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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Run with Joy’: A family challenge to jog a mile every day turned 10-year-old Grace into an unexpected track star

Grace Putney loves to run. And she’s good at it, too.

Last year, with a smile on her face, she ran a 6:20 mile to beat everyone in her age group at Spokane’s All City Track Meet.

While her speed is impressive, so is her dedication. Grace, along with her entire family, has run a mile every single day, rain or shine, for the last 658 days.

It all started in December 2020 when a family friend mentioned how they were running one mile every day. Grace’s dad, Damian Putney, happened to be reading a book about creating positive habits and jumped at the challenge.

So Damian and his wife, Anne Putney, decided to run a mile a day starting Dec. 1.

The parents also encouraged their children to do it and added an incentive: Run a mile every single day no matter what for a year and they’ll pay each of them $365. Thus, the challenge was born, and Grace, 10, Miles, 13, and Max, 15, started running a mile a day on Jan. 1, 2021.

“My parents thought that we’d only last, like, a few days and forget,” Grace said.

But the kids didn’t forget. In fact, they loved it, surprising themselves and their parents.

“I thought, there’s a pretty good chance that won’t happen,” Damian said. “After about, like, a half-year, I was thinking, ‘This might actually happen.’ ”

Damian and Anne both did track in high school but don’t describe themselves as runners. Miles and Max are multi-sport athletes, and running isn’t their focus.

Grace is the family’s speedster.

She started running cross country in first grade.

“I tried it and then I loved it,” Grace said.

At her first meet, she had to run a half-mile, she recalls.

“I wasn’t that good at running then,” Grace said.

She ran with her best friend, and the pair crossed the finish line holding hands, Grace crying, her friend smiling.

“I would cry a lot after I ran,” Grace said with a giggle.

Running in front of her friends and family was emotional the first few times, Grace said. As she ran more, Grace got more comfortable and competitive.

“I really like the challenge of it,” Grace said.

Running every day is a different kind of challenge than running fast in a race, Grace said.

“The mental toughness they had to go for a full year and now further … I’m so proud of them. It was amazing to me that they could do that,” Anne said of her children. “No matter what, we’ve always encouraged each other.”

With busy schedules, the family doesn’t run their mile together every day, but they try to do an all-family run once a week.

“When you carve out time, even if it’s, like, 10 or 15 minutes, to just go for a run as a family, it’s cool,” Damian said.

Both parents agree it has brought the family closer together.

Keeping the streak alive is a motivator too, said Max, a freshman at Lewis and Clark High School.

“We just kind of said, ‘We can’t stop this, we’re already this far into it,’ ” Max said.

The kids demanded their dad go to the bank and get them cash as payout for their first year of running; a transfer into their bank accounts just wouldn’t do, Damian said. All three kids have saved most of their running money. Miles did spend a little bit on fishing gear.

Grace wants to keep up the daily runs as long as she can and save the money to buy a car, she said.

She also plans to keep running competitively. Her next big race is Saturday at the All City Track Meet. She hopes to beat everyone in her age group, including the boys, for the second year in a row. She acknowledges competing with everyone in the city is a challenge.

When she’s working to pass someone, she’s thinking about how she’ll do it.

“Then when I’m alone and I’m in front of everybody else, I’m like ‘Oh, I’m having fun,’ ” Grace said. “I just run my own race.”

While the Putneys love their daughter’s competitive spirit, they also want to make sure she has fun.

“Run with joy,” Damian says to his daughter frequently.

“She just has this huge smile on her face when she runs. It’s like you do it because you’re good at it, but you also do it because it gives you happiness,” Anne said. “Run with joy and spread it to others.”