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John Stark

Run Every Day: Meet John Stark, Syracuse's Iron Man SID

January 24, 2023
Nelson Rice
Syracuse Athletics

ON THE SURFACE, the Lake Effect Run Club’s route Dec. 21 looked routine: two and a half miles out and back along the Onondaga Creekwalk trail. As John Stark returned with the group to Talking Cursive Brewing Company in downtown Syracuse, though, he understood the deeper meaning of the distance. 

“Five miles for my fifth anniversary,” he noted two days later during an interview. 

The occasion marked the 1,826th consecutive day that Stark, an assistant director of athletic communications at Syracuse University, ran at least one mile. That’s not a typo. 

The streak has persisted through rain, snow and bone-chilling wind. Amid oppressive Maryland humidity and every other imaginable condition. On days after marathons, 50Ks and 50-mile trail races. On days of celebration, like his wedding, or defeat, like Towson’s overtime loss to Maryland in the 2019 NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament. Through a 300-mile move to Upstate New York this past July and — oh, yeah — a global pandemic. 

Throughout it all, Stark’s determination remained. It still does. 

At a moment when we’re inundated with recommendations for the ultimate hack or paths of least resistance to achieve our goals, he’s adhered to a different ideal: consistency. He’s logged over 10,600 miles during the streak. He has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

“Some people ask, ‘What do you do when you’re sick?’” Stark said. “I’m like, ‘I go plod out a mile.’ At this point, it’s going to have to be something pretty significant to keep me from getting out for a mile.”

THIS MONTH, countless New Year’s resolutions will be made. Some will be written down. Others will be held by memory. The majority, inevitably, will be broken. The excuses will follow.

I’ll wait until the weather warms up.

I can start next week.

I’m not even sure where to begin.

Stark’s streak did not originate from some lofty resolution. It started almost by accident. It’s linked with another exercise streak that dates back to Aug. 18, 2014 and entailed running three miles or cycling 10 each day.

But after Stark moved from Virginia to Maryland to take a job at Towson, he eventually found navigating the busy city streets on his bike resulted in more stress than relief. His enthusiasm waned. He decided to focus on running.

A couple months into 2018, he checked MapMyRun and realized he had run every day since Dec. 22, 2017.

“I wonder how much longer I can go?” Stark asked himself.

He’s still searching for that answer.

At some point in 2018 his curiosity led him to the — home to Streak Runners International and the United States Running Streak Association. The organizations maintain an “Active Running Streak List” that’s continuously updated. You have to run at least one mile within each calendar day for 365 straight days to have your name added. There is no finish line.

As of this writing, Stark’s 1,860-day (and counting) streak ranks 1,598 out of 4,240 registered entries. He’s tied with a forester from the Czech Republic and a “dog runner” from Richmond, Virginia. Jon Sutherland, a 72-year-old writer from Washington, Utah, holds the longest active streak. It’s covered more than 53.6 years.

In 2020, Stark got a tattoo of a comma on his right ankle to commemorate surpassing the 1,000-day mark. In the run-streaking community, progress gets measured in days, but also half-decades. Last month, Stark, 37, upgraded from “Neophyte” streak status (one year to less than five) to “Proficient” (five years to less than 10).

He discusses the streak in a similarly unassuming manner. That is, when he talks about it at all.

“I’m usually the one who has to mention it if it’s related to the conversation,” said Stark’s wife, Corinne, an occupational therapist at the VA. She remembered the time several years ago when Stark had to step out of the Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille to run a mile around Towson. (He returned so quickly that no one questioned his absence.)

The streak, which Stark does like to say is Corinne’s as much as his, stayed alive.

David Labagh only learned of his friend and former Lycoming lacrosse teammate’s act of daily endurance while running with Stark across the entire 41-mile Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail in 2020.

“I thought it was very John Stark, to be honest,” Labagh recalled of his initial impressions. “He’s always been a very driven and very dedicated person, so it just kind of made sense.”

Inspired by Stark’s example, Labagh embarked on his own running streak at the start of 2021. He passed the two-year mark earlier this month. He said that he first recognized the merits of structure when he got paired with Stark as lifting buddies at Lycoming his freshman year. It seemed like they went to Lamade gym almost every day that semester because they did.

Growing up in Ithaca, New York, Stark used to run laps around his family’s house to burn off excess energy. After relocating to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in middle school, he found a more formal outlet: the cross country team. While his wrestling or lacrosse teammates often dreaded anything running related, Stark relished the challenge. (Naturally, he was a two-way middie in high school.) His solution for trying to get better at any sport always centered around running more.

There was something fundamentally reaffirming about its feedback. The more you put in, the more you got out. Still, he felt like he never fully mined the depths of his potential back then.

Take a step back and you can see the parallels between the streak and Stark’s professional journey. It began “by happenstance” his first semester of college when he answered a Listserv email about helping track defensive stats for Lycoming’s football team. After graduating there were stops at King’s College, Lycoming, Delaware and Virginia Military Institute. Then, there were seven years at Towson, where we worked with nearly every team in the Tigers’ athletic department.

