No end in sight for Baldwin coach’s 25-year running streak
On a recent morning, Rich Wright got out of bed at 3:30 a.m. and grinded out a six-mile run.
And that was during vacation in Hilton Head, S.C.
For Wright, running at least a mile never takes a day off. It hasn’t since Aug. 3, 1990. That’s when Baldwin’s co-head cross country and assistant track coach embarked on an incredible streak that is about to turn 25 years old.
Getting to the cusp of a silver anniversary wasn’t easy or without its humorous times, and sometimes both happened simultaneously.
Years ago, Wright went to a urologist who determined that he was suffering from kidney stones so badly that an immediate surgery was necessary.
“I came out of the hospital, took my shirt off and said, ‘I’m not going into surgery,’” Wright said. “I ran in the parking garage, then went into surgery. The nurses said, ‘Look how bad of shape he’s in. He’s sweating so bad.’”
Another bout with kidney stones put Wright in a hospital for nearly a day, but he was released at 9:30 p.m. By 10 p.m., he was running.
He once ran with an IV in his arm. Another time, Wright fought through a concussion.
Neither wind, nor rain, nor heat, nor cold have slowed him down.
“There’s been many crazy stories,” he said. “It’s always an adventure.”
The United States Running Streak Association keeps a database of “streak runners” like Wright, who is No. 86 on a list topped by Californian Jon Sutherland, who began his streak May 26, 1969.
“I’m proud that I’m in the top 100. Who gets to be anything in the top 100 in the world? It’s cool being in that elite class of people,” Wright said.
Like other streak runners, Wright keeps a daily log of his runs. The one celebrating his 25th year will have plenty of witnesses.
Bunny Schmidt, co-head coach of the Baldwin cross country squad, has put the word out via social media and email blasts to join Wright at 1 p.m. Sunday at Baldwin High School Stadium.
When Wright went on his 20th anniversary run, there were 50 people with him.
Wright, a retired maintenance operator at Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, said his wife, Kathy, and grown sons Rick and Jim are extremely supportive of his “habit,” during which he wears two GPS bands to ensure his runs are being accurately monitored.
He receives texts and phone calls from athletes he has coached wondering if the streak remains alive.
Wright has finished 23 marathons, but his racing days are over. He said his streak is good not only for his health, but for his coaching.
“We’ve all come across someone in our lifetimes that didn’t know anything from a hill of beans,” Wright said. “The kids know I’m a runner and I have a passion for it, and I read up and bring fresh stuff to them.”
Wright used to weigh 265 pounds. That, coupled with a pair of car accidents in the 1980s, made him want to make the most out of life.
With no nagging injuries or ailments, Wright, 64, has no plans to end his streak anytime soon.
“I would like to have it as long as I stay healthy,” he said. “I hope I can end it on my terms, whenever that may be.”
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.