March 28, 2014
Contact: Kyle Davis, Baker University marketing and communications office, (785) 594-8399 or
Alumnus to return to Boston Marathon for sixth time
Baldwin City, Kan. — Bruce Gilbert, a 1971 Baker University graduate, was wearing his gray Baker track T-shirt as he ran mile after mile through the streets of Boston during the 1969 Boston Marathon.
Strangers were cheering him on by name as he took part in what he calls the "granddaddy" of marathons for the first time. It was the same race, but the scene was far different than it is today. Gilbert was one of 1,051 runners — just a fraction of the more than 27,000 runners last year — participating in '69. The field was so small Gilbert's name was in that morning's edition of the Boston Globe along with his number, which is how the strangers knew his name as he passed.
The runners met in a gym and passed a physical, which amounted to a doctor
listening to each runner's heart for three to four seconds. There were no qualifying times, and anyone who paid the $2 entry fee could run.
And there was Bruce Gilbert with his Baker track shirt. It was the University that allowed Gilbert to experience the Boston Marathon while wearing his Baker shirt. Gilbert was a sophomore cross country and track athlete for the Wildcats and was preparing for this new concept called Interterm between the two semesters. At the time, students
could create their own course with the help of a faculty member as long as
it was approved.
"They said, it's almost limitless what you could dream up for your
project," Gilbert said.
Gilbert and two freshmen decided to create an Interterm class based on
training for the Boston Marathon. The runners approached coach James
Irick, who agreed to teach the class and named it "Social Dimensions
of Physical Activity."
"I thought this would really be perfect because we would have all month
open to training," said Gilbert, who completed his first marathon in 3
hours, 43 seconds. "We would just get ourselves so well prepared and then
we maintain that until April and we would go run that marathon and that
would be like our final exam."
Baker not only gave the three students a method in which to train, but
Baker President James Doty, whose family Gilbert had known growing up in
Indiana, also arranged for a $100 scholarship to fund the students' trip.
The other two students' fathers were airline mechanics and could fly for
free, so Gilbert used the remaining $94, after entry fees were paid, for
his plane ticket. Doty also connected the students to alumni in Boston who
gave the runners a place to stay.
While he continued running marathons, Gilbert didn't return to race in the
Boston Marathon until 15 years later in 1984. Gilbert returned a third
time in 1994, 25 years after the initial race, and was back again in 2004
and 2009. Gilbert's 2009 race goal was to be within 30 minutes of his 1969
race time 40 years earlier and to break 3:30. He finished 3:31:05, which
he happily accepted.
This year will mark 45 years since that initial marathon, and Gilbert will
again be back in Boston. If the weather is perfect on April 21, his goal
again will be 3:30. It will be special for him due to the anniversary, but
it will also be emotional and historic for everyone involved being the
first Boston Marathon since last year's bombing near the finish line.
"It's going to be really, really special because it does mean a lot to
almost everyone that's there and it's a show of resilience by the runners
and all the people, spectators, everybody, to come back from that," said
Gilbert, an Overland Park, Kan., resident, who owns Regarding Kitchens &
Home with his wife, Beverly.
Along with being Gilbert's sixth time at the Boston Marathon, this will
also mark the 73rd marathon he has raced, and he¹s not looking to hang up
the shoes any time soon.
"Now I kind of figure I'm on a five-year cycle for however long it will
take me," he said. "I'd love to go 50 years apart."
It all started with that run through Boston in 1969 in the gray Baker track shirt. Gilbert credits that Interterm class for catapulting him into marathon running and doesn't know if he would have completed all the races if it weren't for that first one.
"It's special for everyone and everyone has their own marathon story of
how they decided to do it and how they accomplished what they had to do in
order to get there," Gilbert said. "To me, it is real special or more
meaningful to me in that I did do it way back in 1969, so I've got that
link to the old way that a lot of people don't."
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