In July, Stark became the main contact for field hockey and men’s lacrosse at Syracuse.

The Upstate New York kid who remembers attending the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — aka The Greatest Show on Earth — in the Carrier Dome now works with the lacrosse program most associated with the greatest show on turf. 

“Kind of crazy to think about,” Stark said. “Growing up in the area, it’s a little surreal going into the Dome now. Some days it’s like, ‘Man, where did I get so lucky to be able to do this and come to work at this place every single day?’”

At each destination along the way, he didn’t look too far ahead. He showed up. He focused on what was in front of him.

“I’m not a big five-year plan guy,” Stark said. “I truly believe things happen for a reason. … There was never really a conscious [thought] that in 10 years I needed to be at a Power Five school. The job is the job, anywhere you go. And I really enjoy the job.”

Sports information directors are partly to thank for why you’re able to know so much about your favorite college team. Their responsibilities are as varied as they are numerous. Handling media requests. Writing press releases. Tracking statistics. Managing social media accounts. Taking practice photos. Editing videos.

Endurance seems like a prerequisite for the profession.

From his office overlooking Johnny Unitas Stadium, Towson coach Shawn Nadelen often noticed Stark “burning laps” around the track. They ran together several times along with offensive coordinator Matt Musci. But Nadelen, a former 11-year pro and starting defenseman for the gold medal-winning 2010 U.S. national team,  said he spent most of the miles trying to catch his breath and keep up with Stark.

“I run just to be able to eat dessert,” Nadelen said. “John obviously has a bigger purpose.”

Every time Nadelen introduced Stark to the team, he made sure to mention the streak. It exemplified a commitment to the daily process he wants to instill in the Tigers.

Though working mostly behind the scenes, Stark stood out for more than his exercise habit or the mustache he’s sported since 2013 and has complemented with a full beard since the pandemic. His creative vision showed through in all his work — like the year the Tigers revealed their schedule with a precisely-curated music playlist. His eye for detail was evident in every iteration of his game notes. Nadelen most appreciated, however, how Stark saw beyond the obvious accomplishments on the field and helped bring to light human stories in and around the program.

In recognition of his contributions to the promotion and coverage of lacrosse, Stark earned the Doyle Smith Sports Information/Media Award from the USILA in 2018.

“He looks for the good in everything,” Nadelen said. “He’s willing to be vulnerable and bring his own personality to it. That’s a big part of why he’s been successful at his job. But he’s also a really, really good person at the same time.”


1960 John Forbes
1970 Stan Lomax
1970 Fred Neil
1973 Bill Tanton
1974 Jack Kelly
1975 Phil Langan
1977 Jim Jackson
1979 C. Snyder
1982 Norm Jollow
1983 Bob Clark
1984 M. Johnson
1985 H. Deringer
1986 C. Snyder
1987 Mike Candel
1988 Scott Conroe
1989 Doug Brown
1990 Mike Kinney

1991 Jim Jackson
1992 Peter Schlehr
1993 Jamie Hunt
1994 Michael Black
1995 Bob Vlahakis
1996 Steve Ulrich
1996 Marcy Dubroff
1997 Larry Kimball
1998 Bob Carpenter
1999 M. Bouchard
2000 Norm Murray
2001 Q. Kessenich
2002 Larry Feldman
2003 Brian Logue
2004 E. Timanus
2005 Bob Carpenter
2006 Leif Elsmo

2007 Mike Keegan
2008 C. Swezey
2009 Michael Colley
2010 Jerry Price
2011 Stacie Michaud
2012 John Vassallo
2013 Leann Parker
2014 John Jiloty
2015 Jac Coyne
2016 Paul Carcaterra
2017 Jim Sheehan
2018 John Stark
2019 Matt Kinnear
2020 No Award
2021 Kevin McMahon
2022 Ryan Eigenbrode

A LITTLE BEFORE 1 P.M. two days before Christmas and on Day 1,828 of the streak, Stark had yet to run. He did not seem hurried.

He could have complained that Winter Storm Elliott had started blanketing the area in snow or that the temperature was dropping by the minute and would plunge more than 40 degrees in the next couple hours. Or that the Starks’ NordicTrack 1750 treadmill was still in need of repair — a temporary casualty from the move to Syracuse.

Instead, he took a different view.

“I kind of like running [outside] when it’s a little extreme,” Stark said.

Of course, there are times when Stark can feel his motivation fade like sunlight on a winter afternoon. On those days, he tries to keep in mind he doesn’t have to run. He gets to. The perspective fuels him. 

Later that night, you pause while scrolling through Instagram. There’s Stark, mid-run. His orange jacket and hood glow against the gray and white backdrop of Upper Onondaga Park. A beaming smile peaks out from underneath his partially frozen mustache. Off in the distance somewhere, the Dome looms. Stark can see it almost every time he heads out the door — the figurative summit around which Syracuse orbits. On this day, it’s obscured by the atmosphere.

In the image Stark posted, it looks as if there’s no one around for miles. In that moment, only he truly knows why he’s out there.

But any further reflection can wait.

The snow keeps falling.

The stillness is short-lived.

Stark runs on.