- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday’s Best Bet on Television

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The man who never stopped running

Somewhere, someone paid taxes today.

Somewhere, someone died today.

And somewhere on Miami Beach, a man named Raven is running eight miles today.

That much is certain.

Each day for more than 34 years, Raven has headed out to the shores of South Beach for an eight-mile run. Nothing has stopped him — not hurricanes, not food poisoning, not the back arthritis that a doctor 13 years ago said would cripple him if he kept going.

Raven’s real name is Robert Kraft and he, like everyone, has a story. He left his Miami home at 17 to find his father but was rejected, tried to make it as a country songwriter in Nashville, Tenn., but failed, fell in love but it was unrequited.

Crestfallen, he fled back to Miami and took up running as a way to cope with his loneliness. He made a New Year’s resolution in 1975 to run eight miles on the beach. So he did. And the next day. And the next.

“Everybody’s running — whether it’s a race or for times — they’re running for something,” Raven once told ESPN. “I was always running away from something, like a fugitive.”

He was alone on those first trips, but as the weeks and years went by, Kraft — with his long brown hair, gray beard and trademark black shorts — attracted followers. Hundreds of people have made the full run with him, and Raven rewards each of them with a nickname. He has been profiled on National Public Radio and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and provided the soundtrack for a novel that he inspired. One of his fellow runners even maintains a Web site, ravenrun.net, dedicated to him.

Despite the fame, Raven lives the life of seclusion he always has. Never had a driver’s license. Never been on a plane. Never had a full-time job. He just runs. That much is certain.

On March 29, he reached a landmark: 100,000 miles. The distance has taken its toll, though. Now, at age 58, he often wonders if the pain is too much, if he should just stop and fully focus on songwriting.

“People ask if I have any regrets, and to be honest, I do,” Raven told the Miami Herald. “I’ve been doing this for a while and I never had a family, never had a chance for financial security. I think this milestone could give me a second chance in life.”

That is why he keeps running, even with the 100,000-mile mark well behind him in the sand. Eight miles every afternoon. That much is certain.

“It could all end up in a movie, a book or just another eight miles,” he says on his Web site. “Either way is all positive.”

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