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Jim Kenyon: Mike Cryans Is a Man on the Run

  • Valley News columnist Jim Kenyon in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 15, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In seven years, Mike Cryans hasn’t missed a day. Even in the brutal below-zero cold of late December and early this month, he laced up his shoes and hit the road running.

Today will mark the 2,574th consecutive day that Cryans has run outdoors.

I’m not talking about a light jog to the mailbox at the end of his driveway in Hanover, either. Cryans, 67, typically runs 10 miles a day.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s snowing, sleeting or raining,” said his wife, Julie. “He has a love for it. He’s out there every single day.”

“It’s a pretty amazing streak when you consider how many cold days we’ve had just this winter,” said Bruce Lorden, a retired Hanover schoolteacher who ran 23 Boston Marathons between 1975 and 1999. “Mike is a North Country guy. The cold weather doesn’t seem to bother him. He gets out there and just goes.”

Cryans is a familiar name in the Upper Valley. He was a longtime Grafton County commissioner and has made four unsuccessful bids for the state’s five-member Executive Council. (He’s planning a fifth try in November.)

He also spent 10 years as executive director of Headrest, a Lebanon nonprofit organization that operates a 24-hour crisis hotline and provides much-needed addiction-recovery services for people with limited means.

In running circles, Cryans established his credentials long ago. After running on his high school cross country team in Littleton, N.H., Cryans continued to race at Springfield College, where he entered his first Boston Marathon at age 20.

Within a few years, he was among the race’s top 50 finishers. In the early 1970s, he ran the 26.2 miles in just under 2 hours and 30 minutes, which at the time was the record for a New Hampshire runner.

Cryans downplays his athletic ability, pointing out that he once pulled a hamstring while bowling.

After spending five years as a teacher following college, he went into banking and took an extended break from running. “Work became more of a focus,” he said.

He can thank his mother, Evelyn, for getting him back into the sport. He was approaching 40 when during a visit to Littleton, she remarked, “Julie must be a good cook.”

Looking back, he said, “I guess if your mother notices that you’ve gained weight, it’s time to do something about it.”

At 40, Cryans began keeping a daily journal. In 27 years, he’s logged 95,000 miles.

“He has incredible dedication and perseverance,” said Denis Ibey, of Sunapee, who ran 35 marathons in his career.

I think it’s fair to say that Cryans also has enjoyed some good luck. Or maybe it’s genetics. At 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, Cryans has a runner’s build. But unlike many distance runners, he hasn’t worn down.

A balky knee sidelined Lorden, 71, a couple of years ago, and he recently underwent knee replacement surgery. Ibey, 65, has two artificial hips. The three men still get together regularly on Saturday mornings for walks on the Northern Rail Trail. Afterward, Cryans often heads off on a 10-mile run.

“He’s the Energizer bunny,” Ibey said. “I can’t even remember him missing a day because he was ill.”

The streak came close to ending last week. A medical procedure to remove a small growth on his lower left leg required 10 stitches. His doctor suggested it might be a good idea to take the next day off from his routine.

Cryans compromised — sort of. He ran just one mile, which is all the U.S. Running Streak Association (yes, there is such a group) requires.

He’s gradually working his way back to 10 miles a day.

On Monday, I asked to join him — secretly hoping the stitches in his leg would slow him down to my speed. We took off from his home on Blueberry Hill (the emphasis on hill) in the late afternoon.

It was 16 degrees. Cryans was dressed in wind pants, a light jacket, mittens and a hat. No fashionable Gore-Tex for him. “What’s really abnormal about Mike is that he’ll wear the same shoes for a year,” said Ibey, who, like many runners, switched shoes about every 500 miles.

But Cryans has never seen a need to replace $100 shoes every couple of months. (His Yankee thriftiness might have something to do with it.)

I was relieved that Cryans started out slowly. (There’s a good chance that he was humoring me.) By the third hill, however, I was praying my shoelaces would come untied. Any excuse to catch a breather.

A mile or so in, Cryans pressed up yet another hill to take in the view of a frozen Mascoma Lake in the valley below. By that point, I was more interested in getting oxygen to my lungs than sightseeing.

Earlier, I’d seen on the Running Streak Association’s website that a writer in California was the current longevity record holder. Starting in May 1969, Jon Sutherland had gone more than 48 years without missing a day.

Cryans told me that he hasn’t set a goal. He could stop when he turns 70 in a few years. Then again, he might just keep running every day “until I can’t,” he said.

After 4 miles, I’d reached my limit. Cryans politely said that he’d keep going for a while.

With the sun starting to set, I was back in my warm car, and Cryans was back running.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.

Correction

Mike Cryans ran for New Hampshire’s Executive Council in 1996 , bringing his total number of bids for the office to four. He plans a fifth try this year. An earlier version of this column misstated how many times he has sought the office.