A mile a day. Every day. Since 1980.

Rev. John Watts hasn't missed a run in 33 years. Such 'streakers' tout mental and physical benefits of daily runs.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comDecember 31, 2013 

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Last Jan. 1, Boisean Sarah Quilici resolved to become a more consistent runner.

The 34-year-old school administrator, who has three young children, says she used to be a “fair weather” runner who ran three or four times a week.

“If there was any excuse not to run, I wouldn’t,” said Quilici, assistant principal at Timberline High School.

Inspired by the Statesman’s 2013 New Year’s Day article on Boise attorney Tom Lloyd’s run streak, then at 519 days, Quilici made a pledge to run at least a mile every day this year. She also set a goal of completing 1,000 miles.

By early December, she’d already topped 1,200 miles (including two marathons), and her streak was alive.

“I’m on my fourth pair of running shoes,” Quilici said.

The benefits are myriad, she said, including feeling healthier and stronger. She didn’t lose weight, but she gained speed — her average mile is now 8 minutes, down from 9 — and her race times are much faster.

“It changed my life,” said Quilici, who persevered through flu, ankle pain and bronchitis.

One of the secrets to her success is planning, figuring out when she can squeeze in at least a mile run. In a pinch, she’s not above running in jeans.

DECADES IN THE MAKING

John Watts, a 58-year-old Nampan, is Idaho’s top run streaker, according to a list kept by the United States Running Streak Association. The group’s website lists Watts as 40th longest. His streak began on Oct. 4, 1980.

That’s a 12,142-day streak.

The top runner on the active list is Jon Sutherland, a 63-year-old California writer who has logged more than 44 years of daily running without a day off.

Sutherland ascended to the top of the list in July, when runner Mark Covert ended his streak on its 45th anniversary. Covert decided that was long enough when he developed a foot problem.

“I never meant to start a streak that wouldn’t end,” said Watts, who is pastor at Nampa First United Methodist Church.

He was an avid, competitive runner in his youth and during college. Burned out in his 20s, he took a couple of years off. He was out of shape when he started back up, so he ran daily.

“Pretty soon I had a month without missing a day,” said Watts, who grew up about 40 miles north of Bend, Ore., in Madras.

He likes to run first thing in the morning, rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. most days. He averages about 4.75 miles.

On Sundays, he’s up by 3:30 a.m. for a 3-mile loop during which he practices what he will say in church that morning.

“It’s just long enough for me to preach my sermon,” Watts said.

He has run 27 marathons and numerous half-marathons.

The most serious threat to his streak was in 2008, when he suffered a herniated disk. Temperatures as low as minus-26 did not stop him while he was home in Oregon early this month.

Watts said one of the benefits of the streak is maintaining good physical condition.

“I think it’s good for my mental health. If I’m stressed out about something, it’ll clear my head,” he said. “It’s a great way to transition from a good night’s sleep to a new day.”

STREAKING CAN BE CONTAGIOUS

Quilici’s success sparked several others to try daily running.

“I started with her, but I missed five days in January and February,” said her husband, Tony.

But he didn’t give up, and now his streak is more than 300 days. He trained for and completed the 30-kilometer (18.6 mile) Payette Lake Run Sept. 1 in 3 hours, 11 minutes.

“It went really well,” he said. “I was surprised. I only stopped one time, going up one of the hills on the backside.”

The 34-year-old is 5-foot-10 and 240 pounds. He said he has shed less than five pounds this year, but he credits the daily runs for not gaining 10 to 15 pounds during the holidays as he has in the past.

“I’m stabilized, but not where my doctor would like me to be,” he said.

He’s committed to extending his streak to at least a year.

“It’s been so ingrained, we’re going to see how far we can go with this. It’s changed my outlook,” Quilici said.

Sarah Quilici’s colleague and friend Laurie Roberts was ready for a new fitness goal last summer. She’d followed Quilici’s progress and on June 1 began her own daily runs.

The 49-year-old suffered a pulmonary embolism about a decade ago and has psoriatic arthritis. But she has stuck with running.

“December had been a challenge. I don’t mind the cold, but the snow has been a pain,” she said. She bought some Yaktrax — steel coils that attach to shoes — to provide more traction on snow and ice.

She said she has many weeks when she does the minimum 1-mile run with just one longer run. But she’s improving.

“I ran my fastest 3-miler since 2001,” she said. “Consistency matters. A mile doesn’t seem like enough. A mile is enough.”

She’s planning to continue her streak at least until her 50th birthday, Feb. 28.

Her friend Jonelle Warnock has followed suit. The West Junior High English teacher began her streak on Aug. 31, her 43rd birthday. She usually runs after school.

“Everyone has 10 minutes, so it hasn’t been that hard,” said the mother of three. “It’s definitely a mental booster for me, just the fact that I’m doing something every day that’s good for myself.”

IS THE LAWYER STILL STREAKING?

Yes. Tom Lloyd, the 32-year-old Boisean profiled in the Statesman last January, has reached the 2.5-year mark on his streak. He competed in 13 races in 2013.

“I had a very successful race season,” he said, “arguably the most successful of my life.”

Lloyd is active on Twitter (follow him at @TJLBoise), and that’s one of the places that he and other run streakers find support. They tag their tweets #runstreak or #runaday.

He took first place in the Salmon Marathon on Sept. 7 —only the second marathon he had ever run. He attributes his competitive success to running daily, switching to a plant-based diet and eliminating dairy.

“I thought I’d give it a try,” he said of giving up meat. “I’ve never felt cleaner or stronger.”

He’s a night runner. When he heads out the door, he doesn’t feel bloated and lethargic.

“I don’t have that rock in my stomach,” he said. “I eat a lot of spinach.”

He plans to continue running daily but has set new goals to keep challenging himself. He hopes to set personal records for traditional race distances, from 400 meters to half-marathons and marathons.

His personal best as an adult for the 10K is 35:06 — that’s sub-6-minute miles for 6 miles.

“Maybe I still have yet to hit my prime in some of the longer distances,” he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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