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Meet San Diego's 'Million Mile Man'

Dan Smiechowski left his suicidal thoughts behind in 1981 when he started running, walking, swimming and biking.

SAN DIEGO — It's no secret running can release endorphins in your body and lead to what's called a "Runner's High". But, is it possible for that high to save a person from their lowest low? 

In this Zevely Zone, I went to Bay Ho to meet the Million Mile Man. These days you can count your steps and miles with a smartphone. The problem is, Dan Smiechowski started running in 1959.

Credit: Million Mile Man: Dan Smiechowski

This story starts with an SDSU student looking for work. 1981 was the worst year of Dan Smiechowski's life. 

"I kept getting turned down for work over and over and over. I had applied for literally thousands of jobs. I could not get anything," said Dan who also shared he became suicidal. 

"Oh, I was in a fetal position in my closet," said Dan. He knew he had to do something; anything. 

"I said I am going to try to run one mile at Mission Bay," said Dan. 

He ran that mile as fast as he could and thought, "You know I can do better, I want to do something, I want to be somebody. I want to be healthy. I want to be happy," said Dan.  

Credit: Million Mile Man: Dan Smiechowski

Somehow, running gave Dan all of those things, so he continued doing it all over the world. His walls are covered with pictures of him running. 

"That is a triathlon in France," said Dan. "That is a triathlon in Africa." Decades later, Dan coins himself the Million Mile Man; that's how far he says his body has propelled him.

I pulled out my calculator and said, "A million miles seems very improbable." 

Dan looked me directly in the eye and said, "No." At 69 years old, starting at the age of five, Dan would have had to average 42 miles a day, every day to reach a million miles. "Maybe more," said Dan who includes Peloton time as part of that distance. 

"See I am addicted to this, I am just completely addicted," said Dan while riding his stationary bike.  

Credit: Million Mile Man: Dan Smiechowski

He rides 500 miles a month to prepare for his annual training which he chronicles with pictures. 

"That's training at La Jolla Shores, Jacumba, Borrego Springs," said Dan. "It was about 112 or 115 degrees." 

He's competed in more than 400 hundred races. "That's a triathlon in Solana Beach. That's in Coronado on the 4th of July. That is a triathlon in Mission Bay," said Dan from a garage filled with medals.  

Credit: Million Mile Man: Dan Smiechowski

"I wanted to show people that I could do something that I was worthy," said Dan. He is a man born to run, walk, swim, and bike. "I tell people, anybody can do it. Anybody but you have got to have the willpower," said Dan.

Dan did finally find a career in real estate which he's enjoyed for nearly five decades.

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