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May 10, 2013

On The Run: Keeping the streak alive

(Continued)

Five months into his streak, Skier is surprised at the results. “Now I’m running 5Ks consistently at a mid-7-minute pace, and — truly amazing to me — I am actually winning in my age group. In the last two months, I have finished five different races “first” in my age group…This is something I never imagined.”

For Thor Kirleis, 43, of North Reading, streak running has become a way of life. “I have been ‘streak running’ for almost 10 years. The last day in which I did not log at least a mile was December 7, 2003,” he said.

The roots of Kirleis’ streak reach back to 2000, when he had an accident in which the peroneal nerve in his left knee and lost all feeling and movement from the knee down. After a five-hour nerve grafting surgery, Kirleis was told it would take about nine months for the nerve to regenerate in place of the severed one. Already a long-time runner, Kirleis made a promise to himself when his surgeon couldn’t guarantee that he would ever run again.

“Staring at the possibility that I might never run again, I decided then and there that if I could ever get back to running, I would run a mile a day, every day, never fail, to celebrate the simple fact that I could,” he said. “In the back of my head, yes, I feared never being able to run again. That fear, and the promise made, kept me going … all the way back to full health. That is why I streak run. I think about it every time I lace up the shoes, even if I’m just keeping the streak alive with a mile.”

Kirleis typically averages 45-50 miles per week, including a long run of 13 to 24 miles and a middle-distance run (such as speed, tempo, trails) of 9 to 14. His “rest days” have him doing easy 3-mile easy runs. He likes to take on challenges, such as the “double marathon” he ran on Boston Marathon Monday, doing the course in reverse starting at 5 a.m. and then running the course with everyone else at 10. In all, Kirleis ran 52.4 miles in under eight hours that day.

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