A marathon for the ages

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

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."

Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports

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Reader Comments

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patty from western springs  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 2:03 PM

West Suburban Montessri school is blessed to have Mr. Bruce! His hard work and training directly support our scholarship fund. He is inspiration to us all!

Lourdes from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 12:10 PM

Congrats Bruce! WSMS is so lucky to have you & it's a thrill to see how your efforts have helped so many. Thank you for being an inspiration not just on the day of the Marathon but EVERY DAY!

Alma from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 11:09 AM

I'm a proud WSMS parent and "Mr Bruce" is a treasure. Parent donations in his honor go a huge way toward meeting our fundraising goals. And every penny raised benefits the scholarship fund. It's a very special preschool that can say that.

Somie Mossell from Forest Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 10:19 AM

Go Mr. Bruce! My daughter attended West Suburban Montessori School and while she was there I headed up the fundraising committee. We are so proud and grateful to Mr. Bruce for all his hard work. The children just love him and he's a treasure to the school. His tremendous efforts and dedication to running this marathon for our school is a testament to his wonderful character and is a good lesson to all of us. Everyone is capable of doing some amazing things, all you have to do is try!

Alex Harris from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 9:53 AM

I am a Board Member at West Suburban Montessori School and I cannot express how grateful I am for "Mr. Bruce's" effort. My father ran 25 marathons in his lifetime and I cannot imagine running one, least of all after a quintuple bypass. But Bruce's heart is huge and golden and the children at our school love him so much for it. The scholarships (we got to give 2 this year!) we award because of his contribution keep our little family whole. Yay Bruce!

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