Chris Carstens poses on the 3,000th day of a running streak that is pushing nearly 10 years. His friend, Ken Reynolds, printed a T-shirt for the Sept. 16 occasion and shot a video of Carstens finishing that run. (Submitted photo)

By Chris Bennett

Correspondent

Chris Carstens knows what it’s like to be chased by birds … and dogs. He knows the feeling of being heckled, and of almost being run off the road.

Carstens, who lives in Elkhorn, is not a pariah. He’s a father, a churchgoer, and a special education teacher in the Clinton Community School District.

But that’s not what makes him notable. At least not for most.

“People will cock their head at me and look at me and say, ‘You’re that runner guy. You’re the guy who runs half-naked in Elkhorn all the time.’ It’s amazing how many people seem to know me,” he said.

You might never say this to Carstens, or make his acquaintance, but his presence in the community is undeniable and it’s all because of running.

Carstens is in the midst of a streak of running an average of four miles per day. It takes him about 30 minutes to cover four miles.

His streak is pushing 10 years in length. It started on July 1, 2012.

For perspective, President Barack Obama still served in his first term when Carstens’ streak started. The Brewers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals a game short of the World Series the season prior, in 2011, and the nation just stated creeping out of the Great Recession.

Carstens’ streak started as the result of misfortune. He noticed pain in his chest over Spring Break 2012. A visit to urgent care and disclosure of his symptoms led doctors to realize he suffered from a collapsed lung.

“I’m a tall, skinny guy,” Carstens said. “The doctors told me I’m susceptible to it.”

His recovery meant he could do nothing strenuous. Someone who coached running for years suddenly could not pick-up his pet Dachsunds. Losing the opportunity to run made Carstens want to run even more.

“As I was able to, I started walking fast, and then I stated running once in a while. I noticed one time I ran every day that week. I wondered if I could do that for two weeks,” he said.

Two weeks turned into a month. Carstens said he expected the streak to wane and perhaps end with the onset of winter’s cold.

“It just kind of kept going. It turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are days I don’t want to run, but you don’t want to throw away your streak,” he said.

Carstens said he’s run while battling the flu and kidney stones. He’s run when temperatures reached -50 below zero. He once ran in icy drizzle that forced his clothing to freeze and crack when he returned home.

He tracks his progress through his personal Facebook page and also through https://smashrun.com/chris.carstens. Another site Carstens uses that tracks mileage run by “streakers” shows Carstens ranked No. 425 in the world in terms of distance run by those in the midst of a streak.

“His running streak shows the amount of dedication he can put into an endeavor,” Elkhorn Area High School cross country coach Randi Wulf said. “I saw this dedication in his coaching. He goes all in. He inspires many who follow him on Facebook and who follow his running streak.”

Carstens coached with Wulf until the schedule of his teenage daughter required more time and devotion. But Carstens turned some of his daughter’s activities into an opportunity to run. He goes for a run on Mondays during her time at piano lessons, for example.

“He was a great assistant coach. The kids always related to him, and he was always good at communicating the many mental aspects of running and training. He became the emotional leader of the team,” Wulf said.

Carstens said it surprises him that some view him as a means for motivation.

“I’ve had people tell me ‘I did this today because I knew you were out going for a run,’” Carstens said. “I knew you were doing your thing, so I needed to do my thing.”

He said he knows a lot of people hate running, and said he believes that aspect of the streak resonates with people.

Carstens said he draws motivation from a quote uttered by running legend Steve Prefontaine: To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

“People tell me all the time I’m inspirational, and all these things,” Carstens said. “It’s nice for people to say, but I have the body to do this, and it’s peaceful to do it. I’m able to think and clear my mind.”

 
 

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