Raeya Svobodny

Raeya Svobodny gets some running in on a beach.

Florida heat. Minnesota cold. Rain, snow, and shine. Morning, noon, between elementary school classes, and night.

No matter the weather conditions or time, Sophie Svobodny, 9, and Raeya Svobodny, 8, haven’t given up their daily running challenge.

The Chaska girls have run a mile once a day, every day since March 31, 2020. Initially challenged by their parents to run daily for 100 days, the two decided to extend their daily routine until March 31, 2021.

That's 365 miles: the equivalent of running 14 marathons, per girl. 

For every day they run, they get $1 from their parents — and if they put all their money into college savings, the amount would be doubled at the end of the challenge.

“My husband had heard a story at work about high school students who participated in a similar running challenge, and how they learned commitment and how you can do anything,” their mom Sara Svobodny said. “We thought it was pretty neat, so we challenged our kids. It was actually a great constant in this weird new world we were living in.”

The girls accepted for a few reasons: the money, which they will deposit into their college fund, and to improve in their respective sports (between Sophie and Raeya, they participate in hockey, swimming, basketball, and lacrosse).

“It’s easier now, but when we started, it was pretty hard,” Raeya said. They can now run a mile in under 10 minutes.

When they started the challenge, the family was staying in Florida for spring break as COVID restrictions began; since their dad was working from home and school was online, they decided to stay at their rental for several months. From March to June, the girls ran on beaches, across the island and even in sweltering 100 degree heat. (Their neighbors came out to cheer the family on, Sara said.) 

“On our drive back to Minnesota, we pulled over into a parking lot to run so we didn’t miss a day,” Raeya said.

By July 9, the challenge was, technically, over. But instead of resting on their laurels after 100 days, the girls chose the other option offered by their parents: to extend their daily runs until March 31, 2021.

“I kept going because I wanted to see if I could get better on my miles, and I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do it for the whole year, even in Minnesota,” Sophie said.

“I was going to stop because it was really hard, but my other two sisters did it, so I was like, ‘I don’t want them to be better than me,’” Raeya added. (Their older sister also completed the 100-day challenge.)

During the summer, their friend would bike through the neighborhood and dare them to keep up. Their parents joined sometimes. Or, their puppy Harvey ran alongside them — well, until he got tired. 

The family returned to Florida over Thanksgiving, where they continued their miles in nicer weather — Sophie once ran circles around the Home Depot parking lot. Once they returned to Minnesota and the cold set in, the two continued to run in snow and sleet, but went inside on the treadmill when it got too icy. Sophie accidentally missed one winter day, but ran two miles the next day to make up for it, she said.

There’s still a month to go, but Raeya and Sophie show no signs of slowing down. By April, they’ll each have around $800 for their college funds — and Raeya will be allowed to get her ears pierced.

At the end, they’ll celebrate with cake and ice cream, and maybe, plan a new goal for 2021.

“I’m happy we did it,” Sophie said. “We’ll probably do more after it ends ... we want to get even better.”