On Nov. 11, 1988, Steve Lerner took his first steps toward a running lifestyle and never came back.
Since that day, when he was living in Smithtown and working for the now-defunct Record World chain, he has not missed a single day of running. Twenty four and a half years. Over that time, two of his three children were born. (Adam, 23, and Talie, 18, joined Evan, 27.)
This Sunday, in spite of a strained calf muscle he called "one of my worst injuries in five, six years," he will run the Long Island Marathon for the 25th consecutive time. He believes he may have the longest streak of participation in the race, which debuted in 1973 as the Earth Day Marathon.
He has finished 73 marathons. As of Monday, he had put a total of 72,036 miles on his legs, between racing and daily workouts.
Lerner is 57 now and has lived in Richmond, Va., where he works in auto sales, since 1992. But he returns to Long Island each spring, staying with his father in West Hempstead -- "Hotel Dad," he calls it -- to once again tackle the local 26-mile, 385-yard race.
Runners would understand.
"As a kid, I always loved playing sports," he said.
At Freeport High School (Class of '73), he was an outfielder and a wrestler. But he had "started to get a little heavy" in his early 30s and, aware that his mother died at 40 and his brother at 39, "this motivated me to try and stay as healthy as possible for my family."
So, in November of 1988, he went for a one-mile run.
"And I got caught up in it," he said. "It was an outlet."
By the spring of 1989, he had run Long Island for the first time, in a thoroughly respectable 3 hours, 36 minutes and 29 seconds.
Later that year, he ran the New York City Marathon -- and would have finished that race a 24th consecutive time last November if Hurricane Sandy had not caused its cancellation. He has done marathons in Boston, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.
He guessed his current weight is 132, two pounds over his high school graduation weight, but "I think I'm starting to accept the fact that I'm getting old." He joked that "you can inject me with any kind of steroid and I won't go any faster."
Still, he finished 73rd among 724 finishers in last year's Long Island Marathon, running it in 3:26:17, not so far off his personal best of 2:55:52.
The secret is training -- 50 to 60 miles a week, roughly 2,500 miles a year. "I want to come out of these races unscathed. It takes training."
The trick to avoiding knee trouble is new shoes. "I've been known to buy 20 pair at a time. The minute I go over 400, 500 miles in a pair, I go to new ones."
Lerner quoted what his wife, Amy, tells friends and relatives about his running habit: "I don't mind him going out, but he keeps coming back."
Not back to the sedentary life, though.