The Definition of Hard
Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Tue Jul 23 2013
It’s late in the day, evening is coming on, and any sort of power or pace or energy was exhausted much earlier. Shuffling is the best you can do. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other now.
That’s Mark Covert’s running style when he begins his daily run early each morning.
Daily run? How many days a week is that? Seven. Yeah, but, he takes a day off every now and then. Right? No. Except when he gets sick or injured. Yes? Nope. Today he’s running in a t-shirt. It says, Every Damn Day.
Covert was on a Fullerton State cross country team that was, more than 40 years ago, Division II NCAA champions. That team was legendary for its hard, hard work, and Covert was the ring leader.
He’s used to his teams winning. Prior to Fullerton State Covert ran community college track and cross country at Los Angeles Valley College. A lot of his work ethic as a runner came from that latter team’s coach László Tábori, Olympian, third man ever to break the 4-minute mile, former 1500m world record holder. Under Tábori’s tutelage Covert set a national community college record of 28:53 for 6 miles. That record still stands almost 45 years after it was set. It is not likely to be broken because that distance is not run anymore and, if it was, who among today's community collegians is going to break it?
“I came from a different era,” continues Covert, “when miles were king, and we ran a lot. A whole lot. And we ran a lot of it hard. ‘To all those who’re just starting the sport,’” he says, “’You’re not going to break. You can do it. You can probably do more work.’”
When Covert admonishes high school students to do more, and that “you’re not going to break,” he’s not telling the entire truth. Mark Covert is not going to run tomorrow. It’s not because he doesn’t want to. It’s because he can’t. He’s broken.
This is not a wimpy streak. Covert has averaged about 9 miles a day during that time, which began right after graduating high school. He’s 62 years old.
Covert was one of the original high-mileage runners, along with Gerry Lindgren and England’s Dave Bedford. Mark Covert would routinely run 200-mile weeks, one reason his daily average during the streak is so impressive.
Jon Sutherland was there on Covert’s last day of The Streak to honor him, as were several other members of his cross country teams from Burbank high school, L.A. Valley College, and Fullerton State. As were runners from several high school cross country teams.
Covert is the first-ever runner to cross a finish line in Nikes, while running a 2:23:35 at the 1972 Olympic marathon trials, finishing 7th. He runs today in throwback support-free Nike lightweight trainers that would not typically be indicated for the severe over-pronater he is.
Until he's whole enough for running regularly again – assuming that day does arrive – he’s taken up cycling, so he is not done punishing himself and others.
The Streak spanned 9 presidendial administrations beginning with the Lyndon Johnson presidency. It survived a broken foot, a knee surgery, a shoulder surgery, a kidney stone.
Mark Covert logged about 10,000 miles as a runner before The Streak, so, Covert's just a few hundred miles away from 160,000 miles lifetime.
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