Imagine, if you can, a running trail that circles the earth.
If such a thing existed, Richard Wakefield would have completed it.
Four times, in fact.
The 59-year-old Tacoma Community College professor has run more than 100,000 miles since his college days. The proof is in his lean frame, his early-morning alarm and the stack of small notebooks in which he records his weight and how many miles he racks up each day.
“More than anything, I just enjoy it,” he said. “It’s time of my own and makes me feel better for the rest of the day. Most people can’t get 10 minutes of uninterrupted time.”
Wakefield gets far more than 10 minutes.
He quietly creeps out of his Federal Way home at 5 a.m. every day, careful not to wake his wife. He carries a pedometer and stopwatch to track his movements. No music is allowed; this is time to be alone with his thoughts, to plan English lessons for his students, to write poetry.
By the time he returns home at 7 a.m., Wakefield usually has completed eight or nine miles. On weekends, he aims for 10.
On his birthday, before life became too busy and tendinitis posed a problem, he would run one mile for every year old he was.
“That only lasted until I was 44,” he said.
Wakefield misses a day here or there, usually when he’s stricken with a severe cold or vacation plans don’t allow for a run.
His current record extends more than 500 consecutive days.
While visiting his oldest daughter in Italy for Christmas 2010, Wakefield had to skip one run to make an early-morning flight home.
Usually, though, vacations make for the most-fun runs. He enjoys exploring new areas on his own, and already being familiar with worthwhile sights once he and his wife head out for the day.
Wakefield can’t recall the genesis of his running. He was an active child, but it wasn’t until he was older that he found jogging to be a form of self-medication, a way to lift his spirits.
He began recording his treks Jan. 1, 1974. It’s a habit he has never been able to break.
“I did not expect, after 38 years, to run 100,000 miles,” he said. “But I would like to continue for as long as my legs work.”