Rambling Roads: Traversing the Tundra

by George A. Hancock

Steve DeBoer is a fascinating runner. DeBoer accomplished many intriguing things as a runner while living a full productive life. Recently, DeBoer wrote a book about his running life. The book title is Traversing the Tundra: Running the Race Set Before Me.

DeBoer was born on December 1, 1954 in South Dakota. His parents, Wendell DeBoer and Marjorie J. DeBoer, were both educators. Steve DeBoer has several siblings. Dave born in 1956, Sharon in 1958, Wendy in 1959, and Bob in 1961. Educational opportunities moved the DeBoer family to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Like many athletes of his day DeBoer used running to get in shape for the next sport season. DeBoer enjoyed and played both basketball and baseball and ran cross-country. Although not the best athlete, DeBoer’s determined effort and hard work earned spots on the various teams.

DeBoer began experimenting with longer distance runs in his later high school days. Several team members heard about a marathon being held in the region. The guys knew the distance but had no practical experience with the training and mindset involved in completing this grueling 26.2 mile endeavor. Of course, the real plan was to run this distance as a workout.

DeBoer had a decent run at his first marathon. This was the Ninth Annual City of Lakes Marathon held on October 10, 1971. DeBoer, 16, finished the marathon in 27th place with a 3:29:40 time. His teammate, Dan Davis, finished a place before him in 3:29:16.

DeBoer and Davis ran decent times for their first marathon efforts. Deboer stated in his book that the two placed second and third in their age group. That statement had me searching the final results for the time posted by the first place runner in their age group. The first place age-group winner was 17-year-old Jerry Speese. Speese finished 22nd in 3:22:25. Clearly, Minnesota cross-country was teaching these young runners pacing skills.

DeBoer also writes about another interesting point during his early collegiate days. DeBoer was a student at the University of Minnesota. He began running every day. His father, Wendell, also ran every day. Steve’s sibling, Dave, a member of his school’s cross-country team also ran frequently.

So, why is Steve DeBoer an important running figure? DeBoer began a running feat on June 7, 1971 that he continues to this day. DeBoer is a streak runner. He has run every day since June 7, 1971. That’s over 50 years of running every day. Or, DeBoer has run over 18,568 straight days. This is an incredible achievement. And, DeBoer lives in Minnesota.

Steve DeBoer’s book is filled with stories of his daily runs across the wintry Minnesota landscape. Sub-zero runs were commonplace. Unfortunately, in his region those below-zero temperatures could last for days. Yet, Steve had the grit to run on.

There is an amazing footnote to DeBoer’s lengthy running streak. Despite its impressive length, DeBoer has the third longest running streak in the United States. There are two other runners above him with longer streaks. 

Steve DeBoer could conceivably one day gain the top spot on the running streak chart. DeBoer is the youngest streak runner in the top five at age 67. A healthy Steve DeBoer could one day gain that top running-streak spot.

DeBoer’s book explains how one can have a productive running career along with gainful employment, family, and children. DeBoer recently retired as a dietitian at the Mayo Clinic. DeBoer loved his job. As a running athlete he knew the values associated with hard work, a balanced diet, and proper nutrition.

DeBoer explained in Chapter 23 how in 1999, “I was no longer seeing regular patients, but working on making the community aware of how diet, exercise, and tobacco use affect the risk of heart disease and developing incentives to encourage residents to make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce their cardiovascular risk.” 

DeBoer was a practicing Christian. His strong faith took him on several mission trips to various foreign nations. Everywhere he traveled DeBoer continued his running regime.

DeBoer was also an accomplished road racer. He details many of the races he ran over the years. He also outlined the training necessary to achieve his running goals. This book is a fascinating look at what it takes to run every day for 50-plus years.

Yes, one can have a great life while still pursuing running goals and dreams. These days DeBoer is retired from the Mayo Clinic. Yet, he continues his daily running mission. DeBoer is a frequent contributor to the United States Running Streak Association, Inc. quarterly publication The Streak Registry.  

DeBoer pens numerous articles dealing with the statistical aspects of streak running. DeBoer aptly demonstrated that one can safely traverse the tundra daily in a safe and sound manner.

DeBoer also provides great information and insight into how the USRSA was formed and the initial principals involved, which include this writer.

DeBoer is noted for another running feat. Steve DeBoer runs and races shirtless. DeBoer runs sans shirt until the temps fall below the freezing mark. Nearly every photo in his book show Steve running minus a shirt. This is a feat that perhaps few wish to copy.

Traversing the Tundra was a fascinating read and worthy of your time and money. Steve DeBoer’s book can be obtained here:

Run well, run smart! Enjoy Steve DeBoer’s book.

Editor’s Note: The late runner Ben Hyser, from York, PA ran shirtless in all weather conditions, from sub-freezing temps to snow.   

Categories: Features

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