Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight


January 28, 2004:

Mile after mile after mile ...
Rick Belding '69 has run every day for the last 13 years

Rick Belding '69 says he's not a natural runner. "I was always sort of a little chubby kid," even in college where he played 150-pound football and freshman baseball. After Princeton, though, he took up running during his honeymoon the summer of 1971 and over the years has become more dedicated to it. In 1988 he missed only about 10 days, the next year about three or four. And in 1990, he says, "I lost my mind." Since July 19, 1990, he hasn't missed a daily run, no matter where he is or how he feels. That's 13 years and counting. The headmaster of Green Fields Country Day School in Tucson, Arizona, Belding spoke with Katherine Federici Greenwood on December 3.

How many consecutive days have you run?

This morning I counted it up: 4,886.

When did your streak start?

In 1990, I was 43 years old. I've been running since my early 20s. But July 18, 1990 was the last day I didn't run. I skipped a day. We used to go to Europe every summer and I got off the plane in Paris and I didn't run that day and I got up the next morning and I was so mad. I said either you're going to make excuses or you're going to run. So that was the last day I didn't run.

So that day in Paris you just decided you would run every day?

Right. Not that I necessarily thought that I would do it every day.

So how does running make you feel?

As it goes on you realize how fortunate you are that you've not been seriously enough injured not to be able to do it. And I haven't been so sick that I couldn't do it.

It does take some discipline, to put your head down and go do it. But mostly I enjoy it. I get a kick out of maintaining the streak for no reason other than it's now the streak. When I reached 2,000 days my wife took a running shoe and put gold foil all over it — so I call it the gold-foil shoe. And she gave me a little certificate.

Where do you run?

When I'm here in Tucson, just in my neighborhood. One of the neat benefits of it — I guess we travel a lot sort of — I've run as far west as San Francisco, and far east as somewhere in central Germany. And I run in the cities when I travel. It's remarkable what you see. I've seen more of Paris than the casual tourist will ever see.

How far do you go?

A normal run now is 3.2 miles. When I travel I run by the clock and I try to run at least 30 minutes. ... A lot of days it's just plotting around the neighborhood.

Do you have a regular route?

Yeah. ... We live in the foothills of the mountains here. I'm getting older; I used to run farther.

When do you run?

I get up early and run before work. I get up at five and I'm usually on the road by six. I run 35 minutes or so. Almost always I run alone. ... I prefer to run by myself.

Do you listen to music?

Nope. I found through the years that I do my best thinking when I run. But it's not because I try to, it just happens. Some days are totally mindless and other days I'll solve a problem that I've been working on for three months — usually work kind of stuff. ... I collect golf balls now because I run around a golf course. [I probably have] thousands. My one friend in North Carolina hasn't bought a golf ball in seven years because I send him them.

So you don't have any knee or back troubles?

I had a bad enough back to have gotten deferred from the service. But running makes it better. ... Some days the only time my back feels good is when I'm running. I got one knee that bothers me a little but I lost a bunch of weight in the last year and my knee doesn't hurt as much.

What about when you're sick?

I was sick one spring break. And all I did was run and lie in bed all day. I had real bad bronchitis. Nothing that you couldn't run though.

I bet you have a good heart...

I don't know. I don't go to the doctors. I hope so.

What is your goal with this running streak?

I'm in shooting distance of 5,000 days, but I don't have that as a goal. I just know it's out there. My goal is just tomorrow. And mostly I look forward to it. ... Once you get going it's always fun.