Covert has run everyday for 45 years, but he’ll stop after Tuesday.
Mark Covert is taking a day off from running this week. Why is that significant? The last time he took a single day off from running was July 22, 1968. No, that’s not a typo. 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) for almost 45 years. Covert’s running streak, which reached 16,435 consecutive days on July 21, is the world’s second-longest, according to both the United States Running Streak Association and Streak Runners International. We caught up with Covert — who was the first person to finish a race wearing Nike shoes back in 1972 — to talk about his streak and his decision to end it the day after the 45th anniversary on July 23, partially because of a nagging foot injury.
Is the foot injury the main reason for ending your streak?
I have total mid-foot collapse. It’s collapsed, twisted to the outside and all deformed. I don’t have the ability to push off on it. It’s not so much that I’m in any real pain, because I’m not. It’s just that the foot is not capable of doing what I’ve done for all these years … and that’s run. The last five or six months, the foot has gotten worse. I’ve always liked to really run and really train, but that’s all relative to the fitness level you have and your age and things like that. I can’t push hard anymore when I run. There’s no rhythm to my running. What I do now is hobble around. I’ll do that until July 23rd and we’ll call it a good run. I suppose I could continue doing this until I can’t walk, but I don’t see any point in doing that.
Are you sentimental about ending it?
It’s obviously been a lot of fun and I still enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it or kept with it. I could have ended this years ago and recently, I could have ended it a few months ago. I can’t really run hard and train anymore because of my foot, so that’s why I’m OK with ending it. I still like putting on my shoes and hobbling around for a few miles, and when I don’t do that, I’m sure I’m going to miss doing that. 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 carrying on to this point.
What’s been the key to your longevity?
I’ve always said that it’s not something that I have to do, but something I get to do. 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 of bed, but I’ve been very fortunate with my health in general. My health has been really good — knock on wood. I had a torn meniscus 10 years ago and running through that was a real challenge. And just like everyone else, I’ve struggled with plantar fascia a bit. But by and large, I’ve been very fortunate to be so healthy with no real major problems along the way.
What will you do after the streak ends?
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. It’s just part of what I do. But I’m going to give up something that’s been a part of me for the majority of my life, but I have something that will fill that void pretty easily, and that’s cycling. I’ll have no problem stepping away from it and getting on my bike and riding my bike. [He's been riding for several years, and often does a second workout on a bike after he gets in his daily run.] I can push hard on the bike and get that same feeling, training-wise, that I could when I was running better. I’ll be able to do that until I decide I’m going to have surgery on my foot, which will happen sooner or later.
Ron Hill is widely credited as having the world’s longest streak, dating back to December 1964, even though he admits to periods where he’s had to hobble for a mile on crutches. Are you OK with that?
If Ron says his streak is alive, then the streak’s alive. If he says crutching works, that works for me. There was a time that I thought, “Boy, that’s kind of a bunch of baloney,” but when you get a little bit older and you struggle through some of those things yourself, you start to think differently. To be honest, after I stop running for a single day, I’m not really going to think that the streak has ended. I’m just not going to be running. I think all of us who have these streaks get to places where we have to say, “Was that a run?” Sometimes you’re out there hobbling along and it might take you 15 minutes to cover a mile and there are people who are walking fast in the park go by you. But we still count that as a day. So if Ron says his streak is alive, that’s good with me, I’ll buy that. Good for him. Every day is a good day when you put your shoes on and get out there.