No, we’re not talking nude runners here. We’re talking those unique runners who find that perfect race for them and then move mountains to make sure they hit the event every single year. For the Baltimore Marathon, there are still quite a few out there who have been at it since 2001. We decided to check in with a couple of them–local runners John Finegan and Jan Cook–and see how and why they stay at it, year after year.
For Finegan, getting started with the marathon in 2001 came about as a challenge from old college buddies who he didn’t want “one-upping’ him, as well as the drive to prove that he could get into the best shape of his life. After running his first four Baltimore marathons for a variety of reasons and circumstances, he decided there was no good reason not to keep the record intact. “I now run Baltimore to get myself into reasonable shape once a year,” he says. “I run it because of the streak. I run it as a memorial to my mother and the example she set for health and fitness and I run it for the example I hope it will provide for my kids.”
Jan Cook, on the other hand, ran his first Baltimore with a streak in mind. “I knew that I could run to the start if I needed to and would not have to rely on transportation,” he says. “As the years have gone on and the number of us that have run every year has dwindled, the quest to be the last man standing has kept me going. A few of us locals look for each other every year at the start line to encourage each other on.”
With more than a decade of running the marathon, each of the streakers has special memories that stand out. “In 2010, my wife Sheila and her family ran the half marathon and 5k in honor of my father-in-law, Francis, who passed away in 2009,” says Cook. “It was a lasting memory for our family that has been carried on every year since then and again this year.”
Finegan has two favorite memories: The first being 2001, when a college friend surprised him at mile 14 and ran him the rest of the way in. The second, he says, was during the 10-year anniversary edition of the marathon. “Both college friends I’d run several Baltimore Marathons with joined me for the full 26.2, traveling long distances to get there.”
While Cook does run marathons other than Baltimore, this one holds a very special place for him. “I was born and raised in Baltimore and now live in Patterson Park,” he says. “I am proud of my city. As I run, I like to talk with other runners and personally welcome them and let them know all that Charm City has to offer.”
For Finegan, Baltimore is the one and only 26.2 he’s run. “It’s in my hometown and the timing each year allows me to train when the weather is nice,” he says.
Regardless of the desire to keep the streak going, some years have been more challenging than others to make it happen. Finegan struggled in 2009 with a four-week illness in the middle of his training cycle. “I didn’t start coming around until Labor Day, so I was obviously concerned about not having enough of a window to train,” he explains. “But I was able to improve my time from the previous year.”
Cook has been relatively lucky in that regard. “I have had slow races, some faster times, and suffered through a bout of kidney stones, but I’ve never had any thoughts of not continuing,” he says. “I lack training sometimes, but I will run, walk, or crawl over the finish line to keep the streak alive.”
We wish Cook, Finegan and all the other Baltimore streakers best of luck at this year’s edition!
What about you–do you have a race streak going with any race? What keeps you at it?