No one gives you the runaround quite like Charles Hodge.
That's simply what he does. He runs around.
Like every day for nearly 33 years.
Hodge, a 57-year-old Eagle Point man who has fared well in a couple of recent local races, has built a running streak that challenges belief and exhausts couch potatoes who dare to think about it.
Each day since Nov. 27, 1975, he's gone for a run. And not just to the end of his driveway. A former high school and college distance competitor, he's done no less than 11/2 miles a day over the course of the streak and usually goes much farther.
"It was one of those things where I didn't want to take a day off unless I had to," says Hodge, who placed 11th at last week's Britt Woods Firehouse Run and on Wednesday won his age division in a cross-country series race at Bear Creek Park. "Then, even if I had to take a day off, I didn't. I guess the best way to describe it is, it's an obsession. Once I got over five years, then it became, 'I'm not taking a day off because I'd have to start all over again."
He's run through snow, rain and heat but without a mailman's satchel. He's run on tracks, trails and pavement. Over hills and dales, through illness and pain.
One time a few years ago, he went for a morning run, had hernia surgery that afternoon, then was out running again the next afternoon.
"The doctor said, 'Make sure you walk a bunch,'" recalls Hodge. "I said, 'Walking won't do much of anything for me. Is it OK to run?' He said, 'OK, if it doesn't hurt too much.'"
Hodge ran slow the first time, and the pace was jarring. He sped up a day later and "it was like nothing happened."
Hodge has run so far, he's passed through eras, linked generations and seen fads and trends come and go. The Energizer Bunny wasn't even a fur ball when Hodge began the streak. Now guess who's still going and going and going.
"It's very amazing," says Doug Naversen, who has long been a running compadre of Hodge's and who organizes the Britt Woods run. "You've got to be biomechanically almost perfect to do that. I've had injuries that have kept me out of running for a year and a half at a time."
Hodge figures he's run between 60,000 and 70,000 miles since that November day in the mid-'70s, which would be nearly three times around the earth.
Entering today, the streak is at 11,931 days.
"I sort of approach it like I've got to go," he says. "I usually don't think that I don't want to go. Sometimes I'm tired and I don't do as much, but I always sort of look forward to it. My wife sometimes thinks I sculpt the whole day around the running, but I just fit it in."
Like many serious runners, Hodge keeps logs of his runs. He has the spiral notebook that denotes the first day of his streak, and it shows he ran four miles. The next day, 71/2, then four, then eight. There are a few notes scribbled by each date, reflecting the type of run or training and who might have joined him.
At the end of each week is the total number of miles for the week. On the first page, it ranges from 351/2 and 441/2.
There are groups that keep track of running streaks, and one popular registry is online at runeveryday.com. If Hodge
paid the registration fee and compiled and sent in his information, he'd be 13th on the list.
He hasn't been motivated to do so but isn't ruling out joining some day.
Hodge initially didn't give any thought to building a streak. He began running as a teenager in 1964 and ran most days over the next decade. It was only after a friend realized he had gone months without missing a day that Hodge took a close look at his own log and saw his streak was more than a year long.
At one time, Hodge thought about ending it at 25 years, then again at 30. Now he'll go until something stops him.
"I tell Charles, the day the streak ends is the day he dies," says Naversen.
Hodge credits coaching he received in high school in Torrance, Calif., where his team was among the best in the nation, he says, and at UCLA, where he competed only briefly, to his longevity.
Advances in running shoes have also helped, as have orthotics — inserts that eliminate foot imbalances — which Hodge has used for almost the entire streak.
Luck has also played a big part, he says, because he's never been seriously injured or ill.
He has had to make some concessions. When he used to travel on business, he ran in airports a couple of times, he says.
And when he stepped awkwardly on a rock and injured knee ligaments, he could only run uphill for a week or so.
"I've gone down a whole bunch," says Hodge, who moved to the Rogue Valley in 1988 from Southern California and works at Harry & David.
One time, he slipped on an icy stretch and crashed hard on his hip but got up and ran home.
Hodge normally runs in the late afternoon and evening. On days when he races in the morning, he might go out that evening again just to loosen up.
A former marathoner in his youth, he averages between 40 and 50 miles a week nowadays and stays away from long races because it takes too long to recover. He prefers something in the 5-kilometer range.
His training pattern now is not too different from in high school, when he'd follow long, hard sessions with shorter, easier runs, and mix in trail and track work.
"He's run a lot of races over the years," says Naversen, "and is extremely knowledgeable about training. He listens to his body."
What it's telling him now is, there's no finish line.
"Running is just second nature to me," says Hodge. "I'm able to run even when I'm tired. I may not be able to run as fast as I used to, but I can keep going."
And going and going and going.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail email@example.com
No Finish Line
No one gives you the runaround quite like Charles Hodge.