(23 May 2013) Heather Kokko works as a director of pharmacy services by day, but in her off-hours she’s a streaker.
The 2001 pharmacy alumna from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has run more than a mile every single day for the past 749 days. In poor health and bad weather, on far-flung vacations, even the day after a marathon -- she puts on her sneakers and runs.
Kokko, pharmacy services director at MUSC, first learned about “streaking” after reading an article about Mark Covert, a 62-year-old California man who has run at least a mile every day for nearly 45 years.
“I was running a lot anyway,” Kokko said. “So I thought, ‘I’ll try this for 30 days.’ Then I said, ‘I’ll try this for a couple of months.’ Now, I just do it. I stop giving myself excuses and get up and run.”
She began running as a way to exercise without much equipment and without feeling stuck inside.
“I reached a point where I couldn’t eat a hot-fudge sundae every day and look the way I wanted,” she said.
Kokko remembers starting off slowly and gradually overcoming labored breathing and walking breaks. She now has finished seven marathons, earning a few interesting stories along the way: running around the Eiffel Tower in Paris, sprinting past a pack of coyotes in Mexico and covering six miles in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy.
As an active member of the USA Active Streak Running List, she must run at least a mile every day, but Kokko holds herself to a slightly higher standard of 1.11 miles. Even with more than two straight years of running every day, Kokko remains a “neophyte” by streaker standards.
Here’s a peek into her hobby:
Q: How long has your streak been going?
A: I started my streak on May 6, 2011, so I will be having my second Streakaversary this May. I keep a log on my iPhone and keep up with my mileage and a few other stats. I average four miles a day but have had plenty where I have only done the minimum; I think of minimum days as rest days. I also do a lot of cross training with yoga, weights, biking and ballet.
Q: What’s your favorite pre-marathon meal?
A: I have run seven marathons, and think I have done something different every time. I usually just eat normal breakfast foods like yogurt or eggs.
Q: Do you have any rituals before you race?
A: The night before a marathon, I usually have a glass of red wine and get to bed early. I have carb loaded beforehand, but that’s just because I really like pasta; I don’t actually think it improves my performance.
Q: What’s your favorite treat for after it’s over?
A: I typically do not like to eat anything heavy for the first few hours after a long run. I may eat some fruit and drink chocolate milk. Usually, it’s the next day before I really reward myself, and then there is no telling what I will eat!
Q: What are some of the top songs on your running playlist?
A: Anything Madonna. I also listen to a lot of Candlebox and, recently, the new Justin Timberlake album.
Q: Can you think of one day you really didn’t want to run. When was it, and how did you power through?
A: Yes! I have had several days when I have really not wanted to run, and then my commitment overpowers my desire to sit on the couch. I promise myself to run the minimum mile and tell myself that it’s only going to be 10 minutes out of my day. Once I get out there, I usually feel so much better that I run farther than the minimum. Now it has become such a habit that I cannot imagine a day that I don’t run. It has become like brushing my teeth.
Q: Consider running to escape a zombie and to escape an alligator. How would the two scenarios differ?
A: Well, zombies aren’t really known to be that fast so I feel pretty confident in my cardio ability to get away from them. An alligator would require a much faster sprint. The alligator would probably get me.
By Allyson Bird
Office of Development and Alumni Affairs