DeYoung, 51, celebrated his accomplishment with a “short” 3-miler with a group of friends on Dec. 15, ending their run at Odd Side Ales in downtown Grand Haven.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to do this for a couple weeks to even see if it’s viable,” said DeYoung, who lives in Grand Haven Township. “I’ve been running the last five years, 2-3 times a week. When I got two weeks in, I thought, ‘This isn’t bad. I’ll just keep rolling with it.’ It is hard. I get up every day, brush my teeth and go run.”
Over the past year, DeYoung has logged nearly 2,200 miles — 1,500 of which came on the same pair of Asics Air Nimbus running shoes. He’s completed several 20-mile runs in training for the two marathons he completed — Bay Shore in Traverse City this spring and Grand Rapids this fall. He’s endured bitter cold temperatures that come with every Michigan winter as well as scorching heat, including a 20-mile run during Spring Break in Florida where he walked the final two miles.
Through it all, DeYoung has developed some wonderful memories and made some fantastic friends.
“On Saturdays, we get together as a group,” he said. “It could be two of us or eight of us. I really enjoy that. You make a lot of good friendships. On those long runs, you might be on the road for two hours. It’s nice to have somebody to talk to.”
One of DeYoung’s running buddies is Dean Starkey, who has his own ambitious plans for the coming year — he hopes to run a marathon each month in 2012.
Living in Grand Haven Township, DeYoung typically runs from his house on Millhouse Bayou toward Forest Park or else down Lincoln toward Spinners’ gas station.
During the winter, he drives into town since the sides of the roads in the township are often covered in snow and ice.
“I’d have to find a place where it’s plowed,” said DeYoung, who takes a spinning and a yoga class at the Tri-Cities Family YMCA but never runs indoors. “I enjoy winter running. It’s really quiet, the snow’s coming down, the city street lights are on, it’s 6:30 in the morning. It’s peaceful.
“My worst runs are in the heat. Spring Break last year I had to do a 20-miler in Florida in 80 degrees and that was brutal.”
DeYoung, the used car manager at Betten Chevrolet in Muskegon, competed in nearly 20 races last year, from 5Ks all the way up to the Riverbank Run and a pair of marathons.
“I like to race. I enjoy the social aspect of it, getting to know the guys,” he said.
Through it all, he’s avoided any serious injuries that might keep him from continuing his streak of running.
“God has just blessed me,” he said. “I don’t understand how I can go through a whole year running and haven’t had a serious injury. I think running every day alleviates having to feel the pressure to do speed work or hill work. You run every day so you can do whatever you want.”
The fact that his children — Jennifer, Connor and Lauren — are all older out of the house makes it easier to get out and run every day.
“I don’t have that commitment anymore, and my wife (Pam) doesn’t mind if I head out and run for an hour each day,” DeYoung said.
“I’m not the fastest or the best runner. I just wanted to improve my running, and there’s nothing like getting miles in. People think you can’t do something, but you can. You just have to devote time to it.”
DeYoung has now gone several days past his one-year anniversary of running each day, and he knows that at some point, the streak will end. He’s just not sure when that will be.
“I haven’t taken a day off yet, but I probably will,” he said. “I’m not going for anything, but once you get in the habit of getting up and running every day, you just do it.”