Healthy Living

Davenport broker has run 3 miles every day for 10,000 days

James Shrader runs Jan. 4 on the Duck Creek Recreational Trail near Davenport’s Junge Park. It marked his 10,013th run on consecutive days, going back to 1991. He is among some other Iowans who have been running every day for decades. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)
James Shrader runs Jan. 4 on the Duck Creek Recreational Trail near Davenport’s Junge Park. It marked his 10,013th run on consecutive days, going back to 1991. He is among some other Iowans who have been running every day for decades. (Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad-City Times)
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DAVENPORT — Clients who walk into James Shrader’s financial services office in Davenport might not notice the pair of bronzed running shoes sitting on a side table.

Shrader certainly wouldn’t mention them.

But if clients looked, they would see the shoes are a testament to his having run at least 3 miles a day — usually twice that — for 10,000 consecutive days. This took 27 years, four months and 15 days.

Not that Shrader gave it much thought.

He just knew that in the summer of 1991, he needed motivation to keep up his running routine, so decided to “see how many consecutive days I might be able to run in a row.”

As his life unfolded, he tracked his miles, but not so much the time. Presidents came and went; he and several others left their investment firm to open a new office of Robert W. Baird & Co.; he married, had children.

The financial world weathered the dot.com bubble and the Great Recession. He became the office’s managing director, specializing in wealth management, greeting clients in a three-piece suit, bow tie and white long-sleeved shirt with cuff links.

Through it all — snow, sleet, heat and humidity — the Assumption High School graduate whose dad was a longtime senior vice president of Davenport Bank & Trust Co. kept on running.

“It’s just part of my day,” he said.

Running has been a routine part of the day of some other Iowans for even longer. Dean Shultz of Clayton, a retired teacher and coach, has run daily for more than 32 years. John Liepa, a retired professor from West Des Moines, has run every day for more than 42 years.

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This past summer as Shrader was sharing a beer with colleague Joe Verdi on his backyard deck, he happened to mention that he was coming up on an anniversary of when he had started his streak. Intrigued, Verdi consulted an app on his phone that calculated the days and was totally bowled over when he realized the milestone Shrader was approaching.

He began plotting with Shrader’s assistant to have a pair of his running shoes bronzed, to be presented at the company Christmas party. One of Shrader’s children helped by sneaking out a pair, and he didn’t miss them because he gets a new set every month.

Shrader said he was totally surprised by the presentation. “I knew nothing about it. I didn’t know how many days it was.”

Verdi first heard about Shrader’s running several years ago when someone mentioned he was having wisdom teeth pulled, so had gone for a run at midnight.

But the significance of that didn’t sink in until the day of a big blizzard when Verdi came to work, not expecting anyone else to be there. “And here he comes, trotting around the corner. I asked him what he was doing running and he said, ‘Oh, I never miss.’ I’ve come in here and found him sleeping under his desk with a pillow because he had the flu. That’s insane.”

The totality of the accomplishment, “is the greatest display of discipline I’ve ever seen,” he said.

An example of Shrader’s commitment was the time several years ago when he had a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder and his doctor recommended surgery.

Shrader asked if he’d still be able to run. His doctor said, “‘I won’t tell you you can’t run, but you won’t want to run. Your arm will be strapped to your side for 10 days to two weeks and the pain of it will keep you from running.’ ”

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Shrader decided to test this by strapping his arm to his side to see how it would go. After a couple of days, he gave up. Running that way was too cumbersome. So he never had the surgery.

At the start of what has become his streak, he ran 8 miles a day. In time he dropped to 7, then 6. The last two years, it’s been 5 miles.

“With all that running and pounding, at 64 now, I’ve slowed down considerably,” he said, his silver hair curling at his collar.

His normal daily routine is to get up at 3:30 a.m. and be out the door by 3:45. He always runs outside and always alone, mixing up his route among neighborhood streets, the Duck Creek recreational trail and the paths in cemeteries. And he doesn’t listen to music as he runs.

Even more than the benefit of running to stay in shape, the “ultimate benefit has been more mental,” he said.

“I think, and think a little more, and think a little more. I spend time alone and all of a sudden, you’re a couple of miles into the run.”

After his run he’ll return home, shower, get dressed and be in the office by 5:35 a.m.

“The only cheat day I’ve ever had was three or four years ago when we had a bunch of consecutive very cold January days. One day the wind chill was literally 32 below and the wind was straight out of the west. I had one of the other brokers take me to the west end of the bike path so that I had the wind at my back and he picked me up at Duck Creek Park.”

If for some reason he can’t run before work, he’ll take a break and run midday. That’s why he had a shower put into the building.

And, yes, he’s still running.

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“I don’t see a reason to stop,” he said. “I’m not mentally prepared to miss.”

Do other people do this?

Yes, there exists a U.S. Running Streak Association Inc. based in Mendham, N.J., that maintains a website of certified running records at runseveryday.com.

The No. 1 name on the list is that of a 67-year-old writer from California who has run every day for 49 years.

To be certified, one needs to run at least 1 mile and it can be outside, on a track or on a treadmill.

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