SMALL TOWNS: Marinette man’s impressive running streak rolls on

He started running every day over a decade ago
Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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MARINETTE, Wis. (WBAY) - This Saturday, close to 500 runners will compete in the first ever “Bellin 5K Heart Run” in Marinette.

And one of those runners, the man who founded the event, will likely barely break a sweat.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to Marinette to witness a very impressive streak that keeps on growing.

You have to go back a long way, more than 11 and a half years, in fact, to find the last day Brian Cleven didn’t at least run one mile.

Quite impressive considering as a teenager who loved sports, Brian battled his weight, tipping the scale at more than 230 pounds as junior in high school.

“I would eat kind of whatever tasted good, as much as I wanted, and running was always punishment,” recalls Brian.

During the summer after his senior year in 2003, a friend convinced Brian to run a 5K.

He competed in the Clydesdale division.

“I got a second place medal, just kind of the fire was ignited,” says Brian.

Was it ever.

Over the next seven years, Brian advanced from 5Ks to marathons, to triathlons, and to his first Iron Man competition in Idaho in 2010.

“I think my parents looked at me and thought I think he’s a little nuts, but my mind was set, I was going to do it,” says Brian.

After recovering from that first Iron Man, Brian decided to set a simple goal.

The day, July 2nd, 2010.

“I told my girlfriend at the time, my future wife, that I’m going to at least try to run a mile every day and I’d usually bike because I thought I’d do some more triathlons and things, but I always thought that if I ran at least one mile then you always accomplish something and most of the time it leads you to do some more,” explains Brian.

Two years passed and Brian never missed a day.

As an anniversary gift, his wife Amy enrolled him in the United States Running Streak Association, of which there are more than 4,000 members.

Brian is currently number 290.

“Being part of that, that got me to, when I knew they’re watching now I’ve got to do this, so it got me to five years and it was going good so I got to 10 years, along the way children came and so things kind of changed a little bit, instead of running outside all the time I might be downstairs on the treadmill, but you just find when you have that daily goal, you find a way to check it off,” says Brian.

Today is Brian’s 4,307th straight day running at least a mile.

Over the years there have been a few close streak-busting calls, like a bad stomach bug in Mexico, a dislocated shoulder, a sprained ankle and a long flight to Greece.

“The hotel had a great workout area except it was closed and the closest roads were this major highway, so we had to run, I forget how many laps around the parking lot and so we just ran circles and circles, but we got the mile done so the streak was alive,” says Brian, recalling the relief he felt.

When he’s not in his running shoes, Brian works with cardiac rehabilitation patients as a clinical exercise physiologist for Bellin Health in Marinette.

Patients like Mike McCarthy, who is just a year removed from a heart transplant, marvel at Brian’s running streak.

“I’m impressed, I mean just to make yourself do it when you don’t want to do it and there’s got to be days, but he does it every day,” says McCarthy, who lives in Marinette.

Knowing the benefits, and joy, running has provided him, Brian came up with an idea to give back to his hometown.

“I noticed that Bellin did not have anything in Marinette, they support a lot of things, but I thought we really need to have something that we can offer the community,” says McCarthy.

The upcoming Bellin 5K Heart Run is Brian’s brainchild, and a 3.1 mile guarantee his streak rolls on.

“I’ve been blessed with overall really good health, limited issues and so as long as that continues I’m going to find a way to keep it going,” says Brian with a determined smile.

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