Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mark Covert Runs into the History Books

A Hero and a Legend

The other morning Mark Covert finished off an epic adventure --- he has run every day of the week, every month of the year, for the past 45 years. In all that time, he has never missed a day. Nobody else has ever done this.

Even super athletes wear out, and in the future, he'll still work out regularly, but it won't be by running every day. On the final day of the 45-year streak, several hundred people joined him at the AVC track to celebrate his achievement and show how he had inspired us all. They did a casual, fun, joyful circuit of the AVC campus.

The facts are astounding.

He has run enough miles to be half-way to the moon by now, and done the equivalent of running around the Earth 64 times. He has seen old presidents go and new ones come in, nine different times. He has seen the Vietnam War escalate and finally end, Israel's so-called Six Day War, he has run through the invasion of Grenada and the Panama coup and Gulf War I and the Invasion of Iraq. He had been running thirty years when 9/11 happened. He had been "just doing it" for over ten years before Nike released the first air-soled shoe, which at the time cost an astounding $50, which was $15 more than average for a running shoe.

This is to say nothing about his coaching, and the many thousands of lives his teaching has touched.

No wonder so many people wanted to be by his side for his victory lap.

Here he is coming in for the final few steps, after an amazing --- and record-setting --- 45 years. As he joked later, "Well, when I was younger, I ran a mile a bit faster than this, trust me."

It was truly a moment of sincerity and joy --- and for me, a welcome change from budget cuts and Student Learning Outcome meetings. Here was a true, uncompromised, full-integrity moment of absolute achievement.

Soon it was time for cake and interviews. Here is Channel 3 getting ready to celebrate the moment.

Inspiration is a word used too casually sometimes in modern life, so much so that it has become, at times, cheap or meaningless. I just want to say that on a person level, Coach Covert has done exactly that --- he has inspired me. He selected a goal and he committed to it, and he did so no matter what obstacles came his way.

This really deserves praise . . . and it deserves to be followed. Like some other folks my age, I find myself knowing I need to change. I know that I need to work out more, eat less, take charge of my life. It is of course hard to do --- other obligations always seem to press in on me, and I skip my workouts day after day. Mark Covert really has made me look at the sources of all that --- the ability to change is within me, no place else --- and I will not speak for others, but I will say for me, he is truly an INSPIRATION.

One of the great things about the Antelope Valley is all of the many many miles we have open to use for running or biking or even just walking the dog. Look around: the world is just begging us to be out in it.

Nike is famous for saying "Just Do It." Like the Army's phrase "Be All You Can Be" --- and didn't both come from the advertising agency Chiat and Day? --- the Nike expression is easy to parody and easy to dismiss as mere sloganeering. Yet underneath it is this truth: you won't get anywhere in life if you don't take that first step.

We end with a quote from Mark Covert himself on the final day. He was asked, How does a person change his or her life? "It's a three-part process," he told me with a smile. "First, open the door. Next, step outside. And then, last, here comes the fun part --- go DO something."

Words to live by indeed.


The opinions expressed in this space do not represent the official positions of the AVC Board of Trustees nor Antelope Valley College. The AVC blog is curated by Charles Hood in Language Arts. He can be reached at If he takes a while to answer, don't worry, it just means he's gone for a run.