Connor Hayden has probably created some new career options over the last few months.
Oh, the seven-year Haverhill High Latin teacher and crew coach is perfectly happy with his current employment. But he may now be attractive to local realtors, city tourism officials and anyone else who needs to know Haverhill inside, out and backwards.
That’s because the 32-year-old Hayden has, in the last few days, completed running on every street in Haverhill — that’s more than 350 miles of streets over three months. From roads up to Merrimac and Rocks Village to bordering streets for Groveland, Boxford, North Andover, Methuen and Salem, N.H., Hayden has been on them all.
Well, Hayden is a longtime believer in fitness and, since a year he spent teaching English in Turkey after graduating from Holy Cross, he’s been as addicted to running as he is to hiking and other physical activities he enjoys.
“I was never a runner until I moved abroad,” said Hayden. “There weren’t many people who knew English where I was and it was stressful. I needed time outside by myself to decompress.
“I started running to explore and clear my mind. And then I never really stopped after that.”
As for running all the streets of Haverhill, Hayden credits an article he read to suggest the idea and a circumstance push from the coronavirus pandemic to make it happen.
“I read an article about Ricky Gates running all the streets of San Francisco and I thought it was pretty cool, with all the hills and everything there,” he said. “Then when it became clear that we wouldn’t come back to school I was looking for something to do to keep me occupied and stay fit.
“I started March 17, I had a map of the town and I had the idea that I’d do it eventually. But as I started doing it, it was going well and I was getting efficient, so I figured I’d do it sooner rather than later. Then I decided to try getting it done by the end of school.”
Since then, Hayden ran the streets of Haverhill 54 times, averaging about 6 1/2 miles per run five days a week. He began by taking off every day from his home in the Riverside section of town but, before long, he’d either drive to a location or have girlfriend Moire O’Mullane drive him to an area and pick him up.
There are actually a growing number of runners around the country attempting to cover all city streets and they’re chronicled by the website CityStrides, which gives all sorts of suggestions as well as guidelines for being certified. Many runners who complete their city runs, like Reading’s Rick Kielty, start every run from their home, or at least one location.
But, said Hayden, “I like running but I’m not an ultra-runner.”
CityStrides has an app in which runners can record all of their runs, but Hayden used a more old fashioned method.
“I have a 1996 map and I highlight every street after I run it,” said Hayden. “But I’ve had to draw in new streets and cul-de-sacs that I’ve come across.
“I also have a spread sheet of what I’ve done and all my runs are logged with my GPS watch.”
Wherever he’s gone, Hayden has discovered that he didn’t know as much about his hometown as he thought.
“I’m amazed at the variety in the city,” he said. “On East Broadway, you’re going past farms and a couple of miles across town it’s completely different.
“This started as a nice fitness project but it’s become an opportunity to see everything and become more connected to the community. Probably 90 percent of the streets I’ve been on I’ve never seen before.
“The goal was to explore the community in a time when community had gone largely virtual by running the roads that are public and accessible to pedestrians — though I ran my share of non-pedestrian-friendly roads.
“It’s been fun. Hopefully someone else will do it, probably faster and more efficiently next time.”
When asked of his favorite part of Haverhill now that he’s seen it all, Hayden said: “That’s so tough, there are so many places, like the Brandy Brow, the streets near the Merrimac line, the rolling hills near Rocks Villiage, the hills around High Street.”
Another tough question for Hayden is what he’ll do fitness-wise with the rest of the summer. An avid hiker, he traveled the length of “The Long Trail” in Vermont last summer with O’Mullane and fellow Haverhill Latin teacher Zach Eldridge.
“We’ll definitely do some hiking depending on what’s opened up, definitely keep running and I might do some biking,” he said.
If still stuck in town, of course, he could do all three in Haverhill. After what he’s learned the last few month, it would be mighty easy to get around.
Meet Connor Hayden
Education: Haverhill High, Holy Cross
Sports in high school: Track and Field
Occupation: Haverhill High Latin teacher, crew coach
Top fitness accomplishments: Hiked “The Long Trail” in 2019, ran all the streets of Haverhill in 2020
Miscellaneous: Taught English in Turkey for a year; nominated for Haverhill Teacher of the Year in 2015