Rachel Barnhill is set to complete a five-year run streak on Jan. 13, 2019. She has run a minimum of one continuous mile every single day since Jan. 13, 2014. (photo by Cynthia Kurose)
Daughter’s commitment honors her father
In January 2014, Rachel Barnhill’s father, a United States Marine, was getting ready for yet another year-long deployment. This time around, Rachel, her brother and her mother decided they would do something a little different to mark the days until his return.
Colonel Bruce Barnhill, USMC-retired, has been a lifelong running enthusiast. Knowing that it was a passion of his, Col. Barnhill’s family decided that, in his honor, they would run every single day until he returned from deployment.
“He was proud of us all,” said Rachel of her father’s reaction to his family’s commitment.
Rachel’s mother, Patty, made it slightly more than 100 days before her run streak came to an end. Her brother, Reese, made it just past 200 days when illness confined him to his bed, unable to continue his daily runs. Rachel, however, just a seventh grader at the time, remained determined to keep running every single day until her father’s return.
Upon Col. Barnhill’s return from deployment and with Rachel’s commitment fulfilled, she set a new goal for herself: to beat her father’s previous run streak record of 515 consecutive days.
This time, “he was shocked that I was determined to keep going,” she said.
But this daily habit had become a personal passion for Rachel. Plus, she said, it had become something she and her father could share as a bonding experience.
“When I first got back, it was awesome,” said Col. Barnhill. “I’d get home from work and we’d go out for our run together. It was a great opportunity to spend some quality time doing something positive with my daughter.”
While Rachel, now a junior at Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS), admits that some family and friends who are familiar with her run streak think that she is “pretty crazy” for continuing to pursue her hobby, she is by no means alone in her pursuit. Both national and international organizations exist to celebrate streak runners. The United States Running Streak Association, Inc. (USRSA) was established in the year 2000, while Streak Runners International, Inc. (SRI) was founded in 2012. Both organizations allow streak runners to register their run streaks and join a national and global community of like-minded individuals, celebrating milestones and learning about one another’s personal missions.
According to the SRI/USRSA web site, “The official definition of a running streak … is to run one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day.” Presently, the longest active run streak in the world, as registered with USRSA, is held by 68-year-old Jon Sutherland of West Hills, Calif. His run streak began on May 26, 1969, and he is approaching his 50th consecutive year of running.
Rachel described the challenges that she has occasionally faced over the past years in maintaining her run streak.
“I’ve run as late as 11:30 p.m. at the end of a busy day (with a parent following close behind), or early in the morning before a flight,” she said. “I’ve run down a volcano while on vacation in Hawaii, or at a rest stop during a road trip to Yosemite. But the biggest obstacle has been getting sick; those were slow, hard runs.”
Rachel’s parents have remained supportive of her endeavor, but never insistent, always primarily concerned with her well-being.
“There have certainly been times when she could have stopped due to sickness, but she pushed on through. It’s really amazing,” Col. Barnhill said.
Her mother, Patty, said that her biggest concern about Rachel discontinuing her streak is the potential disappointment and sense of withdrawal she may experience once running is no longer a part of her daily routine.
A member of the cross country and track teams at SRHS, Rachel says that running remains a passion for her and she intends to pursue it at least through the end of high school.
“It’s a lot about determination and perseverance for me now,” Rachel said. “It’s a continuous challenge, but it’s also very calming. The most important part of this for me is that I enjoy it. As long as I’m still having fun, I will continue to run.”