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Robert “Raven” Kraft has run eight miles on the South Beach sand every single day since Jan. 1, 1975. Every afternoon (5:15 p.m. during daylight savings, 4:15 p.m. when the clock pushes back), you can find him at the 5th Street lifeguard stand, where he starts his run. Usually there’s a group of about five or six that join him — and each of them have a different nickname that they’ve earned from Raven himself.
It’s not exclusive. Anyone can join in. All you have to do is show up.
Raven’s streak started when he was at an all-time low. He’d just moved back to South Beach from Nashville, where he’d tried his hand at songwriting. After one of his songs got swiped and made its way to the radio without Kraft receiving any credit, he was depressed and angry. Then, he met boxers at the 5th Street gym where Muhammad Ali used to train. And it was that group of runners who gave him his nickname, “Raven,” because he wore all black and stayed up late at night.
“I started running with them and I started to feel better,” he said. Then he made a New Year’s resolution to run eight miles a day for a year.
Now, more than 40 years later, he’s clocked in more than 122,000 miles and run alongside more than 2,584 runners. Here’s what a day in the life of Raven looks like.
RISE AND SHINE I stay up late at night, til about between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. I get up late, around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. With the daylight savings I’m a little later, but when the clock gets pushed back I’m earlier. Then I take my pill for back pain. I have spinal stenosis, so my spine narrows along my nerves and it affects the nerves on my legs. It started in 1994, but the last five years have been really bad. People think it’s the running but it’s really three things: genetics, lifting heavy weights when I was younger — and maybe the 122,000 miles didn’t help. But I don’t want anyone to think that running would do that — it’s the genetics first. My knees are pretty good. After I take my pill I move pretty slowly, it’s a side effect of the pill. Once I get going I feed my cat, Joe. He’s a male tabby with a gigantic head. He’s a good guy.
PEN AND PAPER Then I sit and write songs. Do some paperwork. I still send songs out every day to publishers in Nashville. I’ll also write a letter to a friend. I like to do the old school communication. Then I work on my running list. I’ve been marking everyone who ran with me the day before. We update our website once a month. I get on Facebook a little to check my messages. I finally got a computer.
EAT LIGHTLY Before the run I eat very lightly. Today was banana and peaches, that’s all I’ve eaten. Oh, and a piece of bread or cake to take with my pill. Around 3:45 p.m. I head over to the pull-up bar.
WORK IT OUT I used to work out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Park. I was instrumental in making this park, they wanted to tear it down and make a parking lot and I came here with Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the mayor and we came here and made speeches. So I’d always come here and do my pull-ups here. … Then I started working out at 9th Street and there are all these big muscle guys. They respect me because I’m older and I’m out there every day. There are some guys who join me and they do whatever workout I do. It’s pretty cool have these big buff guys and here I am 66 and I’m out there keeping up with them or even beating them. They give me total respect. I do three sets of pull-ups, a 45 second isometric hang. Then I do at least 100 push-ups and 15 minutes of weights. Then I stagger on out to the beach for the run.
THE EIGHT MILES When I started running, the beach was different, the water came up higher, it was all soft sand back then. It used to be all soft like sugar. It would just flow through your hands. Then in 1981 they dredged a bunch of sand in the ocean and pumped it onto the shore. So now, it’s more coarse and rocky and it’s actually easier to run on. I’ve run every single day for 41 years. I’ve run through pneumonia, food poisoning, shin splints, stepped on a nail, through a hurricane — the hardest thing to run through is food poisoning. I start at the 5th Street lifeguard stand. I have a key to the locker there because my clothes kept getting stolen, so they gave me a key to put my stuff in. The whole run takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I used to do it on the soft sand at 1 hour and 37 minutes. But it’s slower now. The first thing I feel when I run is the pain. But once I get going, after three to four miles, I get the runner’s high and the endorphins kick in and it kills the pain and through the night I feel better and slowly it comes back.
THE NICKNAMES I’ve run with music only one time in my whole life — my girlfriend had headphones and she told me to use them, so I listened to Willie Nelson’s “Farm Aid” in 1985. I usually talk to people when I run and we tell stories the whole time.The first person to do the whole eight miles with me was in 1977. Then a few other people started joining. I don’t go fast, so talking to people helps keep my pace steady. Every person that runs with me gets a nickname (There’s “The Sheikh,” “Green Thumb,” etc). When I met my girlfriend, I showed her the running list and she started secretly training. Then in November of 1996 she did the run with me and that was our first date. At the end she threw her arms around me and said “It’s a miracle,” and I said, “No, you’re the miracle.” That became her nickname. The hardest guy to give a name to didn’t talk at all for the whole eight miles, so at the end of the run I told him I was going to call him “Blue Shirt.” He said, “Wait a second, this shirt is teal.” So his nickname became “Teal.” Now it’s 2,584 runners later — I haven’t run alone in 11.5 years.
THE AFTERMATH I’m a big baseball fan, so the first thing I do is put the game on when I get home. I also like old movies. Then I get ready for dinner. My favorite meal is BBQ ribs. I make them myself. Maybe I’ll add a baked potato or a salad. Pretty simple. Seems like time just goes before you know it. I’m just moving slowly, enjoying my life, enjoying my time.
Keep an eye out for a run with Raven and The New Tropic in the coming weeks!