On January 1, 1975, 23-year-old Robert “the Raven” Kraft, ran 8 miles in the sand on Miami’s South Beach. He started running because he felt frustrated that his songwriting career was at low ebb; one of his songs had been stolen and made into a fairly large country hit and he received no credit.
A funny thing happened that day; something that happens to a lot of new runners. Kraft was invigorated yet calm. His anger had mellowed, and he felt great satisfaction from those 8 miles. Running often grabs you when you most need it.
He made running a habit. Many would call it an obsession. Amazingly, the Raven just completed his 34th year of running on South Beach without missing a day. That’s over 12,400 days of running in a row.
Along the way, he’s become a bit of a celebrity. He’s an icon on Miami Beach, and his fan base extends around the world. People travel from far and wide to run with the Raven. He maintains a list of them - one that now approaches 800 runners, from every state and 54 foreign countries. To date, the Raven has run 99,300 miles, and should pass 100,000 on March 29. When he does, ESPN will be there to cover it.
In a sport where injuries are the norm, the Raven never misses a day to sickness or muscle pain. He runs through all kinds of weather: hurricanes, hail storms, heat and humidity. He’s as reliable as the US Postal Service.
He came close to missing a run once, when he was hospitalized for a concussion and needed 17 stitches to close a nasty wound. Luckily, some lifeguard friends smuggled him out of the hospital for his daily run, then returned him after the eight miles were finished.
As you can imagine, Kraft is a creature of habit. He’s called the Raven because he always wears Black spandex shorts, black socks, black headband, and one black wristband. He has long black hair, mustache, and beard. He always runs shirtless and has a dark tan.
The Raven’s also a bit of a philosopher. He chose 8 miles for his run because “7 seemed too short, and 9 seemed too long.” He runs the same 8 miles each day, in loops starting from the 6th Street lifeguard pier. Sometimes he loops in one direction, sometimes the other. He never travels out of Miami; in fact, he doesn’t even own a car.
The Raven never does races. He runs for the simple pleasure of how it makes him feel, although he admits that his streak has become an obsession.
Nicknames are a big part of his persona, as Mike and his family found out while running with the Raven on a vacation to South Beach a few weeks ago. During the run, the Raven questions you on your life, and annoints you with a nickname after you have completed the run. Then he inscribes you on “the list”.
The day Mike ran there were a dozen runners who earned the nicknames Burke’s Law, Chapter 11, The Reverend, Seaside Sparrow, Interrogator, Cooker, Tax Man, Wine Taster, and Unruly Julie. Mike is now known as Just Run, his wife is the Fiction Reader, his son Bryan is Pedicab Man, and Bryan’s fiance Melanie is Zot.
It is a pleasure and an honor to run with the Raven. Next time you don’t feel like running think about the Raven. May he and you run evermore.