On the run: West Seattle man on the brink of a (many-)milestone

By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

You hear the words “running” and “streak” together and you think…well, you know what you think. However, the past twenty years have seen 33-year-old John Wallace III pursuing a rather different kind of running streak.

On December 30, 2009 – tomorrow – John will mark 20 years of running at least one mile every single day (including a four-month stretch in which he ran literally cross-country).

Tomorrow, he won’t be alone: his father, John Wallace, Jr.. of Michigan will celebrate the same 20-year anniversary.

Here’s how it started, how you can help him commemorate the occasion, and the big run he has planned for next fall:

On the evening of December 30, 1989, John III’s father invited him to go for a run. John was a track athlete in middle school and high school, so he naturally went along for the 4-mile outing. They went running the next day as well; and the next. They went running every day for a week. They went running every day for a month. They went running every day for so long, they finally made a wager that the first one to miss a day of running had to pay the other twenty dollars. So far, neither has had to pay up.

John is celebrating his 20-year accomplishment with an open invitation to run with him Wednesday evening. Through his Facebook page and people he is in contact with via his website seejohnrun.com, he has recruited runners both locally and from across the country who will be running in honor of he and his father’s achievements.

His Facebook page invites people to join his celebratory run this way:

Run with me or run wherever you live on 12/30. Just get outside and go for a mile or two or four. Add your name to those participating (31 and counting – email me the mileage you plan to run): http://www.seejohnrun.com/7305.html

The actual run on 12/30 in West Seattle will be a nice easy 4 miler on Day 7305 of my 20-year running streak.

The course is set: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=3371230
515 feet of vertical gain and 515 feet of vertical loss. I’ll be keeping an 8:30/mile pace.

The time is set: 7:30 PM. The date was set long ago: 12/30/09.

There will be lots of fun surprises, finisher’s awards, bib numbers, swap-a-race-shirt perhaps, and light refreshments afterward.

John and his father are both listed on the registry at runeveryday.com. This website lists US runners who have run at least one mile every single day for a year or more.

You may wonder whether people who run every day ever get sick. John notes that “running makes me healthier” but does admit that in 1998, he ran with side pain — about three hours before an emergency appendectomy. And then, he ran again twelve hours after the surgery. Didn’t the doctors advise against that? He responds: “They didn’t necessarily know.”

By the way, the unbroken string of runs aren’t his most monumental achievement:

At one point during his nightly runs (he usually runs at night) he started wondering, “What if I didn’t have to stop running? What if I could run all the way to Portland?” At this time he also received an issue of Running Times magazine, with a cover featuring two men running across the United States pushing jogging strollers holding their gear. The seed was planted, and in 2004 John Wallace III ordered a double jogging stroller to push his belongings across the United States. His website documents his cross-country adventure (scroll down), during which he made up the route along the way, and often slept in a tent along the road.

His encounters included being pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy in Alabama for not having enough reflective material showing while running on the side of the road. Not having more with him, the deputy gave him a reflective vest printed with the word “Sheriff.” In Georgia, he was pulled over, ordered to remove the vest and reprimanded for “impersonating an officer.”

He also had his jogger with some gear stolen in Arizona. He ended up waiting three days for Amazon to deliver a new jogger to him — but he still ran during each of those three days.

John can run a mile in about twelve minutes, so fitting it into a day isn’t particularly difficult. However, there have been some close calls; he recalls having to leave a movie theater during a showing of “Twister” at 11:45 pm and running in the parking lot in order to get his mile of running in for that day.

What happens after hitting the 20-year mark? John says, “Twenty years is a nice, round number, if I miss a day, it will be less traumatic than if I didn’t make it to twenty.” John starts listing things he hasn’t been able to do — such as take a 3-day hike on Mt. Rainier. “You can’t run on the side of a mountain.”

However, John does have plans: In 2010 he’ll participate in the Boston Marathon, running for the Hoyt Foundation.

