Inspiring Storyby Darrin Eisman -
Rocky Mountain Sports
A 50's Kind of Man and An Inspiration for All of
If you met Bob Bussey
today, it would be hard to imagine him as anything but a runner. The
68-year-old Elizabeth, Colorado, resident has been pounding the pavement for
more than 20 years and has 61 marathons to his credit.
That is Bussey today,
but years ago he was a far different man.
There was a time when he
and his drinking buddies would sit around the Central House Bar in Hopkinton,
Massachusetts, and just watch all of the action. For over a century, Hopkinton
has served as the starting line for the Boston Marathon. And on the third
Monday each AprilPatriots Daythe patrons of the Central House
watch as thousands of super-fit marathon runners stream by enroute to the
finish line in downtown Boston.
Sure, it was fun to watch, but Bussey
could not have imagined, then, that one day he would be on the other side of
the barroom window running past the door of his favorite hangout on a 26.2-mile
trek to Boston. No, Bussey was content to be solving all of the
worlds problems every Friday night, with the other regulars at the
Times change, and eventually Bussey
would leave Hopkintonbut the drinking followed him. After a stint in the
Air Force, he eventually settled down in Colorado in 1979 with his wife, a
career as a computer salesman, and a 7-day-a-week drinking habit.
In 1985, though, Bussey returned to
Bostonthis time as a runner. Not only had he been sober for three years,
he was also 60 pounds lighter, and certainly a lot fitter than he was in his
drinking days. He had changed so much, in fact, that when he stopped by his old
hangout, most people didnt recognize him.
People were shocked, he
recalls, because Id gone from 210 pounds to 150. And when
Bussey told them he was in Boston to run the marathon, they didnt believe
at first. During the race as Bussey went by his old haunt, a group of
longtime regulars gave him a toast and cheered him on.
That was the first of six Boston
Marathons for Busseya feat in itselfbut an even bigger
accomplishment was realized in, of all places, Parkersburg, West Virginia, in
August of 2002. The News and Sentinel Half-Marathon in Parkersburg was the
final stage in Busseys quest to run a marathon or half-marathon in each
of the 50 states. And when he returned home, he hung the final T-shirt in his
basement collection arranged alphabetically by state.
Busseys running career began in
the much the same way that many Colorado runners have found their way to the
sportwith an appearance at Boulders Memorial Day classic, the
His son, a cross-country runner at
Columbine High School, was going to compete in the race, and Bussey had been
recruited to drive him there. Though he had already quit the bottle and had
started a walking and running program to shed some weight from his 5 foot 8
inch, 215-pound frame as well as to spend some time with his son, Bussey had
not really thought about racing.
When I started running, I would
go and try to train with my son, but he wouldnt go with me at
first because I was too slow.
But on Memorial Day, he found himself
on the starting line and was hooked on the sport. Soon after the Bolder
Boulder, Bussey began to hit the local race circuit, and it wasnt long
until he was logging 60-80 miles per week. Hed replaced his 7-day-a-week
drinking habit with a 7-day-a-week running habit.
In 1983, a year after his first race
experience, Bussey had graduated to the marathon. His first shot at the revered
26.2-mile distance was the Denver Marathon, a race which traversed the Mile
High City, passing through City Park and the University of Denver before
finishing at the Capitol building in downtown Denver.
Bussey notes that he finished around a
respectable 3:50 but that the race took everything he had. When I crossed
the finish line, I was wiped out and was lying on my face for 45 minutes,
he recalls with a chuckle. In fact my wife and my kids were looking for
me and couldnt find me for awhile me because I was lying face down.
So how did he keep the motivation
going to keep training for marathons? Because I wanted to run
Boston, he says.
Over the next 10 years, Bussey
completed 61 marathons in 35 states, by coordinating business trips and RV
excursions with nearby races. Sometimes this meant squeezing several races into
a very small time period, like the time he raced in Maryland on a Saturday,
then drove to Ohio for a Sunday race. Or hitting three races on the drive home
from an RV trip to Florida.
By now, Bussey had his sights set on
running a marathon in each of the 50 states in the U.S. With 35 already
completed, there was a mere 15 to go to reach his goal. Then in 1993, his dream
Bussey went under the knife for the
first of two back surgeries, with the second coming just a year later.
Following the second surgery, doctors advised Bussey to stop running all
together, or maybe just a mile a day. Thats like telling an
alcoholic just one drink, Bussey says.
I tried not running, and I went
through a period of depression, he recalls, so I started running
again, a little bit at a time. Well, it wasnt long before Bussey
decided that limiting his racing to half-marathons was a suitable compromise,
so he continued his 50-state quest by doing 13.1-mile races in the final 15
And despite the setback, Bussey
continued to raceand placewell. In his 50-state challenge, Bussey
took home an age-group award in all but three states! Though he now logs just
25 miles per week running, he supplements it with roughly 100 miles per week on
the bike. And his next goal? Biking in every state.
Id like to do multi-day
rides and Ive already done the Ride the Rockies, he says.
Im just a glutton for punishment.
Darrin Eisman is the running
columnist for Rocky.