A mile, every day, for 50 years. A streak you have to hear to believe.
If you’ve ever tried to start a habit, say exercising, you know it’s tough. Experts say most people abandon their new year’s resolutions in less than a month. But one spring day, 50 years ago, Sandy Hulme started running, and hasn’t stopped. Since March of 1973, Hulme has run at least one mile a day. Every day. For 50 years. Rick Brewer met him at a celebration.
Editor's note: This story was produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you're able, WCMU encourages you to listen to the audio. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Rick Brewer: Sandy Hulme typically runs alone. But on the day I met him, he was going to be running with a lot more people.
Sandy Hulme: Oh my gosh, I think that’s like the whole cross-country team or something.
RB: I’ll have more on that later. And when I first talked to Sandy, I assumed the streak started on a whim, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
SH: I very intentionally said I am never going to miss another day from now on. And so that is when it began, and I was 11 years old in the sixth grade.
RB: And the most disciplined sixth grader of all time went on to be an all-American runner at St. Lawrence University in up-state New York. He aspired to qualify for the Olympic games in the marathon.
SH: Unfortunately, my genes just didn't take me there. So, that didn't quite happen. But I've been a lifelong runner ever since.
RB: For one five-year stretch, Hulme was running 120 miles a week. He was also part of a 12-person relay team that broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to run across the United States. It took the team just 12 days.
SH: Running literally just became something that was integrated to every part of my life. It's just part of my normal routine. And I literally couldn't imagine a day without running.
RB: He says he’s never missed a day. So, that’s 50 years’ worth of blizzards, holidays, his children being born, traveling, injuries and any number of things that can happen. But, Hulme and his family and hundreds of other witnesses stand by his self-reported streak. Aside from keeping a running diary, Hulme has some compelling stories about when the streak was almost broken, like right after 9/11.
SH: I was stopped by a security person in the Zurich airport and they had an Uzi submachine gun. And I was running a little too fast for them. And so, they asked me what I was doing. And I very calmly stopped running and talked to them. And then, very quietly kept running and finished my run.
RB: But sub-machine guns aside, Hulme says the greatest threat to the streak was right after a hernia surgery.
SH: I got up off the couch and tried to walk around my living room every couple of hours to try to get to the point where I actually could move. And then finally at 10:30 at night my wife walked with me out to the street and went right next to me as I managed to somehow run, and it took 28 minutes and 31 seconds.
RB: I asked Hulme about running in the lovely, unpredictable, snowy Michigan weather. He says Michigan isn’t too bad actually. Up-state New York, he says, might as well be Siberia.
SH: The coldest day that I ever ran was -22 with a -72 wind-chill. It was absolutely, catastrophically cold.
RB: When Hulme isn’t running around Alma, he can be found teaching political science courses at Alma College. Recently, the college put on a special event to give people a chance to run a mile with Hulme in celebration of his 50-year milestone.
Jeff Abernathy: Alright, for runners, Sandy what are the instructions we're going one mile today.
SH: We’re just going, we’re just going
JA: Alright, you're measuring, hold on, hold on, let’s get the sign. Here we go everybody, let's go. Runners, start your watches.
SH: Let’s do it.
SH: I always think about being a marathon runner as being such incredibly good preparation for life. Where you understand that you put one foot in front of the other, and eventually you cross that finish line. And I consider going out and doing my run every day as part and parcel of that kind of approach to living.
RB: Hulme says he’s holding off on submitting his streak to the U.S. Running Streak Association, that’s a real thing. Sitting atop the leader board is a writer from Utah with nearly 54 years' worth of consecutive days running. But Hulme doesn’t think about this record much, he just wants to keep going.
SH: If I stopped tomorrow, that would be an incredibly sad day for me. It's one of those things where I kind of envision the end of my streak running on a beach in Hawaii, having a massive heart attack and having it be over. But, I literally can't imagine waking up the next day not having run.
RB: And if you don’t believe Hulme’s record, I'm sure he won’t mind. People have questioned him before. One Alma resident I spoke with says he doesn’t know Hulme personally, but he says he sees him all around town and told me quote “seems like that man would run through a tornado.”
SH: Thank you, everybody. That was very nice of you. Thank you very much.
RB: I’m Rick Brewer, WCMU News.