West Linn woman celebrates running 1,000 days with a fundraiser
Paula Harkin is on a streak - a running streak, that is. The West Linn resident recently celebrated running 1,000 consecutive days. And she's not done yet.
What started as motivation for herself has turned into an inspiration for the running community.
On Sept. 27, Harkin and more than 100 fans and friends ran Harkin's 1,000th run together, and Harkin wouldn't have had it any other way.
'Running is such a big part of my life,' she said. Harkin started running when she was 20 and never looked back.
Harkin co-owns three Portland Running Company stores in the metro area with her husband, David Harkin, and owns the event company Run With Paula, which hosts multiple annual runs. She also coaches and hosts weekly track workouts.
Near the end of 2008, Harkin experienced an injury to her Achilles tendon. She could no longer do the workouts she was used to doing, so she made a decision.
'I couldn't run the way I used to,' she said. 'I knew I couldn't run fast or far, but I could run every day.'
So that's what she did. Her goal was to run at least one mile every day for an entire year - 365 days - which is considered a streak.
Streaking is a popular running phenomenon. In fact, there is an official website and registry for streakers, United States Running Streak Association Inc.
According to the association's rules, a person has to run at least one continuous mile for each calendar day of the year.
However, those one-mile days were few and far between for Harkin. She averaged 6.4 miles a day, or about 2,500 a year.
Harkin contends that what she is doing is no big deal.
'Anybody can do it,' she said. 'The fun part is, once you start that one mile, you tend to go further.'
Sometimes, squeezing the runs in can get difficult. Harkin was once at the San Jose airport waiting for a flight that was delayed. To make use of the time, she strapped on her shoes and ran through the terminal.
'I checked that one off for the day,' she said with a laugh.
Harkin's love for running is infectious.
'I believe (running) is inspirational,' she said. 'I value health and fitness so much, especially for women.'
The majority of Harkin's runs are with others. She spoke of how much sharing happens during a run. 'You can talk about a recipe or a problem.'
'So many of the miles she ran were shared miles,' said David Harkin. 'People get next to her and feel inspired.
'It's more shared. Paula didn't run 1,000 days just to run 1,000 days. People latched onto it,' he added.
To keep the theme of sharing, many friends wanted to be part of Harkin's 1,000th run. So, she decided to make a fundraiser for the West Linn Food Pantry out of it.
'Let's celebrate running,' she declared.
For every four cans of food donated at the run, participants received a special 'streaking' T-shirt. More than 200 pounds of food was collected.
The Harkins and their business support the community in multiple ways. Besides often giving donations for auctions and events, they also donate time to the middle schools and the high school as well as helping out with area primary school jog-a-thons. They also offer a free track night Tuesdays at West Linn High School.
What's next for Harkin and her running streak? She's keeping her options open, but doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
'I keep my streak alive. I'm committed to fitness and committed to running,' Harkin said. 'I can't ask others to do it if I don't.'