It seems genuinely human to observe superstar athletes with a touch of reverence. We enjoy gazing upward at those more talented, simultaneously in awe and envy. It’s slightly different on the endurance sports side of the world, especially with runners. We love to celebrate the more experienced – those that are more willing to endure pain – maybe not the toughest, but surely the most stubborn.
As such, is there a higher pedestal than that occupied by a runner with a truly long running streak? Someone like the legendary Robert Kraft, perhaps – a man who has run daily, around eight miles each day, for more than 15,000 days straight? Or a runner boasting 10 or 17 or 36 straight years running the same race? Someone like Don Kardong, the former Olympian who has run all forty Bloomsday Runs in Spokane? These are incredible feats, yet at the same time, they’re relatable. Very, very few runners can imagine what it’s like to run a sub-2:20 marathon or a four minute mile. Those things are literally impossible for about 98 percent of the running world. A streak is different. Streakers can run whatever pace they choose. Time isn’t a function. Getting to the finish line is the only goal. Well, showing up at the start line year after year is most of the challenge. Then, it’s getting to the finish line. Inspiring? Yes. Difficult? Of course. Achievable? Absolutely.
You’re thinking, ‘30-plus straight years of marathon finishes are every bit as unreachable as a four-minute mile. That’s super-human, and not me.’ Well, I’m here to tell you, yes. It could be you, and it can be. If you’re looking to get your own name in the record books, this is your chance.
To be completely honest, many – probably most – streakers hold the same textbook overachiever characteristics as the stereotypical, serious runner. You know the one: goes for a quick run before breakfast, has a handwritten running log, works out during the lunch hour, a little speed work before bedtime, and viewed with equal parts admiration and jealousy by the running community. You know, a real runner. That’s what most streakers look like.
They look a lot like Andy Fritz. Fritz, an Olympia, WA runner will run his 10th straight Bellingham Bay Marathon in September. And that’s only the start for Fritz. “I have 12 years in a row at the Capital City Marathon in Olympia, so I have a marathon streak in spring and fall, and I’m proud that I have been able to keep those going,” said Fritz. “This will be my 6th year pacing CCM and my second year organizing the pace team. I have run at least 12 marathons a year for seven or eight years in a row. This year’s CCM was my 141st marathon or ultra and my 390th race, including 102 5K races. So yes, I race a lot. Having goals and documenting the experience and numbers is part of what keeps me going.”
Clearly, Fritz is the prototypical high-achieving streaker. But there’s plenty of room in the streaking crowd for the rest of us. The wonderful thing about the streaking contingent is that it’s not homogeneous. There are a different breed of runners on the outskirts of the group. The edges. The ripples.
Out there is where you’ll find David Burdick. Burdick has a marathon streak, as well. In fact, his streak is quite a bit longer than either marathon streak posted by Fritz, and that’s not the only difference.
“I started this as a celebration of my birthday when a friend challenged me to run it,” said Burdick. “It was coming up in just a few weeks, and thus began the start of the no-train marathon.” And what is the this that Burdick is speaking of, you might ask? It’s the Portland Marathon. It’s the streak of Portland Marathons that Burdick started back in 1997. It’s a streak that’s now nineteen years long. And soon to be twenty once Burdick crosses the Portland Marathon finish line this October.
“My goal is to run a no-train marathon every October to celebrate my birthday for as long as I can. It’s a great way to check one’s health,” said Burdick. “I get a lot of kudos from the racers as I wear a sign on my back that says, ‘Pass with Care. It’s My Birthday.’”
Burdick is not your typical streaker. He doesn’t train for marathons or any other distance. He runs once a year. At the Portland Marathon. That’s it. “I normally had to walk the last few miles, as I ran too fast and didn’t have my food regime down. I also don’t train, and it took awhile to figure out how to run this better,” said Burdick. “I started out with a time of 3 hours and 45 minutes and then continued to run as fast as I could for many years. Only recently have I understood that pacing is a big advantage. And to slow down at the beginning.”
Not many things could tie these two streakers together, but this can: neither Fritz nor Burdick want their streaks to have an expiration date. In fact, it seems very rare to find a streak runner with a set goal. No self-respecting streaker admits to having a goal of a streak with a set cutoff date of 20 years or 30 years. Instead, every single one wants to keep the streak going as long as they can.
Perhaps the streak is the running experience that can bring groups together – the unifier.
The streak can also sneak up on you, catching you unaware and slowly but surely transforming you into a streaker. “In 2007, the inaugural Bellingham Bay Marathon was my qualifying race to join the Marathon Maniacs; it fit nicely date-wise to make three marathons in 90 days,” said Andy Fritz. “My in-laws live in Bellingham, so that was a draw too. It is a nice getaway and excuse for us to visit them each year. But the race is terrific, too. It is a wonderful event that I look forward to each year. I did not plan to run each one, but once I did about five years and realized I had a streak going, it was in my nature to keep at it.”
Streaks are often ended by the mundane events of everyday life: an out of town wedding of a son or daughter, a torn ligament in a pickup basketball game, or a business trip that can’t be put on hold. On the other hand, the streak can help process the bad times. “Two years ago my brother died on the Tuesday before the race,” Fritz said. “The ceremony was on a Saturday in Portland and with the support of my family, we made it to Bellingham very late the night before the race. Running was good therapy that day.”
Of course at times, the lure of the streak can be too strong. Fritz finds himself fighting off potential new streaks that pop up regularly. “I keep a running log but I intentionally do not run every day for fear of getting in on that streak,” said Fritz. “I do pile up at least 100 mile months. I once ran 93 consecutive months of over 100 miles per month.”
Looking to start a streak of your own? If only there was some sort of group or organization, a collection of these running misfits we call streakers, it would be much simpler to keep track of them. Wait, there is: the aforementioned Marathon Maniacs is home to literally thousands of like-minded streakers. The Maniacs have been a Northwest institution since 2003. Founded and headquartered in Tacoma, WA but nationwide in participation, every distance runner is by now familiar with the Maniacs who are instantly recognizable in yellow and pink singlets. If you’re ready to start your own streak of any kind, this is a great place to begin – and to find other slightly strange runners just like yourself. If you’re more of a daily streaker, you can try the USRSA (The US Running Streak Association). Yes, that’s really a thing.
It’s not surprising that many traditional Northwest races have web pages immortalizing streakers, perennials and legacy runners: the Bloomsday Run, the Bellingham Bay Marathon and the Portland Marathon, to name just a few. These races understand that the streaker is a mythical creature: a normal, average human specimen that has transcended the odds to become a legend.
Every streak begins with the number one. Start your own legendary path today.
Andy Fritz Running Blog – www.mummydust.blogspot.com
Marathon Maniacs Website – www.marathonmaniacs.com
Bellingham Bay Marathon Legacy Athletes – www.bellinghambaymarathon.org/about/legacy-athletes
Bloomsday Run Perennials – www.bloomsdayrun.org/results/perennials
US Running Streak Association – www.runeveryday.com