Nampan John Watts has run at least a mile every day for more than 36 years — a streak sparked by famed British marathoner Ron Hill.
“I thought running every day was a cool thing to do,” Watts said of Hill, who began running daily after a disappointing performance in the 1964 Olympics.
“He kind of inspired me,” Watts said.
Hill’s streak ended Sunday — after 52 years and 39 days.
But John Watts and other Idaho “streak runners,” or streakers, are still going strong.
Watts has Idaho’s longest streak. It’s the 35th longest in the United States, according to a list maintained by the United States Running Streak Association.
Watts’ record has been threatened several times over the years. In June 2015, he broke three ribs after the ladder he was working on collapsed.
“I had no business running after that, but I did,” Watts said.
The 61-year-old pastor at Nampa First United Methodist Church has more aches and pains these days, so he is slowing down.
Last year was the first since 1980 that he didn’t log at least 1,000 miles. The good news: He only needs to log one mile a day to keep his streak going.
Watts doesn’t ever expect to make it to the top of the U.S. streak list. The person on the top of that list — and now the world list — is a 66-year-old California writer named Jon Sutherland. His streak is 47.7 years.
“The people ahead of me, they’re not going to miss a day of running unless they break a leg or die,” Watts said.
He’s glad when he finishes his daily runs but he doesn’t dread them.
“Some people assume that it’s like a burden I bear, that I have to do, and I’m chained to it,” he said. “I don’t feel that way at all.”
Thomas “Tom” J. Lloyd III, a Boise attorney, has the second longest streak in Idaho. He’s been at it over 5 years.
“Any streaker will tell you that as crazy as it sounds, it keeps us healthy,” Lloyd said. “Still, none of us can outrun time, and after 52 years of running at least a mile a day, it is probably time that (Ron Hill) takes a break.”
Lloyd, 35, began running daily because he wanted to get healthier and set a good example for his son. He’s ranked at No. 300 on the U.S. streak list.
“Although I am not as outwardly vocal about my streak, it remains a key part of my life and is my primary stress relief,” he said Wednesday. “It keeps me grounded and sane, when everything else in the world might not seem so certain.”
Lloyd said he hopes to get back into racing shape by this spring. He and some friends plan to start a business that is a clearinghouse for all things running, and they’re forming a team to compete in races.
Emily Hopkins read about Lloyd in the Statesman on Jan. 1, 2013 — and that was the day she started her four-year streak. Her streak is ranked No. 395.
“It seemed like the perfect way to jump-start my new year,” Hopkins said. “The more I shared the idea with people, the more they thought it was impossible. So I set out to do the impossible.”
The obstacles to running daily are many and varied, especially during a winter like this.
“I’ve only had three ice slips in the four years of my run streak and none were very serious,” Hopkins said. “Luckily I’ve had no other injury besides a few aches and pains — mostly after a Robie race.”
This past year was a rollercoaster for Hopkins. She ran every day, through great joy and wrenching sorrow.
I ran on my wedding day with my future husband and our two loving, but crazy, dogs. I ran on the beaches of Belize as we celebrated our new marriage. And I ran the morning after I learned my brother took his own life, crying through every step.
“For me my daily run is that one thing that grounds me, clears my head, and is always present,” she said. “I can’t imagine who I would be without it.”
Other Idahoans on the U.S. run streak list: Tim DeSantis, 54, 2 years; Brian Orth, 37, 1.1 years; Toni Orth, 38, 1.1 years.