Each year on the first Wednesday of every month, people come together to celebrate the global phenomenon known as Global Running Day. What started as just another national day in 2009 (originally known as National Running Day) quickly evolved into this worldwide celebration very well-known not just in the running community but to anyone who wants to be more active. Running might be seen as an individual sport, but this could not be further from the truth. Half marathoner and ELCO’s Marketing Specialist, Jessica Weis, says, “The running community is so encouraging and supportive of one another. The beautiful thing is that most people can be a runner, and anyone who wants to try running is welcomed with open arms. They genuinely care about not just achieving their own goals, but helping others reach their own.” At ELCO, one person who taught us all so many lessons about running and life was the late Bob Bruce. He worked for ELCO since opening in 1946, and for many of those years, he ran countless miles and has such an incredible running story.
Bob started running in 1968 when he was 47 years old and kept a log of every mile he ever ran for a jaw-dropping 53 years until his passing in 2021. According to relatives, Bob ran over 100,000 miles in his lifetime from age 47 to 99. He was proof that it is never too late to start running and that you are in control of your own limitations.
He also showed us that you can truly go the distance with perseverance and love for what you do. From age 46-70, he would run his age in miles on his birthday. He usually ran this on his high school track, which means he would circle the track up to 280 times. He ran six 50-mile races, two 24-hour races, 43 marathons, and every distance in between. Bob was not only strong in endurance; he was also very gifted with the ability to run fast. His fastest marathon was 2:56:00, an average pace of 6:42 minutes per mile, and he ran the Boston Marathon six times. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is every runner's dream and people train their whole running career to earn a spot in this iconic race. Qualifying not once, but six times is a major accomplishment.
However, Bob did not just care about his own performance but also encouraged and helped others achieve their goals. There were many times when he would encourage other runners, drop back to help pace them, or share a story to take their minds off the miles remaining. Fellow runner and Bob’s daughter Barbara says, “I’ve been running for 50 years, and my experience is that most runners are kind, thoughtful, intelligent, caring people. My dad was the epitome of that.”
He did not just run on his own, though. He found friends who loved to run incredibly long distances as much as he did. It wasn’t unusual for him and a few running pals to run to Evanston or Chicago from Lake Bluff – and then take the train home. They would often run from Lake Bluff to somewhere in Wisconsin, and when they could not run another step, they would take turns calling home to their wives to see if one of them would come to pick them up and drive them back home.
We could all learn a lot from Bob Bruce and how running can benefit our lives. Bob believed that a bad day could be made good by going out for “a little spin.” He loved to start his day very early in the morning with a run- saying that whatever the remainder of the day brought, “He already had a good one!”