For 48 Years, Robert “Raven” Kraft Ran the Same Eight Miles. Every Single Day.
Raven has organized his life around a run streak on Miami’s South Beach, inspiring countless runners along the way. Now, it’s coming to a close.
When Raven answered his landline, he told me he was “hanging in.” Me, too, I told him, thinking about the impending pickups for my three kids and a long list of to-dos. But no, he was hanging in, engaged in an isometric hang to help ease some of his back pain.
It’s that unrelenting back pain, which he thinks started in earnest after helping a fellow runner move in 1995, that has driven Robert “Raven” Kraft, 73, to scale back his eight-miles-on-the-beach run streak. Since 1975, Raven has run an out-and-back eight miles on South Beach in Miami, starting at the 5th Street Lifeguard Station.
(In 2020 he spent two weeks running on the roads, which nearly destroyed his ailing back. Local authorities gave him the okay to return; they told police that Kraft was patrolling the miles of empty beach amidst the pandemic.)
“My body is forcing me to do this,” Kraft told me of his plans to run five miles instead of eight. “I truly don’t want to, but my streak will continue, as the longest in the world on the sand.”
Kraft started running when he was 19. He wrote a song during his time trying to make it as a country artist in Nashville, but he says he didn’t know anything about copyright. Later, he heard the song on the radio, played by another artist.
“I had a few angry years,” Kraft previously told Runner’s World. A friend encouraged him to start running. That friend dubbed Kraft, “Raven.”
“You always wear black, you’re up late at night, and you write sad songs,” Kraft recalled what his friend said.
But running helped. He worked his way up from a couple of miles to five miles to eight miles. On New Year’s Eve 1975, he vowed to run every day. This New Year’s Eve will mark 49 years.
The streak is going to look different. Sunday, November 5, was the last day Kraft ran his eight-mile route. I can hear the pain in Kraft’s voice when he talks about just missing the 49-year-mark of running eight miles.
“It breaks my heart.”
But eight miles was always arbitrary, Kraft admits; it’s not even his favorite number.
“Everyone can do a 10K. Seven was too short. Nine was too long,” he says, sounding like a less chipper Goldilocks.
On Sunday, nearly 40 runners, including a 5- and 8-year-old, joined Raven for his last eight-miler.
“No one said anything negative to me, like, ‘So you’re cutting down to five miles?’” Kraft says. Anyone who knows him knows this decision was not taken lightly.
The shorter run will free up more than an hour a day—I hate to stop running eight, but running five might keep me alive, Kraft says, pointing out, poetically, that five miles is (just about) eight kilometers.
Less time running means Kraft can spend more time writing and performing music.
That’s all he’s ever wanted to do: run on the beach, work out, and write music. Last month he came out with his first album: An Unkindness by Raven and the Dark Shadows. (An unkindness is a flock of ravens, by the way.) Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam is featured on the song, “Dracula.”
“My whole life has been built around [this streak],” Kraft told me. “I’ve had to give up a lot of things, weddings, parties. I have a strict schedule. I have to get back here. I’m always looking at my watch.”
It was at this moment that it hit me; this wasn’t just a get-the-miles-where-you-can daily run streak. Kraft starts at 5:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. during standard time) from the same spot and runs the same eight-mile route. I asked him if he had any regrets.
“Unlike you, I have no family. No kids. I didn’t make a whole lot of money working security
Kraft has run with nearly 3,700 people over the past five decades. He keeps a log, and everyone he runs with gets a nickname. And just because Kraft has to cut back to five miles, to become an official Raven Runner, anyone who joins him has to run the full eight. (“Sorry,” he says.)
Kraft says his daily runs have taught him to be more accepting.
“I’ve changed,” he says. “I’m easier to be around. Running has been my savior. I don’t want to give it up. I was shy as a kid. A loner. An outcast. Running got me out of my shell and brought out the best in me.”
Death aside, Kraft says there might be one reason he’d break his streak: accepting a Country Music Association Award in Nashville.
“I’ve never been on a plane,” he says. But then he pauses.
“Maybe I’d send somebody in my place. Or do a video thing. Zoom or something.”
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jobs. I’m hoping my songs might change that.”
And except for the debilitating spinal stenosis and sciatica, “I’m in pretty good shape.” Kraft says he felt less worse after Monday's five-miler, which is a good sign. He’s already considering running eight miles on special occasions, like the 49th anniversary on December 31. What’s more, perhaps, is that Kraft felt the burden of the eight-mile streak being lifted.
posted Saturday November 11th
by Runner’s World