62* … The Streak Will End This Year
By Scott Ludwig
I can see by the look on your face you’re confused by the title of this story. Baseball aficionados may be thinking it’s a reference to me hitting 62 home runs in a 154-game season of major league baseball; you know, similar to how Roger Maris’ home run total in 1961 is frequently notated (61*). If that’s the case you would be sadly mistaken. Following is a summary of my entire baseball career. See for yourself:
I played organized baseball for one season. It was the summer of 1966, the longest summer of my life. I was 11 years old and played right field for the Douglasville (Rhode Island) Wolves. Each game consisted of me standing in right field for four or five minutes, then sitting on the bench for four or five minutes for seven innings and two or three times a game grabbing a bat and standing at home plate trying not to get hit by a 55-mile per hour pitch thrown by another 11-year old with absolutely no business whatsoever throwing a baseball in my general vicinity.
As you might infer, I never hit 62 home runs in a season.
But I have run 62 miles. Many times, actually. And NOT ONCE did I have to dodge a baseball coming at me at 55 miles per hour. A beer bottle thrown at my head by a driver obviously under the influence maybe, but never have I had to dodge a fastball while out for a run.
Enough about my baseball career; let me get back to the title and explain what it means.
For all 38 calendar years (1979 – 2016) I have completed during my consecutive-days running streak I have averaged at least as many miles per week as the age I reached during that year.
But that streak will end in 2017. I’m certain of it.
2016 was difficult, to say the least. A heart attack on July 20 put a serious dent in my mileage. Somehow I managed to put in enough time on the asphalt the last four months of the year to finish with an average of 62 miles a week for 2016. I turned 62 on December 10. By December 31 I was so tired that I didn’t do what I normally do on the first day of a new year: Run lots of miles (I stopped at 8).
So to suggest that I can average 63 miles a week—9 miles a day— in 2017 seems a bit far-fetched.
I verified my running logs to double-check my statement of having averaged at least as many miles per week as my age in any given calendar year. I even asked Ernst and Young to count behind me (they refused; they didn’t actually ‘refuse’ but rather quoted a price to do it that was way out of my ballpark—HEY LOOK A BASEBALL REFERENCE!).
But after double-checking here’s a few interesting things I ran (HEY LOOK A RUNNING/NUMBER PUN!) across:
1980 – My lowest weekly mileage ever (34), the result of a knee injury that was so painful I submitted to a cortisone shot that was even more painful than the knee injury itself. I ran one hour after the injection after the doctor instructed me to not run for a couple of days. It was one of the worst decisions of my running career (getting the injection, not running after I was told not to).
1985 – The only other time I averaged 63 miles a week in a year. I turned 31 that year. To put that into perspective that was over 50% of my life ago.
1986 – I averaged 73 miles a week for the year. I ran my marathon PR in January of 1987. When I’m asked how many miles someone training for a marathon should run, I always tell them 73. Now you know why. (Footnote: I was 32 years old when I ran my marathon PR, which according to legend is the ‘prime age’ of a marathoner. Maybe legend has it right.)
1994 – I averaged 89 miles a week for the year. It was the year I started running with Valerie Howard and Al Barker. This kind of mileage would continue for almost two decades. They are both to blame (Don’t let them tell you anything different).
1998 – I averaged 104 miles a week for the year, my most ever. I ended the year with a win at the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic 50K in one of the best races I’ve ever run. I’m convinced even now I could have continued the pace I ran that day (7:14 per mile) for another 19 miles and won the 50-mile version of the race that day. I turned 44 that year so my weekly mileage ‘exceeded’ my age by 60, my all-time high.
2006 – I averaged 92 miles a week for the year. But that’s not why I mention it; rather because for the last 13 years (1994 through 2006) I averaged 91 miles a week—or 13 miles (a half marathon) per day.
2015 – I turned 61 that year. It will turn out to be the last year I averaged 70 miles a week, or 10 miles a day.
Interestingly enough, I calculated my daily average for the duration of my running career and translated it into a weekly average of 73.
However, I doubt my marathon PR is in any sort of jeopardy.
(Scott Ludwig is president and founder of Darkside Running Club(.com). He lives in the Atlanta area and is the author of 11 books — 7 about running — and is working on others. Scott’s book “Running to Extremes: The Legendary Athletes of Ultra Running” is available. It features stories on Ray Zahab, Dean Karnazes, Larry Macon, Mark Covert, Ed Ettinghausen, Mike Morton, Tim Twietmeyer, Ann Treason and seven other amazing athletes of long distance running. You can find it on Amazon and most major booksellers. The book is inspired by, and dedicated to, the enduring memory and legacy of Ted Corbitt. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a blog at ScottLudwigRunsandWrites.blogspot.com where his books are available — or at any major online bookstore. This column appears in the February issue of Running Journal at www.Running.Net.)