Iconic Miami Runner Raven to Run His 110,000th Mile Despite Increasing Health Problems

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Raven running on South Beach's 13th Street in 1988
In his early twenties, Raven was an aspiring songwriter, living in Nashville, Tennessee, and hanging out with the likes of Johnny Cash. (When Raven sings, and he does from time to time, his deep, gravelly voice has a very Cash-like quality.) Raven says he fled that life when an acquaintance stole one of the tunes he'd written and turned it into a hit recording song by Waylon Jennings, angrily returning to his mother's house on Miami Beach. He's lived there ever since.

Upon coming back to Miami, Raven worked security at hotels on Ocean Drive and other odd jobs, ran here and there, and began training informally with some young fighters at the famous Fifth Street boxing gym. But he wasn't able to truly commit to anything until he took that first eight-mile run on New Year 's Day in 1975.

Now 62, Raven is in rough shape. He says he's in intense pain from the moment he opens his eyes in the morning. Oftentimes, he can't even stand up straight. "I'm basically crippled. No one knows what I go through every day to get out there and do it. I put my feet down on the floor, and I just never know how I'm going to feel. I can hardly walk out there," he said. "People see me bending on the street and they think I'm picking up a coin or something, but I'm stretching out my back."

He says he only starts to feel better after he's done about three sets of 20 pushups and pull ups to prepare for his run. Sometimes he doesn't feel relief until the seventh mile of the run. "I constantly crave the endorphins for the body to kill the pain," he said. "The doctors told me if I were stop for four days, I wouldn't be able to move. My body would just freeze up. So I almost have to keep going now," he said. He sounded relieved that the doctors had given him a legitimate excuse to go on. He seemed comfortable knowing his body is physically addicted to exercise.

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RavenRun.net
Raven with runners "Reverend," "Vulcan Pilot" (right) and "Termite" (front) in 1991
Beyond the physical addiction, Raven has an skewed sense of how others would react if he were to ease up on his exercise routine. He feels intensely loyal to those he's met on the trail. He even became an ordained minister so that he could marry a couple who met on the run. And even though he's had runners set up funds to help him with expenses and had other friends start a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of making a documentary about his story, he seems to believe his friends' love is conditional upon his continuing his streak. "I've had people say, 'It comforts me to know that wherever I am in the world, at a certain time, I know that Raven is out there running.' If I were to miss a day, in my head people would say, 'Raven's getting weak. What a loser.'"

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