MOUNT DESERT — For the most dedicated athletes, daily exercise is as ingrained into a daily schedule as brushing one’s teeth.
On July 4, Bill Ferm, 66, celebrated an impressive milestone: He has run at least one mile every single day for the past 41 years.
The longtime lawyer, who has an office in Ellsworth, was athletic in high school and college, but he never ran competitively.
“I actually just like to run, so I didn’t ever compete,” said Ferm, who lives in Pretty Marsh with his wife, Ninette. “I am a very competitive person, and I try to deliberately not make it competitive.”
It was never Ferm’s goal to run for nearly 15,000 days in a row. As of July 4, he was at 14,975 days.
“I just really enjoy it,” he said. “ It is more like a psychological thing than a physical one.”
Ferm had a long previous streak before a Fourth of July celebration in 1976 kept him from running July 3 of that year. The next day, he decided see how long his next daily running streak could be.
That streak turned into months. Then years. Then decades. He started out running nine miles and is now running about one per day.
“It’s just been pretty cool to have been able to keep it going,” said Ferm, a father of five sons.
A minor surgery 23 years ago didn’t keep him from running. Nor did a bout of pneumonia several years ago.
“As long as I could keep running through mild pneumonia, I can run through just about anything,” Ferm said. “It’s been a process of being fortunate enough that I haven’t been sick enough to where [running] has been physically impossible.”
Over a decade ago, Ferm began having some strange symptoms, including losing his speech for several hours. That’s when he was diagnosed with diabetes.
“I spent the night in the hospital, and the first thing I did was go out for a run,” he said.
Running is more than physical exercise; for Ferm, it’s also a mental one. During the mile-long loop in his Pretty Marsh neighborhood that Ferm runs every morning before work, he has the same routine.
“On my way out, I think of everything that is bothering me and try to let it go,” Ferm said. “On my way back home, I think of my sister who died young. I always think of her when I turn around, and to know that I think of her every day is very important to me.
“When I get close to my house, I say the Lord ’s Prayer to myself, feed my chickens and have breakfast with my wife.”
Running early in the day is peaceful, said Ferm, who often sees the same runners and cars during his daily routine. He also comes close to wildlife, such as deer and otters, enjoying their own mornings.
“It’s very cool to be able to travel throughout the country, and no matter where you go, you see people jogging off on the side of the roads,” Ferm said.
That’s also true outside of the country. A trip to London in 2008 as a chaperone with the Mount Desert Island High School band did not keep Ferm from running. In fact, his daily routine inspired others to get out there and run with him during the trip.
“I found a running trail, and I’d have anywhere from one to 15 other students come out in the morning and run with me,” he said.
Ferm is humble about his milestone and said that there are many other runners hitting the pavement early in the morning that most people never see.
“I see myself just as a representative of all the other runners I see out there,” Ferm said. “There are so many people I see who have really cool stories.”
Ferm has been running for more than half of his life, and although he has no particular goal to make it to 45 or even 50 years of daily running, the athlete said he’s satisfied with how far he has come.
“I was impressed when [the streak] was five years, and I was impressed when it was 10 years, and it’s really interesting to me that it’s been 41 years,” Ferm said. “I fully accept that I could get injured or sick, and if I did, I would feel pretty contented by the fact that I’ve run as long as I have.”