One Saturday this past November, while assisting a photographer on a photo-shoot for a magazine cover, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert "The Raven" Kraft of Miami Beach, Florida. The Raven was the reason that we were there. This man has run a minimum of 8 miles every single day on the beach, in the sand without fail since January 31, 1975. Yes, you read that right, since 1975 through sickness, hurricanes, lightning and thunder, hail and more, Robert "The Raven" Kraft has been running on that beach without fail, not even one day or mile missed in 39 years.
I was intrigued and inspired by this very dedicated man. At 63 years of age and over 120,000 miles of running on the beach in the same location, this year ended a full 38 years and started year 39. He has severe back problems, sciatica and arthritis, yet he pushes on through the pain. While at dinner after the photo-shoot in Miami I was invited to run with him. That was a complete honor to me. Many want to run with him but few get asked. I promised Raven that I would run with him before the end of the year. The Raven gives everyone that runs a full 8 miles along side him a nickname. If you don't complete the 8 miles, you are not kept in his records and you don't get a nickname. Runners come from all over the world to run with him and get a nickname. I was in OK shape but I am not a runner, I am 48 years old and my cardio, quite frankly, sucks. That would change.
Over the next 6 weeks that I had to prepare I started riding my bike 3-6 miles a day then walk. I tried running but only got a 1/2 mile the first day, had to stop walk a 1/2 mile then run another 1/2 mile. This was on asphalt so how the hell was I suppose to do 8 miles in the sand? Like I said, I am not a runner. I have the body of a hockey and football player. Even my chiropractor says that I have a body of a fighter with dense muscle structure that is heavier than average. Each day, pushups, sit-ups, crunches, bike, walk, run, repeat. I was up to 1/2 mile run without a break then 2 miles. One day I was just sore, my legs hurt and I felt as though I had no energy. I sat down and watched a video of The Raven when he checked himself out the hospital to go run. I put on my running shoes and walked out the door and ran. Inspiration is a powerful thing. Slowly I was preparing myself, but then again, who was I kidding? Eight miles in the sand on the beach? Really? Why did I even say I would run with him? I thought back to dinner when I said I would run with him. Raven looked me right into the eyes and softly touched his chest and said "I know you will,...I can feel it right here." There was no turning back; I had to do this. After all, I gave my word.
Finally a few days before the end of the year I called Raven on the phone. I asked if it would be OK if I ran with him on New Years Eve. He said that would be a great day to come out because it celebrates the end of 38 full years and the beginning of year 39. Again, I was inspired just talking to this man. I showed up at 330pm for the 430pm run. I wanted to be early and prepare myself. Parking was a mess as usual in Miami Beach and I had to walk about a 1/2 mile just to get to the 5th Street lifeguard station where he begins his journey each and every day. The weather was not cooperating and it was really windy coming from the north, northeast. This meant that we would be struggling against the wind going north. Ugh, one more difficulty. After a bit of warm up and talking with the other runners, we began our run at 430pm heading north. At first the pace was pretty slow but it is still running. I felt good. We turned around and headed south when the rain began. By this time I was already sweating pretty bad so I did not really notice. We reached the end of the beach at the inlet, touched the fence and turned around again, this time to go north. We got to where we initially started and I asked where we were going. One of the regulars pointed to some construction cranes way up north and said we would be going just past them. "Holy crap, they are miles away" I thought to myself. Sure enough they were.
I was keeping the pace with Raven but the cranes did not seem to be getting any closer. Then, we hit really deep, soft sand. All of us (that were left) started struggling, working harder and yet still slowing down. This was brutal and the beginning of the hardest part of the run, or so I thought. Finally, better packed sand was under our feet and it was easier but not much. The deep sand had taken its toll on my legs. Muscles I never knew I had were sore, very sore and I was starting to cramp up. I then asked how far we went. Mistake. At that point Raven asked me if I really wanted to know. I said yes. He said "4.3 miles, so the good news is that we are more than 1/2 way done". I was dejected and now concerned that I would fail and not be able to finish. We then ran about another 1/2 mile then turned around. Yes, we had to go back through the deep, soft sand once again. By this time it was dark and Raven made a comment about me being saturated with sweat. I was losing water from the get go and depleting my electrolytes which also explained my leg cramps. The last 2 miles were beyond brutal but I was not about to give up. My Marine Corps mentality got me here and it was going to get me to the finish line.
As the 5th Street lifeguard station got closer in the darkness, only illuminated by the yellow lights of the nearby hotels I felt myself at almost the point of collapse. I knew this was not good for my body. When we reached the end of our run I actually had a hard time stopping. After 2 hours of straight cardio and movement, my legs did not want to stop and were weak. When I finally got settled, I was walking like a limping drunk. This was just the beginning of the pain but I did not care. I was now runner number 1930 who ran with the iconic Raven of Miami Beach and earned a nickname. Raven talks a lot during the run and asks a lot of questions about you to get to know you better and figure out a nickname. My new name is "Water Survival" and it has a lot to do with the training I had in the Marine Corps as a member of flight crew and the helicopter crash that I survived on October 9, 1986 after we took off from our ship in the Mediterranean. I am honored to know this man and proud that I was able to complete this run. This will not be my last run and I will return soon, hopefully before Robert "Raven" Kraft ends his amazing streak.
We are all much more capable than we think we are. For more information on Raven, see the links and videos below.
Here is the magazine article that I assisted in during the photoshoot.