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Hodge's running streak eclipses 45 years

Nothing terribly significant happened on or about Nov. 27, 1975.

A nuclear test was performed in Nevada. “As the World Turns” and “The Edge of Night,” the last two TV soaps to adopt taping, aired their final live shows. Boston’s Fred Lynn was named the American League rookie of the year.

Oh, and with even less fanfare, Charles Hodge began a running streak on that date.

Other events have long since faded, but Hodge is still going. He ran yesterday, and barring the unforeseen, he’ll run today and again tomorrow.

Hodge, who lives in Eagle Point, reached a bit of a milestone on Thanksgiving when he stretched his streak to 45 years without missing a day of running.

Forty-five years.

Or, to be more precise, 16,450 days as of Tuesday.

“It’s still alive,” says Hodge, who will turn 70 next month. “It’s tough to stop, and it’s tough to go on, too. Someday it’s going to have to happen, but not yet.”

The streak has withstood life events, nearly every conceivable weather condition, smoke from wildfires — and the threat of evacuation three months ago — and a few health conditions that would have sidelined most people.

Doug Naversen, a Medford dermatologist and regular running companion of Hodge’s since the latter moved to the Rogue Valley from Southern California in 1988, has had a firsthand look at his friend’s accomplishment.

Naversen understands more than most the magnitude of the streak.

“My longest running streak is 7 years, so it makes my streak look like nothing,” says Naversen, who is race director of the annual Britt Woods Firehouse Run in Jacksonville. “Charles is to be commended. It’s a blessing and a curse. Charles’ life revolves around his running, and we always say that the day Charles doesn’t run his mile and a half is the day he dies.”

Hodge has heard it many times over.

“Since he’s a doctor,” laughs Hodge, discounting the morbid tenor, “maybe he knows something I don’t.”

Actually, Hodge has only done as few as 1 1/2 miles once during the streak. That was a light day in 1988 because he was to run a marathon the following day.

Hodge has kept a notebook — he’s on his fifth edition — of the days and miles he’s run the past four-plus decades.

He’s had a “couple handfuls” of days when he’s run 2 or 21/2 miles, he says, but he usually doubles that: 4 or 5 miles on easy days, 8 or 9 miles on normal days, averaging out to about 6 miles per day.

There has never been a day as short as 1 mile, which is the standard for inclusion on a registry through Streak Runners International and the United States Running Streak Association.

There are nearly 2,500 members on the registry, and Hodge’s streak ranks ninth on the active list for consecutive days.

The active leader is Jon Sutherland, 70, of West Hills, California, whose streak was at 18,825 days Tuesday. Second is Jim Pearson, 76, of Marysville, Washington, who has gone 18,559 days.

Hodge moved to No. 9 on the active list when a California man stopped at exactly 45 years. That was seven years ago, highlighting how difficult it is to make headway.

Hodge is 17 days behind No. 8 Simon Laporte, of Quebec, Canada.

Hodge hopes those ahead of him keep on trucking and doesn’t wish ill upon any of them.

“No,” he says, “because hopefully they don’t wish it upon me.”

The all-time leader is Ron Hill, of Hyde, Great Britain. Before retiring his streak in 2017, he hit 19,032 days.

Hodge expects to climb into the all-time top 10 sometime late next year, passing a retired runner.

It was only after joining the registry that Hodge tallied up his total miles during the streak. As of Nov. 7, he says, his mileage was 95,489.5, or about four trips around Earth.

“I always do the recording in half miles,” he notes.

He figures his lifetime miles, dating to 1964, are in the neighborhood of 120,000.

Hodge began running as a teenager and was on a powerhouse high school distance team in Torrance, California, before enrolling at UCLA, where he briefly competed for the Bruins.

His high school coach patterned workouts based on legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard’s teachings, and Hodge has leaned on those principles since.

A serious and accomplished runner, he once tried to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon but was unsuccessful. Still, his best time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 48 seconds, is only a dozen seconds off today’s qualifying standard.

Like many devoted runners, he began keeping a journal of his runs and races, good and bad, and used the notes to tailor his training.

The beginning of Hodge’s streak wasn’t orchestrated. It was only after a friend observed Hodge had run for a good chunk of consecutive days that he paid heed.

On the streak’s first day, Hodge logged 4 miles. The next day, 71/2, then 4, then 8. On it went.

At five years, Hodge noted in a 2008 Mail Tribune article, he committed to maintaining it.

There were hardships, notably a couple of medical episodes that could have knocked him off pace.

In the early 2000s, he wrapped his runs around an afternoon hernia surgery. The procedure led to discomfort when he went out the next day, but it was not debilitating.

Then in the Turkey Trot in 2017, Hodge, running alongside Naversen, was 6 miles into the race when he crashed to the ground, cracking a rib and doing other damage. He spent the day in the emergency room, where it was discovered his heart was out of rhythm.

Hodge believes the condition made him woozy enough that he stumbled.

“Most people,” says Naversen, “would take time off, but he kept running. We’d run up a hill, and he had me feel his pulse, and it was wildly irregular. I didn’t know if I was his running buddy or his running doctor.”

Hodge had an ablation six months later, in which a tube was inserted through his groin into an artery and threaded to his heart to eradicate tissue causing arrhythmia.

Hodge got his run in very early that morning, before the surgery, then was back the next day.

His heart wasn’t a concern, he says.

“The hole they did in the groin could open up,” says Hodge. “I basically did the same thing as the hernia, running slow, and I wrapped it real good and put some pressure on it and nothing happened. Gradually, I got back to running normally over the next few days.”

Naversen marvels at Hodge’s resiliency.

Naversen’s own streak was ended by knee effusion. He’s also dealt with a torn meniscus.

Whereas pulled muscles or knee injuries or Achilles damage would bench most people, Hodge has had a minimum of ailments and has been able to push through them.

“Charles seems to be biomechanically perfect,” says Naversen.

Hodge also listens to his body.

“A lot of times,” says Naversen, “he doesn’t run in the morning because you get achy in the morning. He waits until afternoon or evening, when his joints are well lubricated, which is wise.”

Hodge faced a different challenge in September, when the evacuation zone for the South Obenchain fire crept to about one-quarter mile from his home.

“It was a little scary, yeah,” says Hodge. “I made sure I had my running shoes if I had to go.”

For days after, he wore an N95 mask while running.

Hodge does most of his running near his home, but he joins a group at the Britt grounds on Sundays and enters local races when they are operating.

Hodge still enjoys running, but even he finds his voluminous undertaking “overwhelming.”

“If somebody had said to me at the beginning,” says Hodge, “well, you’re going to run over 16,000 days without taking a day off, I’d say you’re crazy, that’s not going to happen.”

It did happen, and it’s still happening.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Charles Hodge, right, and Doug Naversen, front left, lead a training run with the Southern Oregon Runners in Jacksonville Sunday.