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January 15, 2009

Running With The Raven

If you’re a runner and haven’t heard of Robert “The Raven” Kraft, chances are that you might in the near future.

Kraft is perhaps the best-known of a growing club of “streakers” – people who run every single day, for months and years and even decades at a time. Streakers have their own national organization, and several websites maintain “official” listings of the longest ongoing streaks all over the world (The Raven is currently ranked #11).

The Raven is well-known primarily because 1) he has a streak of over 34 years, and 2) he’s quite skilled at self-promotion. He has a fairly information-dense website with his bio, pictures, and numerous press releases documenting his streak. He was the subject of a terrific in-depth profile by ESPN, who will return to film him as he approaches an upcoming landmark this spring (details below).

Perhaps what sets him apart the most, however, is how he welcomes and celebrates anybody who is able to join him on his daily 8-mile run. His website includes an open invitation to join the Raven - and that’s just what my friend Mike did during a recent vacation. Naturally, we turned it into a Monterey Herald article, which follows below.

Honestly, the whole notion of streaking seems ridiculous* to me, on too many levels to go into here. Nevertheless, I have to admit feeling a bit of admiration for The Raven, and the number of people all over the world whom he has influenced in a positive way. Many of us would like to inspire the masses; very few actually go out and do it. The Raven is one of them.

(*and on a similarly ridiculous note: I can't write about anything named "The Raven" without thinking of The Simpsons' brilliant spoof - featuring the immortal line "Quoth the Raven, 'Eat my shorts!'" - from their original Halloween episode in 1990. I'm the first to admit, my maturity level is sorely lacking - but as a childish indulgence, that video follows this post)

Running Life 1/15/09 "Running With The Raven"

On Jan. 1, 1975, 23-year-old Robert "The Raven" Kraft ran eight miles in the sand on Miami's South Beach. He started running because he felt frustrated that his songwriting career was at low ebb; one of his songs had been stolen and made into a fairly large country hit and he received no credit.

A funny thing happened that day; something that happens to a lot of new runners. Kraft was invigorated yet calm. His anger had mellowed, and he felt great satisfaction from those eight miles. Running often grabs you when you most need it.

He made running a habit. Many would call it an obsession. Amazingly, the Raven just completed his 34th year of running on South Beach without missing a day. That's over 12,400 days of running in a row.

Along the way, he's become a bit of a celebrity. He's an icon on Miami Beach, and his fan base extends around the world. People travel from far and wide to run with the Raven. He maintains a list of them — one that now approaches 800 runners, from every state and 54 foreign countries. To date, the Raven has run 99,300 miles, and should pass 100,000 on March 29. When he does, ESPN will be there to cover it.

In a sport where injuries are the norm, the Raven never misses a day to sickness or muscle pain. He runs through all kinds of weather: hurricanes, hail storms, heat and humidity. He's as reliable as the US Postal Service.

He came close to missing a run once, when he was hospitalized for a concussion and needed 17 stitches to close a nasty wound. Luckily, some lifeguard friends smuggled him out of the hospital for his daily run, then returned him after the eight miles were finished.

As you can imagine, Kraft is a creature of habit. He's called the Raven because he always wears Black spandex shorts, black socks, black headband, and one black wristband. He has long black hair, mustache, and beard. He always runs shirtless and has a dark tan.

The Raven's also a bit of a philosopher. He chose eight miles for his run because "seven seemed too short, and nine seemed too long." He runs the same eight miles each day, in loops starting from the 6th Street lifeguard pier. Sometimes he loops in one direction, sometimes the other. He never travels out of Miami; in fact, he doesn't even own a car.

The Raven never does races. He runs for the simple pleasure of how it makes him feel, although he admits that his streak has become an obsession.

Nicknames are a big part of his persona, as Mike and his family found out while running with the Raven on a vacation to South Beach a few weeks ago. During the run, the Raven questions you about your life, and anoints you with a nickname after you have completed the run. Then he inscribes you on "the list."

The day Mike ran there were a dozen runners who earned the nicknames Burke's Law, Chapter 11, The Reverend, Seaside Sparrow, Interrogator, Cooker, Tax Man, Wine Taster, and Unruly Julie. Mike is now known as Just Run, his wife is the Fiction Reader, his son Bryan is Pedicab Man, and Bryan's fiance Melanie is Zot.

It is a pleasure and an honor to run with the Raven. Next time you don't feel like running, take a page out of the Raven's book. We hope that he and you may run evermore.


"The Raven", from The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror (click to play):


Bruce 1/16/09, 1:18 AM  

Wow thats some amazing dedication to running. 34 years running and he's not even in the top ten streakers!

Oz Runner 1/16/09, 4:23 AM  

thanks for sharing, I had never heard of this person....very interesting, but I can't imagine never taking a vacation or leaving town for 34 years....

Backofpack 1/16/09, 8:06 AM  

Okay, go back to the list - see #3? Jim Pearson? He's one of my high school teachers and was the xc coach way back then. He shows up at some of the races we go to in Bellingham, and his son puts on a couple. That's my brush with running celebrity!

My Life & Running 1/16/09, 9:53 AM  

I think your lacking maturity level is one of the things that keeps bringing me back to your blog... one can never go wrong with the Simpsons. ;)

As for the Raven, well, I am continuing on with my day feeling sorely inadequate. Fab!

209Mike 1/16/09, 10:33 AM  

Holy streakers. That's insane.

Btw...any chance to throw in some Simpsons material is always welcome and encouraged.

Makita 1/16/09, 5:40 PM  

35 years! Wow! I hope I can say I'm still running at all after 35 years.

David Ray 1/16/09, 8:48 PM  

All I could think of was Andy from the Office anointing Jim as Big Tuna. :) I'd like to run with Raven just to get a nickname.

Speed Racer 1/17/09, 6:46 AM  

Is he the guy that ran 3 miles on the day he had surgery, because that's just plain crazy!!!

robtherunner 1/18/09, 12:07 PM  

I remember reading an article a few years back about the Raven and being inspired to become a streaker. I lasted 8 days until my streak was ended :)

Anne 1/18/09, 1:13 PM  

He certainly sounds like a champion, with major OCD :-). I think it's wonderful that he's promoting himself and becoming an interactive attraction and nickname-souveniers he bestows on his guests.

sara 1/26/09, 7:09 AM  

i think i had a similar take on the Raven when i met him ... http://aposematicme.blogspot.com/2006/12/happy-anniversary-to-raven.html

although i lived in Miami for a year, i only ran with him once. while i love the idea of doing something that you love everyday for so long, my body definitely would not be able to take the stress of running everyday, and i would miss traveling dearly.

thank you for sharing :)

Anonymous,  3/30/09, 5:04 AM  

Name is Albert Poledri #1

I've been surfing South Beach (miami beach @ first street pier) since April 1974, and my earliest recollection of the Raven has been since 75-76. For many-many years he would run by himself along the soft sand near the shoreline; only in the last maybe 13 -15 years has people joined him in the run.
He is what they say...

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