Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Lazzari's View" -- 11-10-01

I have a friend who’s a legend in Miami. No, his name is not Don Shula, Bob Griese—or even Elian Gonzalez. His name is “Raven,” and he’s not a bird nor does he pretend to have wings. He’s just a regular guy—although probably not like you and me. You see, he is a legend because of his devotion, perseverance, and love for people. He is a legend for his undaunted upkeep of a unique tradition and dedication to those who want to share in his zest for excellence.

Robert “Raven” Kraft earned his nickname from the running garb he dons daily on Miami Beach—all black—including a dark glove which gives him a feeling of immense power. A little eccentric? Maybe, but it works for him (his favorite baseball player to follow is Jorge Fabregas—yes, JORGE FABREGAS, whom he became empathetic toward due to his lack of heroics when he played in Atlanta). The “Raven” has run 8 miles a day, EVERY DAY, for close to 27 years now on the sands of Miami Beach. No foolin’, folks, the man has run through the stifling heat of Florida’s worst days, survived countless hurricanes, and has fought off attacks from those including the canine-type. We’re talking about over 9,800 days consecutively and over 78,000 miles—mind-boggling numbers in these days of taking the easy way out. He is one of the top “streak runners” in the country (his exploits have been featured in Runner’s World magazine) and will celebrate the 27th anniversary of the “Raven Run” on New Year’s Day. Be at the Sixth Street lifeguard stand on the beach between 4-5 PM daily and one can share in the feeling of pure joy and steadfastness associated with my buddy “Raven.”

Kraft started his streak on January 1, 1975; his New Year’s resolution that famed year was to run every single day—for 365 days. In short, a “monster” was created—not the man, but the STREAK. But not only does “Raven” continue to enjoy his incredible, seemingly endless journey daily—he also shares it with the populace. He basks in joy with the people who have joined him on the beach run; he has kept records/names of individuals that have run the route with him daily over the last 20 years. And to share the uniqueness of this daily, sacred event, everyone is given a nickname—just like the host “Raven.” There’s “Gringo” (who has completed more than 500 runs), “Taxman,” “Springman,” and “Rev”—along with a bevy of others who have added their names to the list over the course of time. Over the years, people from places such as Ecuador, Paris, Germany, and Brazil have joined the “Raven” on his run—enjoying the daily sojourn and celebrating another day of fitness and continuity.

Thumbs down to those who may believe the “Raven” is one-dimensional. The man is an accomplished country songwriter, having penned over 1,000 songs—including ones that have been published in New Zealand. Though “Raven” would be the first to tell you that he still considers himself as a struggling writer (due to the lack of writing success here in the U.S.), he takes comfort in the people around him—including his devoted girlfriend Priscilla “Miracle” Forthman (yes, you guessed it—she has completed the run many times!). And yes, my buddy knows that there will always be the afternoon run to combat any negative feeling of not capturing one’s numerous goals.

I receive weekly letters from the “Raven”—where he delights in talking about his favorite sport—baseball. A big Dodger fan, he follows the team closely and is sure to point out the players’ various accomplishments throughout the season (including Dave Hansen’s pinch-hitting heroics in 2000 and Chan Ho Park’s continued great pitching over the past few seasons). But “Raven” is much more than a runner, fitness fanatic, or baseball fan. He is a true role model and hero who reinvents himself daily and shares it with others. Yes, maybe the “plumage” of this “Raven” should be one that encompasses the masses; his dedication and ignorance of the term “failure” is a lesson for young people AND adults to take note of. My buddy “Raven” is a great friend but, more important, he is a tremendous, strong-minded, and kind individual.

All of our lives are filled with voids and uncertainties—i.e., how long we will live, where our next paychecks will come from, how our children will fare in this complex world. But there is one thing, my friends, you can almost be assured of: The “Raven” will run tonight.

Bob Lazzari

Reprinted by permission of the Valley Times.


At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great feature.My name is Jeremy - Raven used to call me Jerry - I used to live in Miami Beach and even when I moved to France 22 years ago I never forgot Raven. I never ever ran with him despite being a "big" runner - it would be an honor to. Raven is my hero - he is the greatest. Keep going Raven I will be back. You are the best ever man.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true, so true.
I started Surfing in late 1974 on Miami Beach. Living not only on Miami Beach, but in a hotel that had the Atlantic for it's backyard; I could confirm that what Mr Lazzari says is 100% true. I surfed when the waves were 1 foot to however big it got, and never did I not see the Raven run. If it was sunny and windy, or stormy and whited out because of rain, you would always see this figure dressed in black just running on by. I remember being the first person to enter the water after Hurricane Andrew and there was the Raven running on the beach and I would yell 'Number One' to him. Talk about consistency!!!
The guy is simply a legend; a legend among the many legends that have adorned the history of South Florida.....


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