Tribune Print Share Text

In the running

Longtime runner inspires others to try the sport

Created date

January 10th, 2017
Lifelong runner Bob Gralley (right) inspired Oak Crest Public Relations Manager Jeff Getek to run his first half-marathon, the Baltimore Running Festival.

Lifelong runner Bob Gralley (right) inspired Oak Crest Public Relations Manager Jeff Getek to run his first half-marathon, the Baltimore Running Festival.

Bob Gralley knows a thing or two about running. It’s been 45 years since he started pounding the pavement to drop a few pounds. Now at 90 years old with 42 marathons and 16 half marathons under his belt, he’s inspired someone half his age to give running a try. 

“For years, Bob used to joke with me and say, ‘One of these days you’re going to run with me,’” says Jeff Getek, public relations manager at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., where Bob lives. “So I told Bob when I turned 45, if he was still running, I would run with him.”

It was a promise that Getek made good on this past October when he and Bob ran the Baltimore Running Festival’s half marathon. 

“I was really thrilled and amazed when Jeff came and told me he was going to go through with it,” says Bob. 

Getek, who is new to running, trained for a year leading up to the race.  

“I started from scratch with just a mile, and eventually it turned into two miles, and then three,” says Getek. “I finally got to the point where I ran a 5K race (3.1 miles) and then built up to 12 miles a few months later.”

Bob, who typically runs 20 miles and bikes 15 miles a week, followed his own training routine before the race. 

“Instead of my regular three or four miles each day, I do eight- and ten-mile runs leading up to the race. The week before the race, I take it easy,” says Bob. 

Go the distance

Although the two never trained together, Getek looked at Bob as his mentor and turned to him for advice. 

“I knew I had to reach a series of milestones if I was going to finish the race,” says Getek. “Bob was very encouraging while I was training. He gave me practical advice on what I should be eating and how often and far I should be running.”

“It’s important to take small steps,” says Bob. “You don’t want to overdo it too early. You really shouldn’t do more than a 10% increase each week. That’s the real secret of getting started and enjoying running and maintaining a balance that allows you to continue.”

Preparing physically is vital to running long distances, but according to Bob, emotional preparation is also important. 

“Your first long race is usually your most memorable because you’re not sure if you are going to finish or not,” says Bob. “You have to be able to tell yourself, ‘I’m going to do this!’” 

The Baltimore Running Festival’s half marathon has become a family affair for Bob.  He, along with his two sons and granddaughter, who are also regular runners, crossed the finish line holding hands. 

“When people ask me how I did, I tell them I was first in my age group to finish,” jokes Bob. “The only thing is I was also last in my age group, because I’m the only one my age running.”

Getek met Bob before the race and then ran at his own pace. The race was like nothing he had ever experienced before. 

“We ran through the neighborhoods of Baltimore, past Patterson Park, the site of the old Memorial Stadium, through Hampden, and finished between Oriole Park and Ravens Stadium,” says Getek. “There were people lining the streets, holding signs, cheering us on.” 

In the long run

For Bob, running isn’t just about the races; it’s about living a healthy lifestyle. Over the last four decades, Bob has racked up 55,700 miles. 

“I enjoy exercise,” says Bob. “A lot of people think running is boring. I have never found that to be the case. One of the things I find most interesting about running is setting goals. I’ve kept track of every mile since I started running. Seeing my progress is what keeps me going.”

As for Getek, he enjoyed it so much he’s ready to do it again next year. 

“I walk away from this whole experience amazed that Bob does what he does,” says Getek. “In order to accomplish what he’s done, I would have to continue running for the next 45 years. That’s really inspiring!”