Real-Life Forrest Gump To End Streak

Mark Covert, shown here in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, was the first person to finish a race wearing Nike shoes.

Mark Covert, shown here in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, was the first person to finish a race wearing Nike shoes.

Mark Covert will voluntarily end his 45-year streak after a run on July 23.

The last time Mark Covert took a day off from running Lyndon Johnson was President, The Doors had just released the soon-to-be-No. 1 hit “Hello, I Love You” and Mickey Mantle was winding up his final summer with the New York Yankees.

Believe it or not, Covert, a 62-year-old community college teacher and coach from Lancaster, Calif., has run at least a mile (and has averaged more than 9 miles per day) every single day since July 23, 1968.

Think about that for a moment.

In the summer of ‘68, the U.S. was deeply entrenched in the Vietnam War, The Beatles were back in the studio working on the record that would become known as “The White Album” and Neil Armstrong was a year away from becoming the first man to set foot on the moon. Covert was doing Forrest Gump proud decades before the movie came out.

Covert’s running streak, which reached 16,426 consecutive days on July 12, is the world’s second-longest, according to the United States Running Streak Association and Streak Runners International.

But, in part due to a nagging right foot injury, he plans to end the streak voluntarily after a run on July 23, the 45th anniversary of the streak’s inception.

“I could have ended this years ago and recently, I could have ended it a few months ago,” says Covert, who has run more than 151,000 miles during his streak. “I can’t really run hard and train anymore because of my foot, so that’s why I’m OK with ending it. At some level, what’s the difference if it’s 16,420 or 16,430 days? It makes no difference, but getting to 45 years was significant to me, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

In running perspective, Covert started his streak a month before the inaugural U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon was held and five years before Haile Gebrselassie, perhaps the greatest runner of all time, was even born. Meanwhile, as Covert’s streak began, a skinny 17-year-old kid named Steve Prefontaine was preparing for his senior year at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Ore.

Covert was also 17 when the streak started, freshly graduated from Burbank High School in Southern California. He was a good high school runner who continued his competitive career at Fullerton State College, where he would run a 4:09 mile and win the 1970 NCAA Division II cross country championships.

He also placed seventh in the 1972 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Eugene, Ore., a race that launched Frank Shorter on a path to winning the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich. In that race, Covert ran a personal-best 2:23:34 and became the very first person to cross a finish line wearing a pair of Nike shoes.

He continued racing recreationally into his late 30s and continued training into his 50s. In recent years, he’s spent more time on a bike because he’s still able to push hard with less stress on his foot.

Two-time British Olympic marathoner and former marathon world record-holder Ron Hill, 74, is credited with the world’s longest streak, which dates back to December 1964. However, his span includes workouts on crutches after a car crash and bunion surgery in the 1990s that limited his normal running routine.

The next longest streak among U.S. runners belongs to Jon Sutherland, a 62-year-old writer from West Hills, Calif., who has logged at least a mile every day since May 26, 1969. Six other American runners have run every day for at least 40 years and 80 have streaks of 25 years or longer.

The top woman on the current U.S. streak list is Barb Latta, 71, a retired librarian from Raleigh, N.C., who has logged 10,802 straight days over the past 29 years. She took over the top spot last year after Minnesota’s Julie Maxwell slipped on ice and broke an ankle, ending a streak of 12,212 consecutive days dating back to 1978.

Covert has run through illness and several injuries, including a torn meniscus 10 years ago and occasional bouts of plantar fasciitis.

“I’ve always said that it’s not something that I have to do, but something I get to do,” Covert says. “As much as it is about going out the door every day, there’s a whole lot of luck involved, too. You can’t step in a hole or get so sick you can’t get out the door, but I’ve been very fortunate with my health in general.

“It’s obviously been a lot of fun, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. I’ll keep running after the streak ends. I really like putting my shoes on and getting out there, even if I’m out hobbling for 3 miles.”

Follow the final days of Covert’s streak at www.markcovertnevermiss.com

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