(LANCASTER, Calif.) — After 16,436 consecutive days of running, a U.S. record holder has ended his streak on the 45th anniversary of the day it began.
Mark Covert, 62, a national champion cross-country runner and coach, holds the U.S. record for most days consecutively running at least 1 mile, which he has done every day for the last 45 years.
About two months ago, Covert informed his friends that he would stop running because of a mid-foot collapse in his right foot, which left him with a limp while walking and hobbling while running.
Covert started his streak when he was 17 on July 23, 1968, while he was training for cross-country in college.
“I noticed in my training log that I had gotten to about 100 days and then I thought what if I can get to a year,” Covert told ABC News. “That turned into two to five to 10 and here we are today at 45.”
During that 45-year streak, Covert said he has run 149,660 miles, been married once, had four children and has endured nine different presidential administrations.
But in a streak of this magnitude, there have been some serious obstacles that Covert has had to overcome to keep it alive.
“About 30 years ago I broke my foot, it was so swollen that they didn’t put a cast on it, that let me get out the next day,” Covert said. “I’ve had meniscus surgery, shoulder surgery, rotator cuff surgery, and wisdom teeth removed. Same things everyone else has had.”
Covert said that those big surgeries and illnesses, including kidney stones, were tough days, but there wasn’t ever a day where he didn’t want to get his shoes on and get out and run.
“It got to a point during the streak where putting on my shoes and getting out there every day was not that difficult. It’s still not difficult today, I like doing it,” Covert told ABC News. “The challenge became when I got really sick or hurt was, ‘Can I do this?’ Because I didn’t want the streak to end because of sick or hurt or something like that; I wanted the streak to end because I said it was over.”
For the last 24 years, Covert has been the head coach of the cross-country team at Antelope Valley College, in Lancaster, Calif. He ran his last lap at the school’s stadium alongside friends, his runners and other well-wishers.
According to the U.S. Running Streak Association, which monitors the running records, Jon Sutherland, a former college teammate and longtime friend of Covert, holds the second-longest streak in U.S. history at 44 years and 307 days.
Sutherland, who now holds the longest active running streak in the U.S., said Covert has always been a great person and even better runner.
“He’s got a heart of gold,” Sutherland told ABC News. “He’s also the toughest runner that I have ever run with or against and I’m grateful he has been my friend all these years.”
Covert, who says he has run 159,644 miles during his lifetime, which is more than half the distance to the moon and six times around the equator, said that waking up the day after his last run will be a new experience.
“For the first time in 45 years I’m not going to put my shoes and shorts on and go out for a run,” Covert said. “I’ll probably jump on my bike. I’m going to start riding every day and then come and practice with my team. It will be strange.”
Debi Covert, Mark’s wife of 34 years, said she has mixed emotions about her husband’s streak ending.
“I don’t really know how to feel, because I’ve never known him not to run. Ever. My children have never known their dad to not run. I have never been with him when he hasn’t run,” Debi Covert told ABC News. “When he says he has been running for 45 years he really has. Tomorrow will be interesting. I’m going to get up at 4 and block the door so he can’t get out.”
When asked about what advice he would give to anyone that is thinking about starting their own running streak, Covert yelled: “Don’t do it!”
Although Covert said he is sad that his streak is ending, he said that the amount of support he has received in the last couple months has helped him immensely.
“They’re have been hundreds of emails, and texts from people that have been inspired, motivated or touched in some way by this streak,” Covert told ABC News. “It’s very humbling to think that me getting out every day has inspired people to similar things. It’s also nice to know that this craziness has made a lot of other people get out and do something healthy.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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