Interview by Ryan Yablonski
A legend among locals in his seaside town, the Running Raven has become an icon of discipline and purpose. Robert Kraft has been running eight miles a day for 47 years without fail since Jan. 1, 1975. Runners come from around the world to run with him as he has become an anchor in Miami Beach, an area known for hurricanes, extreme heat and short attention spans. His unbroken streak has a lot to teach us about what is possible when you hold yourself to a perfect standard.
The Harlem Times: Where did your nickname come from?
Robert Kraft: In 1975, I began running with these boxers from the 5th street boxing gym. They looked at me and said, “You always run in black, up late at night running and writing dark country songs…you’re sort of like a raven.”
THT: What got you started?
RK: Somebody else got a hold of a song I wrote, and it became a hit. I was pretty angry. I left my Nashville dreams and went back to the town I grew up in. I started running with a group of guys and it felt good, so I kept on running. I needed more than four miles for the runners’ high to kick in, so I kept going until I hit eight even though the other guys had stopped a while back. Thats how became I became addicted.
Now that Runner’s World and ESPN have articles about me as well as writing the Running with Raven Book, a lot of people run with me. I keep a list of everyone who does the eight miles. Right now, there are 3,657 people and each one gets a nickname. Sometimes people get names like the Angry Man or The Ranter if that name fits them better than a nickname.
THT: Why the black outfit? Do you have multiple?
RK: I have two pairs of running shorts, a black vest, two shoes and a black MLB worn batting glove I’ve worn since 1977 that gives me my power, that’s all I need.
THT: Is there anyone else like you?
RK: There are other streak runners like me. I’m number six in the world for most consecutive days. The longest has been running since May 1969. I’ve spoken with him and run with another on the top of the list. We are all a bit obsessive compulsive, especially with keeping records. They are all about the data while I am more so about the spiritual side of it and just really stubborn. The one time there was a hurricane here we tried to run in but failed, I went home and ran eight miles in my house.
THT: Why do you still run, has the reason changed?
RK: It’s sort of a mission now. People come from all over the world to run with me. There are people from 100 different countries now and you never know who is going to show up. If someone came from Germany and if I wasn’t out there, I would feel guilty. We have more people tracking numbers now and have an award ceremony in January for the people with the most miles in running and swimming.
My secret is that, as long as you are consistent, it will pay off no matter what you do. At 72 years old I’ve slowed down a lot, but if you find an excuse to take off today then you will find another excuse to take tomorrow off. Pretty soon you’ll take your whole life off. That’s why now I’m afraid to skip even one day.
Raven still dreams of writing a hit song and his music has made its mark among his friends and fans. He says the song “Never Give Up” on his album “The Road is Long” is the key to his philosophy. He is working on a new album as well with an ensemble band. His music and run logs can be found at ravenrun.net in addition to Apple Music and Spotify.