hard work.
Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken and the Raven would have much to talk about. By the way, the Raven is still running and if you are so inspired, meet him at the South Beach 5th Street lifeguard stand at 4:15 p.m.
Pete Eshelman is owner of Joseph Decuis in Roanoke.