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
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
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
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