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On The Run: Modestan has run every day for 30 years

For 30 years, Charles Holmberg's daily routine has seldom changed. He rises before the sun, laces up his running shoes and goes out for a run.

"It gets my endorphins going and it's good for you," said Holmberg, who lives in Modesto and is the California State University, Stanislaus, director of information systems.

But few people do things -- even things that are good for them -- every day for 30 years. That's 10,958 days (counting leap years). And still counting.

Holmberg has diligently kept daily journals documenting the miles, places and times he's run every day since March 20, 1979. He hasn't kept the meticulous records because he was trying to attract attention, but because he wanted to know. Now his family wants others to know.

When the streak hit the big 3-0, his daughter, Kristen Redding, thought such dedication was worthy of notice. So she decided to tell others about her dad's years of pounding of pavement, trails and roads. Redding told several of her father's colleagues. Soon, two university publication features and a television news spot appeared.

"He does it because it's what he loves to do," Redding said. "It's not because of the streak, but because he would feel off or strange if he didn't do it."

The publicity has amused Holmberg, 60, who calls it his "2½ minutes of fame."

Still, without much fanfare, his morning routine continues.

Holmberg is listed 36th on the U.S. Running Streak Association's list. The association's only requirement is that the run goes for at least a mile and the string of days be unbroken. But Holmberg never has been about doing the minimum. He's a runner -- not a jogger -- and now the streak has a life of its own.

Start of something big

A cross-country runner in high school, he wanted to celebrate America's bicentennial in 1976 by running for 200 consecutive days. He accomplished that and then some, running for more than 400 days in a row until a stress fracture stopped him. There were other interruptions after that -- with kids, moving and an illness or two mixed in. But he kept running.

His streak began in 1979, and nothing -- not viruses, head colds, or even a spider bite on one foot -- has stopped him.

"I got to a point where I thought, 'Why stop now?' " Holmberg said. "It's been one of those things that's gone into my daily life. It's good for me. Who knows where it will take me?"

Running six to 10 miles a day, it has taken him 60,000 miles -- that's more than twice around Earth. He passed that mark Jan. 4, duly noting it in his journal.

Holmberg's family is active. His wife, Kathleen, is a walker and does water aerobics. Their children, Redding and three sons, all played sports and remain active. Holmberg runs with them when he visits them in the Bay Area.

Redding said she exercises regularly, but not every day. Not like her father.

When she tells people about her father's dedication, they're often skeptical. Surely he's skipped a day or two or gone on vacation, right?

"They almost have to ask three times," Redding said. "They say, 'Really?' Most of us just can't imagine doing it every day. ... I wish I had a little bit more of his stamina."

Like golfers endeavoring to shoot their age, Holmberg said runners try to finish 10 miles in fewer minutes than their number of years. He can run 10 kilometers in less than 53 minutes. In 1980, Holmberg finished a 10k in 40 minutes, 12 seconds.

"That was the best I'd ever run," Holmberg said. "I remember because I almost broke 40 minutes. In 30 years I've slowed down 12 minutes. That's not bad, I guess."

Runner and roving reporter

Some people need a cup of coffee every morning. Holmberg needs to slip on his Nikes and run through the streets around his neighborhood.

He occasionally e-mails Linda Thompson, who works for the city of Modesto, telling her which streetlights need to be fixed, which sidewalk cracks need attention and alerting her to any water waste issues.

Thompson joked that Holmberg is her "roving reporter." She knew he ran regularly but was unaware of his incredible streak.

"He's so humble and laid back, he never once mentioned how long he'd been doing this," Thompson said. "I'm glad that his children let the cat out of the bag."

At this point, running is part of Holmberg's life. There are only a few things to which he's been committed longer -- his marriage (39 years), his career (39) and being a father (38).

"If I can be talking about something I've done 30 years after age 60, that would be great," Holmberg said.

Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at kjones@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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