Carmel Valley runner runs 2,021 miles in 2021

Sean Curry on the run in Carmel Valley. He ran 2,021 miles in 2021.

Carmel Valley resident Sean Curry recently completed the Run Life 2021 Challenge, running 2,021 miles for the year. Curry’s accomplishment was an exercise in determination and commitment, a journey he took on with a lot of laughter and heart.

“It is just crazy, it’s nuts,” said Curry, 55, who reached his milestone on Dec. 3 with weeks to spare.

Curry ran cross country as a youngster at Grossmont High School and since then he has been “a casual runner,” running for exercise and racing a few half marathons.

“I love to run, that’s my hobby,” Curry said. “This year, I turned my hobby up a notch.”

Sean Curry celebrates 2,021 miles with his wife Joice.

The first inklings that this kind of challenge might be possible began in 2020 when during the pandemic year he logged 400 miles, getting out to run to clear his head. He had heard of someone running 2,018 miles for 2018 and looking ahead to 2021, he signed up for the virtual challenge with Run Life.

While he owns a public relations company with his wife Joice, he is also a software engineer by trade and a big numbers guy. He prepared his spreadsheet to track his quest, figuring out that to accomplish this feat he would need to run at least 5.5 miles a day. He decided to shoot for six miles a day to give himself a little cushion.

In January, he felt like he was a little ahead but he ended up finishing the month seven miles behind. In February, the family suffered the loss of his sister-in-law Trish and he went into the month of March 100 miles behind.

He didn’t let falling behind deter him, he was determined that he would catch up: “I told myself this is going to be a fun journey the entire time,” he said.

By June he had broken even. He found that once he got the routine down, it was like being on auto-pilot: “It becomes a habit.”

Curry’s chosen route is the scenic SR-56 bike path also known as the Marvin Gerst Trail. From his Carmel Valley home he does an out-and-back from the El Camino Real trailhead to the trail-side duck pond which he calls “Turtle Pond” due to frequent turtle spottings.

As he loves to run, he says he is having a blast when he’s on the popular path—he offers up hellos, good mornings and “Have a good weekend!” to nearly every person he passes. He is quick to offer encouragement to anyone who is out there moving with an enthusiastic “You got it!”

This year he ran in Maui, where the family traveled to sprinkle some of Trish’s ashes. He fit in runs on a vacation to Key West with friends—waking up at 4 a.m. to not disrupt the day’s plans and running the entire 10-mile perimeter of the island. That morning it was 84 degrees, 115 with the brutal humidity.

“I was dying, but I did it,” he said.

His longest single day tally over the year was 15 miles, a long run to Del Mar’s Dog Beach to spread some of Trish’s ashes as she was an avid animal lover, even though he has a fear of dogs. Afterward, he continued running to Torrey Pines State Beach before heading home.

Curry runs without headphones and considers it his own form of therapy, a way to get out of the house and get some fresh air, work out his thoughts, family issues, challenges at work and just cruise: “I do a lot of soul-searching that’s for sure.”

He kept going during what would become a particularly hard year for his family. After his wife’s sister died, his mother died in May and Joice’s mother died in June. Running was an opportunity to get out and deal with his emotions and grief in his own way.

“In November, I killed it because I wanted to finish early, I really went on a tear,” he said. For 14 days straight he averaged 10.5 miles a day.

He worked it out that in 2021 he ran for 324 hours, 54 minutes and 26 seconds. He burned 308,719 calories and went through four pairs of ASICS Nimbus shoes.

His body went through changes as well—while he didn’t start this journey to lose weight the 6’2’’ Curry started out weighing 195 pounds and at one point got down to 162 pounds. With all the running, he had some trouble gaining weight.

He never had any injuries, attributing his success to maintaining proper running form—he did tweak his knee once, but he did it mowing the lawn. He hasn’t foam-rolled since February and swore by a post-run hip, IT band and lower back stretch to keep him loose.

And even though he wasn’t working on his speed, he got faster. On Thanksgiving morning he and Joice ran the Encinitas Turkey Trot and surprised himself with an 8:04-minute mile, earning a PR for the 10K.

Curry is now considering taking his 2,021 mile-fitness out for a spin at the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon, 13.1 miles on his home course on the 56 bike path on Dec. 18.

In 2022, Curry said he plans to get back to “normal running” and training for half marathons again.

At some point, he would like to help teach people about proper form or provide motivation for those tackling big goals, now that he has some street cred. Whether fast or slow, training for 3.1, 26.2 or reaching for 2,022, he hopes to inspire people. He encourages everyone to get moving just for the love of it, to get outside into the open air and don’t be afraid to push yourself—you may be surprised at what’s possible.

“Just get out there!” he said.