Mark Covert has run at least one mile per day for more than 41 years. He's laced 'em up hours after hemorrhoid
, aboard a cruise ship and despite a broken foot.
That's nearly 15,000 consecutive days and far north of 130,000 miles for the 59-year-old track and cross country coach at Antelope Valley College in California.
This according to the United States Running Streak Association, a demented bunch that recognizes Covert's as the longest active streak.
Decades of braving elements, injuries and fatigue. Close encounters with cars, canines and hornets.
The reasons are myriad. Health and fitness, the endorphin rush and spiritual awakening to name a few.
Ah, but when do dedication and discipline morph into obsession? And when does obsession become folly?
Typing one-handed, modeling a hospital gown straight out of GQ and awaiting the pain meds to hit overdrive, methinks I have some insight.
Now I have long been a klutz. A faceplant into cement stairs sent my baby teeth flying. Tripping over a garden hose broke my left foot.
With that history, you'd think I would have known better than to run in this weekend's snow and ice.
As Dad often remarked when report cards arrived, "How is it that you pass math and English but flunk common sense?"
Somewhere in the heavens he voiced that sentiment again Sunday morning when I fell running.
Hadn't hurt that much since a Novocain shot in the left foot.
Haven't been this sore since a
basketball player — one of the Jackson brothers — hurdled press row during a 1996 game at George Washington and knocked me straight back, smacking my head against the floor.
Haven't been this red-faced since Bucknering a ground ball to first in a youth baseball playoff game.
Fortunately, no surgery or hospital stay. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I learned my lesson.
'Tis just how runners are. In our twisted minds, falls and injuries are flukes, and the obvious hazards don't always trump the enjoyment of plodding through powdery snow on a glorious morning.
Until you hit that unexpected patch of ice, find yourself face-first in the middle of an intersection, and immediately hear echoes of
's classic call.
"Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier."
Crazy thing is, Sunday's run wasn't to maintain a streak. I've taken many days off over the years, never run in lightning, and occasionally pedal an exercise bike instead.
No, Sunday's jaunt was for fun. For communing with nature, pondering the week ahead and saying some prayers.
Alas, the cost was a trip to the ER, several weeks in a sling, and relentless hazing on
. All richly deserved, by the way.
My favorite was from work comrade Dave Johnson: "Like
says, 'I don't run because it makes me tired. I don't lift weights because they're heavy.' "
And this from Tim in Martinsville: "Dude, I broke my right shoulder and arm playing softball five years ago. No sugarcoating it – it really (stinks). Glad I could boost your spirits."
The official diagnosis is a fracture of the proximal humerus, which seems fitting. But while lounging on the couch, I'm comforted to know my injury is far from the most humiliating.
Perhaps you recall some of these classics:
missed some games in 2002 when he burned his face in a tanning bed.
by head-butting a padded wall to celebrate a 1997 touchdown against the
In 2001, his first season in the bigs,
accidentally stabbed himself in the stomach while attempting to cut open a DVD.
One of the all-timers — then-
pitcher John Smoltz burning himself while attempting to iron a shirt he was wearing — is not true, Smoltz told the Orlando Sentinel during 2008
But all pale to a long-time friend who broke his left little toe cleaning up cat poop in his bathroom. Seems he slipped and rammed his bare foot into the door.
His wife was pregnant at the time, but this was not the hospital visit they envisioned. Asked in the ER what had happened, my buddy did what few would have.
He told the truth.