“Knowing I’m not alone, that there’s people here that want to be with me, that motivates me. If I had to come out and run by myself, I don’t know if I could.”
“I always felt like an outcast….now this run is like my family.”
It’s funny how life works sometimes. I was promoting one of my Red Horse and Co. running bracelets on Instagram and doing a March giveaway. I entered the names of the people who liked and commented on the photo on an online random winner generator. Lulu.mnyc was picked. Hooray!! We’d been chatting prior to my giveaway, because we are both registered in the VT100 this coming July, and had become friends. I sent her the bracelet and received a nice message back saying “Thank you so much, I love it, it’s beautiful.” and the next message was “I work in publishing and the house I work for is publishing a book about a real life story of a man in Miami who has been running 8 miles every single day for 40+ years. Would you like an advanced copy, I’d love to send you one.” Um…..yes please!! was my response. I can’t get enough of memoirs, especially about running or horse related stories. I’ve loved the connections I’ve made through social media….so thank you Lulu……
“Running with Raven” by Laura Lee Huttenbach arrived a few days later, and I couldn’t put it down. It is such a wonderful read, that chronicles the life story of Robert “Raven” Kraft. An excerpt from the front cover follows….”In 1975 Robert “Raven” Kraft, a high school dropout and aspiring songwriter, made a New Year’s Resolution to run eight miles on Miami’s South Beach each evening. Over 125,000 miles later, he has not missed one sunset. Along the way, Raven has changed the lives of thousands who have run with him-many of them hundreds of times. From all fifty states and over 85 countries, across all ages groups and backgrounds, they come to run with Raven, and in the process find friendship, inspiration-and a nickname.” Be prepared to be inspired, enlightened, moved, and touched by this incredible story of Raven’s life and come to meet some of the various runners who have run along side of him. I felt I had to take my time, because I wanted to devour the book in one sitting, I needed to savior it. I give it 5 stars, one of my all time favorite books, you don’t need to be a runner to enjoy this one.
My husband had a work conference in Naples, FL….it had been planned since last summer. So our curiosity got the best of us on one long run in March after reading the book. “Hmmmmm, I wonder how far Naples is to Miami Beach???” We stopped and googled mid run and lo and behold, it was only a mere two hours away. How cool would it be to run with Raven, to run with a man with such determination and grit. Hubs and I were like two school kids the whole way home. We decided to run on April 26, the day after the book was to be released. It was to be a quiet evening at the conference and we could easily slip away. We told his co-workers what we were up to, and they were equally intrigued by our upcoming adventure. We don’t like to sit still, so this was right up our alley……We couldn’t wait to meet Raven, run with him, hear his stories and earn our nicknames..
We picked up our car rental and set out for Miami around 1 pm……We left early, allowing enough time in case of delays with traffic and such. Smooth sailings along I-75, sun was shining as we munched on lunch and chatted about what it will be like to meet Raven. Driving into the city was a breeze, phew! I’m not a fan of city driving, thankfully Hubs doesn’t mind it. I pointed out a Parking garage sign near 5th street above Publix, leaving only a 5 minute walk to the beach. It was hot for us Vermonters. 85 and sunny, with relatively low humidity. We arrived at the 5th Street Lifeguard stand around 3:45.
We love people watching, so we settled in for about an 1 1/2 (yes, we were really early!!) We saw all kinds of people…. families, pot heads, topless women, endless photo shoots by teens, kite fliers, you name it…it’s on South beach. The anticipation was killing me and I told hubs I’m gotta pee one more time….. as we were leaving the restrooms….we spotted Raven, heading up to the beach in his black jean jacket and jeans. I said “OMG, it’s Raven” to hubs and we quietly followed him up to the beach. I didn’t want to act like a stalker and ambush him right away. He put his stuff on the lifeguard stand and then we headed over. We said, “We’ve read your book and it’s incredible, loved it!” He said, “You must be fast readers!” I told him I had a friend who gave us an advanced copy….. Raven was so down to earth and was delighted that we’d be running too! As we were chatting, “Taxman”, Raven’s number one runner walked up next to us and gave us a fist bump (customary greeting with Raven Runners) Taxman is a 63-year-old accountant and has logged in the most runs (1,959 of them) with Raven. We also got to meet Close call and Lobotomy. It was truly like the book was coming alive. All these people whose stories I have read about, were standing in the flesh before me. It was surreal to say the least. We did the Back and Forth North Route. The miles flew by as Raven did Roll Call of the members (he has the most beautiful deep voice) and told us many stories about the characters he’s met and bits about Miami Beach and his life. He asks us which part of the book was our favorite and he told us we were the first runners to come after reading the book. I was in Heaven, I have to say I was a bit nervous at first, because it’s crazy meeting an idol. That quickly melted away, because with Raven, it’s natural and the conversation flowed like we were old friends. He does a bit of an interview to get to know you to come up with your nicknames. I told him my love of Arabian horses and endurance riding and about my accident with my elbow and how running has been my savior these past two years, and that horses run through my blood…he responded..”Desert Horse”, how does that sound?” I was floored!!!! It was perfect for me…..absolutely perfect!! Hubs chatted how about his love of basketball and coaching and his crazy running adventures…..hubs does this awesome “Crossover” move in basketball and viola, “Crossover” was his nickname to be….
As the three of us ended our run (the others peeled off along the way) I felt so blessed to have met this man, and to have made a connection. Because isn’t that what life is all about, connections? We all have so much in common in this world. Sometimes slowing down and enjoying a run on the beach with a friend, may be the best way to experience it. We ended the evening with a 1/3 mile swim in the Atlantic………can’t wait to bring our two boys to run with him…….
Raven is a wonderful, humble, funny, kind man. In a world with such uncertainty and volatility, one thing’s for certain, Raven will always be at the 5th lifeguard station on Miami Beach at 5:30pm. I hope if you are even in that area, you lace up your running shoes with this great man……….keep on inspiring Raven!!!!
Hope to see you on the trails…………..
aka Desert Horse xoxoxoxo