Editor’s Note: Robert “Raven” Kraft kept his running streak of more than four decades alive with a regular 8 miles on Miami’s South Beach. But when COVID-19 shut down the world in 2020, that streak was in jeopardy. After two weeks of having to run on the streets, Kraft wasn’t sure if his body could hold up. In the Human Race video above, Kraft shares his story of how—and why—he kept pushing forward. (The original profile of Kraft from 2019 is below.)
Robert Kraft needed a new challenge.
He’d been working in Nashville, trying to make it as a country songwriter. After struggling for a few years, he moved back to Miami Beach, the flat spit of white sand and bars that buffers the city of Miami from the brute force of the sea. He was getting along just fine, and then he heard his song. On the radio. Being claimed by a different artist.
“I had a few angry years,” Kraft says. A friend who went by “Bulldog” encouraged him to start running. On one run, he christened Kraft with his own nickname. “He said, you’re like a raven. You always wear black, you’re up late at night, and you write sad songs.” The two ran on and off throughout 1974, and Kraft—who now went by “Raven”—was starting to feel less angry.
On New Year’s Eve, he decided 1975 was going to be different. For that one year, he was going to run every day, and he was finally going to get on with his life.
More than 44 years later, Raven has definitely moved on—he’s run 129,200 miles in that time. These days, his black hair is salted with gray, spinal stenosis has stooped his back, and his feet are so wide and damaged he runs in an old pair of New Balance’s discontinued 498’s. “I have 2,900 miles on them. I have other shoes, it’s just that these are the ones that work,” he says.
That one-year streak kept on for decades, outlasting relationships, jobs, and even his bitterness about that damn song.
Every day, at 5:30 p.m. (or 4:30 during Daylight Saving), Raven runs his eight miles, starting at the 5th Street Lifeguard Station on South Beach.
It’s an out and back on the sand. Anyone who wishes to join is welcome.
In 1977, two years after he started, Raven had a friend do all eight miles with him. His girlfriend at the time suggested he should keep a list of everyone who ran with him. “That became a monster. Three thousand and ninety people have done it,” he says.
Unlike many streakers, Raven doesn’t just run every day, he runs all eight miles every day, no matter the weather or his mood, or the status of his poor, painful back. “The doctors said I shouldn’t be able to run, but I can. It ain’t pretty, but I can do it,” he says.
In four decades of running, Raven has seen a lot, from baby sea turtles hatching to crazy weather. “Being in a hurricane is pretty amazing. You’re in God’s hands. Nature could do anything to you,” he says. But yes, he got his eight miles in through Irma and Irene and Wilma and the rest of the gang.
He hasn’t given up on songwriting, either. He composed more than 40 last year, and if no one shows up to run with him, he often writes lyrics in his head as he strides down the sand.
There are two rules if you want to run with Raven: First, you have to be nice. He’s banned six runners for bad behavior in more than 40 years. “Six out of 3,000 isn’t a bad percentage,” he says. You also get a nickname, but only if you run all eight miles. In his role as chief nickname bestower, Raven balances between choosing something funny, like “Barnacle” for a too-friendly guy who tends to latch on, and something that he thinks the person can live up to, like “Sleaze Buster,” for the guy who keeps troublemakers at bay. Still flying at nearly 70, Raven lives up to his.
Raven plans to run until the day he dies. “I wouldn’t want to be around if I couldn’t run,” he says. “I love being out there in the elements, close to God and close to nature. It brings me closer to a higher power; it is my religion.”