On Sunday morning, Judd Shutt woke up early, laced up his shoes and stepped outside before the heat set in. He ran what he called “a celebratory 5K solo race.”
It was certainly worth celebrating. The run marked five years of running every single day for Shutt.
Shutt, 40, coaches the boys cross country and boys track and field teams at Prairie Ridge. Every day for more than 1,800 consecutive days, Shutt has run at least two miles.
“I never had a goal,” Shutt said. “It just started and then it becomes habit. It gets a little crazy because you get minor injuries and you think, ‘Well, maybe this is a little bit silly.’ You just keep going.”
Shutt credits Jacobs boys and girls cross country coach Kevin Christian for introducing him to the idea. It’s a challenge that has spread to numerous coaches and former athletes in the Fox Valley Conference area since Christian, 40, started his streak 1,935 days ago, as of Monday.
Christian runs at least one mile a day. At various times, he has set different goals. He’s narrowing in on one year of at least three miles a day, and in 2018 he ran five miles a day for the entire year.
“I’m 107 days ahead of Judd Shutt and I’ll always be 107 days ahead of Judd Shutt,” Christian said with a laugh – the FVC rivalry clearly alive and well, despite the canceled 2020 track season.
“Each year, we celebrate each others’ anniversaries,” Shutt said. “Since we weren’t able to coach against each other this spring, it’s kind of a fun way to keep connected.”
Mark Anderson, the girls cross country and track coach at Cary-Grove, has a three-year streak. One of Christian’s assistant coaches at Jacobs, Matt Smith, has a streak of more than two years. A couple of former Golden Eagles runners are over two years.
Christian’s 9-year-old son, Jacob, started his own streak during the pandemic and is now at 72 days, as of Monday.
“It’s neat to see all these guys dedicate themselves to something positive every day,” Christian said. “The goal wasn’t really to try to get other people to do it, but it’s led to this mini group that we have in the Fox Valley area of coaches and former athletes who really get into it now."
There’s a niche community on the internet devoted to “run streakers” through Facebook groups and the website runeveryday.com. Streak Runners International and the United States Run Streak Association keep records on the website. These records can’t be verified, so they’re based on the honor system. A streak has to be at least 365 days to even make the website.
“Ours isn’t even really that cool,” Shutt said.
Former Great Britain Olympian Ron Hill holds the record after running for more than 52 consecutive years (19,032 days), a streak that ended in 2017 when Hill was 78. Jon Sutherland, 69, from West Hills, California, holds the longest active streak of 51 years, which began on May 26, 1969. At 18,628 days, Sutherland is a little over a year away from Hill’s record.
Six years ago, Christian had back surgery and started running as a way to keep in shape. He had heard of run streakers and knew of someone in Algonquin who started a few years before him.
“The plan was a month, then the plan was 100 days,” Christian said. “Then it was, let’s get a year out of it. You get to a point where it’s like, you can’t stop it now.”
Run streakers require a certain kind of perseverance. There’s the nagging injuries that inevitably come about. There’s the freezing cold in the dead of winter (Shutt doesn’t own a treadmill and runs outside 95% of days).
Shutt and Christian each ran the day their youngest children were born.
“That was a hard one to justify to my wife,” Christian said.
“It’s fun to think that I’ve run every day that my youngest has been alive,” Shutt, a father of four, said about his 3-year-old daughter.
There was the time Shutt was dealing with a tight IT band, a ligament connected to the thigh bone. He visited a medical provider and they were about ready to give him a cortisone shot when Shutt stopped the doctor.
“Can I run today after you give me this?”
“I don’t think so,” the doctor said.
Shutt rescheduled the appointment and went for a run.
“That’s kind of the silliness of it,” he said.
Maybe it’s silly, but not to the people who have been doing it for years. Shutt thinks it’s a great teaching tool for his athletes on the cross country and track teams. It makes it a little harder for athletes to complain when they see their coach running every single day, without fail. Often, during the season, the athletes are Shutt’s running partners.
“I think of all the kids that I’ve got to run with over the streak,” Shutt said. “It’s pretty fun.”