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Type A Meets Zen And A Runner Finds His Stride

April 27, 2024 4 min read 6 Comments

Type A Meets Zen And A Runner Finds His Stride

Bruce Kirschner on his way to a first-place finish in the New York City Half Marathon (70+).

 

By Ray Glier

Bruce Kirschner, 70, seemed to be the unbendable type. Specifically, his type is Type A with a dose of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to go with it. This is the type that game plans a march to the kitchen at 2 a.m.

You know a runner like this, right? Kirschner ran half marathons with a pace chart cheat sheet slipped under the band of his watch to go with weeks of data crammed into his consciousness.

Bruce was the least likely guy to turn race day into art rather than science.

And then, at the urging his wife Janet, a former competitive runner, Kirschner went all Picasso in a half marathon in 2007.

“I just tuned into my breathing,” he said. “What I discovered is the watch is extra distraction and stress. I have been a numbers guy, a data guy. That race was different.”

Bruce chuckled over the phone, “I get stuck in a box and my wife gets me out of the box.”

In that race 17 years ago, Kirschner did not obsessively look at his watch to judge pace because he had no watch for the first time on race day. Bruce simply listened to the cadence of his breath. He paid attention to the rhythm of the planting of his foot over and over. 

Bruce turned off his Type A. He shelved his OCD. He was well East of his culture as a runner and he has tried to stay like that.

Here’s the treasure inside his story for Geezer Jocks who feel stuck.

That 2007 half marathon was in Charlottesville, Va., and the then 53-year old Kirschner entered on the spur of the moment without a lot of training. He won his age group …by 10 minutes. It was as if hectoring protestors waved Free Bruce signs at him along the route.

Kirschner, 17 years later, still runs without a watch, though he still keeps a detailed Excel spreadsheet of his runs. For runners in their 50s this is a timeless (no pun intended) lesson to explore:

Don’t heap on the pressure….

...and be open to advice from your better half.

Meanwhile, Bruce’s career as a masters runner, pretty good since 2007, is surging in 2024.

In the New York City Half Marathon on March 17, Kirschner was the top finisher in the 70-and-over age group (117 competitors). He went 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 38 minutes. The course was a challenging up-and-down and Bruce was thrilled with his 7 minutes, 33 seconds per mile pace at 70 years old.

It was his first win in several years, he said, and a rejuvenated Bruce has his sights on Sweden and the World Masters Athletics championships this summer. He wants to help the U.S. win a team gold in the Half Marathon.

Kirschner is training to be good enough to team with superior runners, like John Hirschberger and Eugene Myers for the American 3-man team, though it is not certain just yet who will enter from the U.S. (70-74).

Bruce is also thinking he has a chance to medal individually in the Half Marathon at WMA.

What’s more, Kirschner, who lives in Louisville, Col., has joined the Boulder Road Runners, an elite distance masters crew of runners. He will run in the extraordinarily popular BOLDERBoulder 10k race on Memorial Day—the citizens race—and then serve as a race official for The International Professional  Team Challenge event.

“There’s a guy who beats me every year,” Kirschner said. “His time has come. I’m gonna run him down.”

He said it good-naturedly because chill Bruce is the best Bruce on race day.

Kirschner’s lack of fever extends to pre-race, too. The night before a race his prep meal is downright plebian: a big bowl of Ramen noodles. The next morning a half of bagel and a banana suffice. Being less blunt as an athlete works.

(Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame third baseman used to say he could accomplish more with an 85-percent swing of the bat then a 100-percent max effort swing).

Bruce has also adopted a 9-day training cycle, instead of his usual 7, and eschews two-day workouts for one run a day. He is mostly self-coached, but does rely on correspondence with his friend, Pete Pfitzinger, the internationally-renowned runner and coach.

It was Pfitzinger who told Kirschner not to do a long training run (16 to 18 miles) two weeks before the New York City Half Marathon. Pete said it had to be three weeks before for a 70-year old to recover. Volia! A win.

One of the reasons Bruce is excelling is he solved a worrisome fatigue issue just after the Covid crisis settled in. It is a story worth telling because this is how competitive runners are forced to retire. Later-life fatigue can remain a mystery and then a roadblock.

It was his thyroid, it turns out, not his father’s bad heart genes. The doctor wrote a prescription and told Kirschner to give it four-to-six weeks. Five weeks was long enough. Bruce ran and ran well. The fatigue was gone.

And here he is standing on a peak as a newcomer to this 70+ age group.

As for the OCD baggage he carries around, Bruce is just fine with it because it means ritual and consistency. Not everything is chill with this guy. He still makes detailed training plans and Kirschner’s training avoids concrete and hard surfaces. Bruce sticks to gravel and trails.

Consistency means his training pace is a 10-12 minute mile, not gunning it to prove a point and risking down time. His taper before a race is consistent, too, as are the two days off between hard runs.

Kirschner provides a lesson for Geezer Jocks. You can still be a taskmaster, but when the race begins leave the science in your go-bag and run with art.

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6 Responses

Mike Wien
Mike Wien

April 29, 2024

As one of Bruce’s teammates on the Boulder Road Runners 70+ team, I know Bruce to not only be a great role model, but also to be a great leader in building our team and bringing some great competitors together. This is a well desired article.

Carolyn
Carolyn

April 29, 2024

Bruce is such an inspiration, and you captured his character and achievement well!

James
James

April 29, 2024

Always so amazing, Bruce (Clark Kent 😍) is at it again 👍🏿👍🏿👍🏿

STEVE KIRSCHNER
STEVE KIRSCHNER

April 29, 2024

Bruce Kirschner is my first cousin….I am so proud he is a “Geezer Jock” and his “his blood runs in my veins”
Cuzzin Steve

Timothy Buckley
Timothy Buckley

April 29, 2024

Good story. Don’t see myself giving up my Garmin, but happy it works so well for him.

David F. Root.
David F. Root.

April 27, 2024

Great article. One year from 70, this is good inspiration for me!

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