More than 30 years after he was a member of the Miami University track and field team, Bruce Davis noticed he could not jog from the entrance of Shaffer Park in Hillsboro to the park office without running out of breath. So he started running. And he hasn’t stopped.
Davis, now 63, has no plans to quit running anytime soon. But he did reach a milestone on Nov. 6 when he ran what he says will be his last marathon. He was one of 51,388 people to complete (51,995 started) the New York Marathon, the world’s largest marathon field ever.
“I don’t mind the races, I just don’t want to train for another one,” Davis said Wednesday in his office at Shaffer Park, where he now works after a 32-plus year career in insurance and real estate with the George R. Steele Company he owned in Hillsboro.
When he was in training for a marathon, Davis said he ran 10 to 12 miles on Saturday, 12 to 20 miles on Sunday, plus five- to seven-mile runs during the week.
Despite being a record-setting pole vaulter at Hillsboro High School though, Davis said he was never much of a runner until about 11 years ago.
A 1971 HHS graduate, he set the school pole vault record at 13’4 that stood for about 20 years. But he never ran a lot.
“I was the utility guy, like the third man in just about any event they needed one,” Davis said.
After high school he was a pole vaulter on the Miami University track team and lettered his junior and senior years, then took about 30 years off. That’s when he decided he needed to start running to get in better shape.
Not long after that he met a couple people training to run the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.
“I figured if they could do it, I could do it,” he said.
An injury sidetracked that first try at the Flying Pig, but he has run in scores of other marathons all over the country since. Once of his favorites was finishing on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. Last year he ran 16 half marathons and one full marathon, or 26.2 miles. He finished all but one of the half marathons in under two hours and that one was in Chicago when it was 97 degrees.
“Once you start running and racing it just kind of gets in your blood and you get hooked,” Davis said. “The races are fun, exciting, and you always think you can do better, so you do another one.”
Depending on what marathon he’s running, Davis said he usually has few butterflies at the starting line.
“Sometimes you get a little nervous, but not much because I know I’m not going to win,” he said. “But I’ve never been last and I’ve never not finished. I’m usually middle of the pack. Most of them I just do to say I finished.”
Somewhere between the halfway point and the end, it’s a different matter. Then the finish line flips the mood again.
“You feel great and elated and good. But about a half hour before the finish you want to die and you ask yourself why am I doing this?” Davis said.
He said he loses 5 to 6 pounds most marathons, more if it’s really hot.
His proudest moment, Davis said, came in August of 2014 when he completed an Ironman race. in Louisville, Ky. That was a 2.4-mile swim in the Ohio River, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2 mile run – one after the other. And to be considered an Ironman, you have to finish in under 17 hours.
“I beat the time line, let’s just say that,” Davis joked.
But if that was his proudest moment, the New York Marathon may have been his most enjoyable.
“What makes it neat is that I’ve never seen one like that before – and I wish I had pictures of the starting line – nearly 52,000 runners from more than 120 countries and all 50 states getting ready. You go through all five boroughs and over five bridges. And then the whole race course, other than on the bridges, people are five to six deep on both sides of the road, and they’re even rooting for you from apartment balconies. It was so loud I couldn’t even hear my earphones. I just turned them off,” Davis said.
Last year Davis logged 1,242 miles running. He’s at just under 1,00o this year. Last year at the Flying Pig he finished a one-mile run, a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon, all in the same weekend.
Davis said he has no regrets about the New York Marathon being his last. He said he would have liked to finish an ultra marathon – 34 or more miles – but will probably concentrate on 10K races now. He’d like to win the 10K Reds Run next year that finishes in Great American Ball Park in his age group, and maybe run in a Halloween race where he has to dress up and some other fun races like that. Or he might concentrate on bicycle racing.
“But now I’m running with one of my daughters, Jenny, and training with her and she’s got the bug now,” Davis said. “So I’ll probably keep running just to keep her running.”
Davis said that when he started running, he had no idea that at 63 he’d still be running, let alone marathons.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It keeps you healthy and I’ve had a lot fun.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.