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dan shaughnessy

One man’s idea of long-distance running: A mile a day for 40 years

Dan Shaughnessy has run one mile a day. For 40 years.adobe stock; matthew J. Lee; globe staff photo illustration

It started as a New Year’s resolution in the Los Angeles Hilton on Jan. 1, 1983. I was there for a Rose Bowl game featuring Michigan and UCLA.

Forty years ago.

After getting out of bed, I jogged a mile on the streets of LA to make my 29-year-old self feel better.

And I never stopped. One mile a day. A four-decade, slow-motion grind that has taken me more than 14,500 miles, across America and back — twice! Practically Gumpish.

For a long while, it was a legitimate streak, almost Ripkenesque. I’d never miss. But I must confess that there have been gaps, especially in the last 10 years. A kidney stone halted the madness in 2012 and a shattered collarbone shelved me in 2015. There are a handful of other misses due to lost luggage, a knockout flu, sinus surgery, and one day when I overslept, rushed to an interview, and just plain forgot.

But for the most part, it’s been a Belichickian “no days off” exercise of daily drudgery. According to my old-school year-in-review datebooks (yes, still keep them), I went 365 for 365 in 33 of those 40 years, including every day between 1990-2012.

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Before he was owner of this paper, Red Sox boss John Henry had some fascination with my stupid streak, which came to his attention on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, when the Sox flew a 382-seat Boeing 747 to Japan for the start of the baseball season.

A few writers were allowed to fly with the team from Fort Myers to Tokyo, and somewhere over Alaska, my streak got Henry’s attention.

While Dustin Pedroia played a 10-hour card game in the massive main level, media members sat in the upstairs portion of the aircraft. I was explaining my jogging-streak dilemma to Jerry Remy when the Red Sox owner wandered upstairs to get a better look at the Northern Lights.

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Henry joined our conversation. I explained that it was all about “losing” Thursday. We’d flown out of Florida late Wednesday afternoon, landed in Chicago to refuel, then launched our long flight to Japan. The jumbo jet was scheduled to land in Tokyo just before midnight Thursday. This meant it would officially be Friday morning by the time we got to the hotel.

So Thursday was gone. Same with my streak.

Ever a numbers guy, Henry was fascinated with the nonsense and had a solution.

“You could probably jog up and down the aisles of this plane and have it count for Thursday,” said the owner.

No. Too impractical and embarrassing, I declared. I told them I’d jog the mile after we got to the hotel. It would be after midnight, but downtown Tokyo is super safe and it would still count for Thursday. Then I could get up Friday morning, and resume the routine.

Henry was gobsmacked.

“This is more interesting than anything you’ll write on this trip,” he said.

Larry Lucchino thought otherwise.

“No good,” said the Red Sox CEO. “You’re missing Thursday. I’m disputing the streak.”

Whatever. There would be other times when the streak would be interrupted, but losing a whole day to air travel and time change goes down as one of the more bizarre moments in this 40-year routine.

Streak or no streak, I am the Johnny Cash of short-distance plodders. I’ve been everywhere, man: the sands of Key Biscayne and the swamps of New Jersey; along the snow-covered turnpike between Stockbridge and Boston; in the shadow of the book depository in Dealey Plaza; in Annapolis and Indianapolis, past the Alamo in San Antonio, and across the street from the Dakota where John Lennon was shot. In 1989, I jogged on San Francisco’s empty streets, which were sprinkled with shattered glass after the World Series earthquake.

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In 2002, I trudged around the New Orleans Superdome while 24-year-old Tom Brady was being driven to his first MVP morning-after press conference. Two years later, I lumbered around the Adams Mark Hotel in St. Louis while the newly crowned world champion Red Sox were landing at Logan by dawn’s early light. In June of 2011, I plodded around a Vancouver neighborhood while the Bruins were flying home with the Stanley Cup.

Folks around the world have looked curiously and compassionately at this slow, doughy, red-faced American whose feet never fully leave the ground as he makes his way. I’ve taken it to the streets of Dublin, Sydney, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Valderrama, Gibraltar, Montreal, Paris, Quebec City, Galway, Seoul, Rome, and Palermo.

I jogged on the days my children and grandchildren were born. When 8-year-old Kate Shaughnessy had leukemia in 1993 and lived at Children’s Hospital to be cured, I would alert the noble nurses and lumber down Brookline Ave. for 12 minutes, sometimes returning with a bag of doughnuts for Kate and the staff.

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That 12-minute mile is a thing of the past. Old age is not a friend of this slower-than-syrup ancient miler. As 70 beckons, my pathetic pace has become downright embarrassing. This isn’t running anymore, nor is it jogging; it is an old-man shuffle. Seventh-graders walking to school blast past me, hopefully oblivious to the notion that they are walking faster than the old guy who is supposed to be running.

Stripped of all vanity and pride, I soldier on, even after being passed on the sidewalk by a not-so-young woman pushing a baby stroller.

Springsteen was born to run. I was born to shuffle. And there have been no glory days on this 40-year slog. The road never rose to meet me and the wind was never at my back.

But I’ll be back out there tomorrow. And the day after.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.