Running... half way to the moon

With more than 16'000 runs along the same beach, Raven is the antithesis of the urbirunner…

But he’s a iconic runner. A legend.

Since January 1, 1975, he ran every day, and made more than half way to the moon …

I met him on the sand, under the shade of palm trees, at the 9th street Fitness Park, in South Beach, Miami.

Just before the start of his 16'008th run.

He arrives on his bike, and introduces himself.

Raven. In fact Robert’s nickname.

Half-length hair and half-grey beard, he takes his shirt off his broad chest. He is 68 years old, and of course very fit. He puts his gloves on to do some pull-ups on the bar. As he has done every day. For almost 50 years. Before going to run.

After a first pull-up series, he joins me, and of course the first question is why?

“Because I knew it was going to do me good, physically, and mentally… I had run once in a while, when I came back to South Beach in the early '70s. Before I had gone to Las Vegas and Nashville, as a songwriter. Then I came back here, home. I had not run for 2 years, when I made the decision to run every day of year 1975 ”.

When he runs for the first time, Miami Beach is very different from today. The highest buildings are the art-deco hotels, 4–5 floors, along the beach, threatened by the promoters. In the rest of the area, there are small houses inhabited by modest pensioners, Cuban immigrants, and dealers. At that time, South Beach was not an as safe as today neighborhood.

Nobody was running back then, and I quickly got known, especially since I was the youngest in the neighborhood, apart from the dealers. So I was the running young guy. I sometimes had problems with the dealers because I worked in security, but I never ran to escape from them, nor to catch them. I am not a policeman. I always ran for my own pleasure, at the end of the day. I worked at night and got up late, then I wrote my songs, so I did not have any other time to run. But it’s a good time to do it. ”

And after a year of daily runs, he kept on running.

“It was good for me, and I had run all year long, so I just went on. It has never been a project, except this challenge of the year 1975. The following happened just like this. I run 8 miles (12.8km), on the hard sand, between the dune and the beach. Now I have 4 different routes”.

In fact of different routes, it is the direction of his start, towards south or north, and the number of streets, and thus of round trips that it takes from the starting point, the 5th street lifeguards station, to reach 8 miles.

“Yes, I ran on that beach every day since. Every single day, even during hurricanes. Except once when I couldn’t stay on the beach. It was during Hurricane Irma, in September 2017. I was shaken by the wind, almost flying, and had to lie on the ground 3 times. So that day, I did not run all the way on the beach, I went back home, and I ran around my block, to reach my daily 8 miles. Including going and coming back from the beach, I ran another 22 laps around the block. And so I ran my 8 miles. Whatever the weather is. I run.”

Raven’s average mileage is a little over 8 miles, because it happens he runs a bit more, but it is seldom.

"Once I ran longer, more than 13 miles, because of a girl. who wanted to continue after we finished. And once I participated in a race. An 8 miles race. And after I did my daily run, and so I ran more that day. This is the only race I participated, it was 1978. "

And it was in Miami. Since 1975, Raven did not leave the Miami area, and even almost never left South Beach. He goes to town only reluctantly, and occasionally.

“Except for some baseball games. I like to see the Florida Marlins play, and that’s funny, the stadium is 8 miles from here, by chance. But often I do not see the full game, either I miss the end, or the beginning, since I start my runs every day at 5:30pm. People are waiting for me. Running is waiting for me.

Yes, because if you feel like it, you can run with Raven. You just have to join him, at the 5th street lifeguard station, at 5:30pm, any day.

For a very long time I ran alone. Then from time to time, some locals joined me. And sometimes also travelers joined me… Gradually it became regular, and in fact, for the past 19 years, I have run only 3 times being alone… ”

Raven writes everything down, and gives a nickname to each of the runners finishing the run with him. He pick up the nickname, according to the chat they had, or just like that, as he feels it, if it’s a rather silent run.

Over the years, he has met 3012 different people (at 29.10.2018). Some come regularly, others everytime they come to Miami. He even knows families, from generation to generation, like this English family. Raven ran with the parents who are now dead, and now the children come to run with him when they are in Florida.

“I ran with people from all over the USA, all 50 states, people from 91 different countries, and with all the birth dates of the year… There is one that has come over 2000 times with me in total… and currently I’m running with someone who has come over 200 times in a row.”

People. This is what motivates Raven to come every late afternoon to the rendez-vous he has with running.

He knows that someone is waiting for him.

"Sometimes it’s harder to go than others. But no, I do not feel like a prisoner of it at all. I know some people think so, but no, that’s not what I feel like. I feel free. Run Free is my mentra. On the contrary, I feel like that if I stop, I will not go well.”

And we can believe it. The magic of sport.

“What is the hardest? My back pain… My back has been painful for 24 years. Three doctors told me I should stop… But running is my life, it happened year after year, but now I can’t imagine my life without running.”

And Raven adds in a smile that these Doctors are probably all dead today, and points out he is not running fast. Because the next day, he will run again. And the day after tomorrow too.

My best memory is March 29, 2009. The day I reached the symbolic mark of 100,000 miles (160'000km). Many people came running with me, there were many journalists and other people cheering me. It was a very intense moment, and very moving.

Since then, Raven has added 28'340 miles to his counter (45’609 km) for a total of 206’543 km, which is like running 5.2 times around the Earth… or more than halfway to the moon

But he still has not left Miami Beach. And that, for a traveler runner like me, is the most impressive. Really. Does not he dream sometimes to leave, to run elsewhere, to discover?

I really don’t, I feel uncomfortable out of town, uncomfortable even when I leave South Beach. But if I had to choose, maybe I’d like to run in Key West (south end of Florida), or go back to Nashville… I also like the green of Ireland, so why not run there. But in fact no, I think I would not like it, it would probably be too cold to run there.”

And we said goodbye, he put his red gloves on, and left for another series of pull-ups, greeting his friends .

In a few minutes, he was about to start his 16’008th run, without me, but probably not alone.

We wish him to reach the next symbolic figure : 150'000 miles2’707 sunsets to go, he won’t miss any, on the beach of Miami, and it will be march 29th 2026, and Raven will be 76 years old…

And until then, I’ll do like him, never forget that “storms do not last”, and next time, my knees will let me to join him on his beach for a run, and get my nickname…
And if you want to run with Raven one day and explore South Beach on the next day, simply download our free self auduiguided running tour here… or get the .gpx file for your sport watch or smartphone here 
urbirun Miami Beach 11.8km – tour . gpx
©pictures Silvia Giacchetta @silvia7one instagram)

Top of the page