The Hominess of the Long Distance Runner

Robert Raven Kraft outruns his pain, and creates a community

Spotting a telltale glint in the sand, Raven also interrupts his runs to pick up lost coins or jewelry. He might sell the jewels, but has never spent any of the money that now fills two large glass containers in his apartment. But he does count it, twice a year. "Last count it was over $1100," he reports.

Sleeping just five hours a night and rarely going anywhere leaves Raven with the time he needs for consulting baseball box scores to update his memory bank of stats, for watching television movies, for the complex annotated logs he keeps on everyone who has ever completed a run. Raven has no computer. He keeps most of these numbers in his head, which he downloads verbally to the Reverend, friend and fellow runner Lee Williams. Williams then prints out updates of the Raven Run standings on his computer. In recent years Raven has also begun hosting an annual awards banquet, held in January at Puerto Sagua restaurant, as well as a March barbecue on the beach. "He has created a family," observes Longenecker.

The day will come, of course, when Raven can't make the run. He bicycles around South Beach, and Ferguson fears he might get injured by a car. Imagining the day he can no longer run is more painful to Raven than any physical ailment. "Hard to picture," he says. "I wouldn't be me. I'd be like a vegetable if I couldn't run. I'd have to be in the hospital, really busted up."

The Raven at rest (top); the Raven in motion
Photos by Bill Cooke
The Raven at rest (top); the Raven in motion

In discussions with Ferguson or others he has been close to, Raven concedes there is an element of selfishness in his obsessive devotion to running. But it is his calling. "This is what Raven is," he explains. "He runs every day on the beach, and he doesn't like to go too far from home. If you can accept me that way, no problem. It does hurt that I can't be fair to someone, that they can't love me and have a life too."

Still, Raven says, "People have come up to me and said, ďYou've changed my life for the better. I've lost weight, or have a social life now, met people, have a sense of camaraderie.' And that's a responsibility for me."

So for Raven, there is no nevermore. His run is not about to stop. "In the summer of 2009," he says, looking into a future that to him seems not too distant, "I should reach 100,000 miles. That will be a big day. We ought to get a lot of people out for that one."

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