Running for 22 years, and he's still going strong
A dedicated Toronto dentist is giving the Energizer Bunny some competition
By James Christie, the Globe and Mail
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Toronto -- For the streak runner, life's challenge doesn't come in running shoulder to shoulder among the masses in a 26-mile marathon, or even a 50-mile ultra-marathon. The real challenge comes the day after the race -- when there's no one around, when the blisters are bursting and bloody, the battery is low and the muscles are screaming and it would be so easy to say, "I'm not running today."
Toronto dentist Rick Rayman has faced that demon and resisted it for 22 years. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the day Dr. Rayman embarked on one of Canada's longest streaks of consecutive days of running. He has catalogued every step of 8,036 days, never running less than three miles, sometimes running more than 50.
"I don't know the total, actually. I'd have to take a couple of days to add up the mileage, but I've worn out hundreds of pairs of shoes," said the 54-year-old Torontonian.
Many of the years during the streak he has topped 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres), he said. Dr. Rayman has finished 89 marathons and a handful of ultramarathons. A conservative estimate would put him at more than 60,000 miles (96,000 kilometres), or more than twice around the Earth. "When I was running marathons in 2 hours 47 minutes, I'd run the next day in extreme pain. Today, I pace myself and run 3:30s [3 hours 30 minutes], and though I'll be a little tired the next day, it's not so painful. I was able to run the Canadian International Marathon and the Niagara Falls Marathon in a seven-day span this year. "I've run five marathons since Labour Day. I go easy for 20 miles, then because I have experience and strength, I'll pick up speed and pass a few runners. A lot of streak runners don't do marathons later in their careers, but I still think it's a rush to finish a marathon race. My favourite is called the Grandfather Mountain Marathon in North Carolina -- it's an all-uphill run. I've run in Juneau, Alaska, and Hawaii and most of the provinces in Canada. "I'll never run as I used to, but time's not important now. I love running and meeting people. It's an interesting fraternity. I've met some 60-year-olds trying to run their first marathon." Dr. Rayman never set out to build a streak. He'd been running for fitness in the mid-1970s, occasionally missing a day. Then, after setting out on Dec. 10, 1978, "it became a progression. I had no sense of what was to come, absolutely none." Broadcaster Brian Williams was the first to remark on his dedication, bidding him congratulations when he reached 273 days without missing. "Then one year led to the next, and the next . . . " "Progression" became "obsession." "I guess I realized at 10 years that it was really a worthwhile streak, and it would take a lot to make me miss a day."
Fortunately, there have been no major illnesses or injuries to interrupt him. "It was tough when my father died a few years ago, but then I found that running was a good time for reflecting. It was good for me." Pounding the pavement -- almost all of his running is on city streets -- has taken a heavy toll on his Achilles tendons, requiring a few cortisone injections, but Dr. Rayman has persevered. He's counted some indoor mileage. He ran the Hart House Marathon at the University of Toronto, 301 dizzying laps around the tight track of the old athletics building. He also ran the one and only SkyDome Indoor Marathon in 1990. "But almost all my runs are outdoors now. " Weather doesn't stop me. I don't like running on snow and ice, but you dress warm and cover your face and you just do it. I fall the odd time. It's embarrassing more than anything else." Like most streak runners, Dr. Rayman is a creature of habit. "No matter where I've been, in my career in dentistry or elsewhere, I always knocked off at 4:30 p.m. so I could run, then eat dinner with my family. I love running and my family is the most important part of my life. "Funny, but a ton of people I started running with aren't married any more. I don't know if running was the reason."
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