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Runner Pat Babington raises his arms in victory

How to run for your life

For every day of 20 years, 10 months and 16 days, Pat Babington ran at least a mile.

His streak stopped when he hyperextended his knee while attaching a camper to his truck. Arthritis aggravated the injury and, “ultimately the pain was too great to walk, let alone run,” he said. So the DePauw associate professor of kinesiology took a year off running.

“Stopping wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be,” he said, but he nevertheless started back up in January 2020, and now runs about three miles every other day.

He shared tips he learned along the way for anyone contemplating running: 

DECIDE TO START. It wasn’t initially Babington’s idea to run every day. His wife Cindy “offered the challenge of ‘let’s try to run every day for a year,’” so they started on New Year’s Day 1998.

HAVE A PARTNER to whom you can be accountable, at least initially. “You end up being accountable to a whole host of people once word gets out that you have a running streak.”

FAMILY SUPPORT HELPS. “My daughter woke me up one night at 11:30 p.m. with the statement, ‘Dad, you haven’t run today.’ I had the flu, but off I went for my mile run in the dark.”

DECIDE A DISTANCE that counts as a run. “I chose a mile. There was no real reason for this distance. Other people have counted less as a run, some more.”

DECIDE IF TREADMILL RUNS COUNT. “I never did. For a run to count it had to be outside. If I ran inside, I still went outside for the daily run of at least a mile.”

PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL so you know when something is wrong. “Running every day hurts. If something hurts more as you run, then it’s not good. If, as I ran, a pain lessened, then it wasn’t a concern, but I paid attention if the pain got worse.”

WORK THROUGH THE DAYS when you don’t feel like running. “There were many. Basically the hard part was getting out the door. If you get out the door then everything ends up being OK. Some of my best runs were on days that I didn't feel like going out. … Ended up, I always went further on those days.”

DON’T GET SICK OR INJURED. “If you do, back off and fix the problem. In 20 years, I ran with the flu and colds many times. I also had non-running related injuries that I had to work through. Normally, some strengthening exercises helped me get through the injury.”

PICK A TIME OF DAY to do your run. “I always ran at noon.”

PLAN FOR THE WEATHER. “If you are running outside every day, then there will be snow, rain, heat and cold. I ran when it was minus-10 and when it was 95. For freezing rain or icy streets, I suggest investing in a pair of Yaktrax.”

PLAN AHEAD FOR TRAVEL and stay on the time where you live. “When I went to Vietnam during winter term, I stayed with local time so I may have picked up an extra day. I also ran at 3 a.m. before our return trip just to make sure I got a run in. In Australia during another winter-term course, I ran on Indiana time. It was much easier to figure out how not to lose a day.”

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