Also, he is formally announcing his intention to run across the United States again. This time, his goal is to beat the current Guinness World Record of 46 days to run across the US. This will mean running 64-67 miles per day without gear. How will he manage this? With his dad, John Jr. — who will be his crew, and will be with him literally every step of the way. He plans to start on October 10th (10.10.10) and end as close as possible to his wife’s birthday: November 23rd.

Until then, John will likely be running every day, often with his dog Taurus, training for his further adventures. He will be developing a new website, runusa.com, where people can track his training and then his cross-country run. He says people enjoy following the events online and often tell him, “We’re living through you.”

12 Replies to "On the run: West Seattle man on the brink of a (many-)milestone"

  • Chris Weinmann December 29, 2009 (11:38 pm)

    “John can run a mile in about twelve minutes”. I’m guessing he can run a mile a little bit faster than that…

  • John Wallace Jr December 30, 2009 (12:16 am)

    This is a great article on my son’s adventures. Karen and I are very proud of his accomplishments and look forward to many more adventures. It is true John can run much faster than twelve minute miles. I think he still runs in the sevens, but with the distance runs that are not races twelve or more is not bad mile after mile. WS Blog I’m happy to be Friends with you on Facebook and wish we had something similar in the UP of Michigan

  • morcaffeineplease December 30, 2009 (5:38 am)

    Yoopers are a little bit crazy enough to do something like this…
    Amazing you guys haven’t had any injuries during that time(other than an exploding appendix, which didn’t slow you down). Props to you all, and Taurus the wonder dog, too. Go Dog, Go!

  • Cecile December 30, 2009 (8:18 am)

    lol @ Chris.. (hopefully!)

  • velo_nut December 30, 2009 (9:09 am)

    Love it!

  • Meghan December 30, 2009 (11:00 am)

    I thought this was really great and inspirational until I got to the part where he ran over a mile 12 hours after an emergency appendectomy (unbeknownst to his doctor). Not breaking a running streak goes from healthy to obsessive when you put literally put your life at risk to do it. What if he sprains his ankle or breaks his foot? Is he going to run on it until he does irrepairable damage?

  • Karen Wallace December 30, 2009 (1:21 pm)

    While reading this article, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement and pride for two ‘average’ runners who have been able to achieve such an amazing accomplishment. Days turning into weeks and now weeks into years.. Each day involved running.. but running wasn’t about the day.. you eat, sleep and work, go on vacations and live life..and run. Runners understand and others always ask why? Congratulation to my husband and son.. who have been inspirational to so many, myself included. Continued success everyday as you put one foot in front of the other, if it be one mile or 100. Love to you both *Thanks WS Blog for an awesome article..The story continues.

  • rose December 30, 2009 (2:51 pm)

    as a runner I really admire you both. I do takes days off, so I am super impressed. Congratulations. Are you going to keep at it? I hope so!

  • karen December 30, 2009 (4:16 pm)

    You and your dad are such an inspiration! I love to run but with the holidays I’ve been slacking… this gives me the motivation to run tonight. Congrats on your achievement and I hope you run another 20 years.

  • Laura H December 30, 2009 (5:59 pm)

    Congrats to both of you!! I got my 4 in today in your honor. Very inspirational, guys! And I do know John can do faster than 12 min – I’ve been at races and seen him!:)

  • Joshua Mock December 30, 2009 (7:17 pm)

    John, you are still the best, and my inspiration for so much. Another run across country, eh? Heidi know about this yet…. :) I might be able to take a look at this one this time. Take it one step at a time… and all that inspiritional stuff.

  • John Wallace III December 30, 2009 (9:12 pm)

    Thanks all. Turned out to be a little short on mileage but my dad and I know starting from ‘the rock’ and ending there was 3.8 miles. Had a great conversation with Greg; Rob ran quickly up ahead of us and kept my planned 8:30/mile pace; Heidi was pulled along behind us by Taurus and didn’t enjoy the run but I am so happy she came out and joined us! Thanks to the other 60+ folks that ran ‘virtually’ today!!

    3.83 Mile Celebration Run: http://bit.ly/6drnRt
    61 folks joined me virtually: http://www.seejohnrun.com/7305.html

    Here’s to the next 20 years!

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