Spending Memorial Day weekend in Miami, I found myself in the midst of sports greatness. I, too, was witness to someone who continues to redefine the game and remind us what it means to be a champion. A physical marvel who shows up every day and holds himself and his running mates accountable, even – and especially – when his legs/knees/back are barking to sit one out. The undisputed King of South Beach? Yes, he has got my vote, and thousands of others as well.

 

I should mention that I am not talking about LeBron James, although rumor has it that he has acquitted himself quite well in the foregone conclusion that is the Heat’s march to a third straight title. As a lifelong Boston Celtics fan, I have a shameful habit of becoming queasy whenever I watch James and the gang eviscerate their opponents. As such, I needed to find an alternate South Florida sports hero who could help me rediscover the purity of sports. Thankfully, I knew exactly where to look.

 

After years of close calls and I’ll-do-it-next-times, my girlfriend and I finally drew a line in the sand and took part in our first Raven Run. The rules are simple: show up at the Fifth Street lifeguard stand at 5:30 p.m. and run eight miles. The Raven will be waiting for you.

 

The Raven is Robert Kraft, a truly unique comic-figure-come-to-life kind of guy who has run eight miles of South Beach shoreline every single day for the past 39 years. That is 115,000 miles and counting. While spinal stenosis (and impending surgery) have robbed him of his speed, the mind still operates at a world-class level, with the Raven able to recall the names and mile totals of everyone who has joined him on his daily journeys. The Raven keeps a running tally, so to speak, of the most accomplished Raven participants and is quick to remind you where you rank on that list.

 

It is true that the Raven, now in his mid 60’s, never forgets a face, but he also anoints every runner with a nickname. You would better hope it is a good one, because there is no outrunning a Raven moniker.

 

Each Raven Run begins with a roll call, with Raven reciting the nicknames, and the back-stories behind those nicknames, of that day’s runners. Raven Run participants are then free to traverse the eight miles at their own pace. First-timers, however, are best served shuffling along at the Raven’s pace, enabling you to soak in his life story – and just as importantly, improve your chances of receiving a suitable nickname.

 

Raven’s run may be coming to a temporary end soon, as that pesky back is not getting any better. Whenever that day comes, he will be celebrated, and he will be missed. While the Raven might very well be the most recognized and admired man in Miami Beach, he is always saving room for a new running partner, even if it is just for one day. James can have his championship parades in the streets of Miami, but every day is a victory lap for the Raven, and for those who are fortunate enough to be along for the ride.

 

For more information about the Raven Run, visit ravenrun.net. Tell him that “On Time” sent you and tweet me @endbadly to let me know your thoughts.