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By Brad Spencer
Here's the distance between the start and the finish lines of that heroic Chicago Marathon you hear so much about every year: 26 miles, 385 yards. Here's the difference in age between Oak Park's youngest and oldest Chicago Marathon competitors: 51 years. Both finished the race without much agony. Both ran it for the same reasons.
We'll start with Bruce Hartney.
"Hi Bruce, Brad Spencer here, sports editor of the Wednesday Journal. I'm thinking about doing a story on Oak Park's youngest and oldest runners who recently completed the Chicago Marathon."
Bruce: "Well, I assume I'm not the youngest."
"That would be a correct assumption."
Hartney, business manager for West Suburban Montessori School in Oak Park, is 67 years old. This was his second Chicago Marathon. He finished last year's race, he's not afraid to admit, "directly in front of the street-sweepers." To be exact it was six hours, 30 minutes and 45 seconds. This year he kicked it up a bit, finishing in 6:13.35. That's six hours of traversing 29 neighborhoods with 45,000 other participants, sometimes running, sometimes walking, mostly moving in some fashion or another.
"I managed to motor through it without any discomfort. But anyone who asks what my time was, I just tell them, 'Monday.'"
Why, at his age, is he putting his body through such a rigorous ordeal?
Quintuple heart bypass surgery in 2004, he says. Running, or as he calls it powerwalking, was a way to recover from the surgery and get in shape. But Hartney doesn't just run for himself. With this race alone he raised close to $6,000 for a scholarship program at West Suburban Montessori.
"Hopefully, it can make enough of a dent for a kid to go to school," he said.
Speaking of school, Isobel Bergholz is a sophomore at OPRF High School. She turned 16 on Oct. 7, making her perfectly eligible for that day's Chicago Marathon. Bergholz ran alongside her father, John, a seasoned marathoner — this was his 28th overall, third this year. They finished in 5:07.07.
"The key was finding our right pace," said John, who has also run Chicago marathons with his two sons and may be in for one more with youngest daughter Emma, who turns 16 in two years. "Isobel did a great job, and I'm so proud of her. I do want to make clear I did not push this and I did not promote it. I wanted to discourage it, but she was determined."
Burgholz raised $650 for research to find a cure for Alzheimer's, a disease that has stricken a close family member. She's a member of the OPRF girls cross-country team, which is gearing up for the Class 3A Lake Park Regional. There's likely another marathon in her future.
As for Hartney, he's headed south this Sunday to run the St. Louis Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon with his wife Denise. How old is Denise? "She's always 39, Brad. Now don't ask me that question again."
How about this: Is there another marathon in your future?
"At 67, I don't know if I want to do one at 68. It's been a neat challenge. But maybe I will do another one now that you called."
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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