How runner Bruce Tulloh marked his eightieth birthday by walking...from his Marlborough home to London
Those of us of a certain age remember the exploits of one of the UK’s foremost athletes. Winner of the European 5,000 metres in 1962, 3,000 miles across America - LA to NYC in 1969, in 64 days and the Four Million Footsteps he wrote about - are just part 'Barefoot Bruce' Tulloh’s litany of running achievements.
Barefoot? Yes, he is the man who was famous for running in bare feet for many of his races.
Bruce has lived in Wiltshire for more than 40 years - in his case half a lifetime. He turned eighty in September. He taught biology at Marlborough College for twenty years - and, of course, coached their cross-country team. He recently moved into Marlborough town from West Stowell.
To celebrate his eightieth birthday Bruce set himself three targets
- to walk from Marlborough to London (80 miles, of course)
- to publish his How to Avoid Dying (for as long as possible) **
- and to donate £3,000 sponsorship to his chosen charity - Age (UK).
Planning the Marlborough-to-London route was the easier part of the venture. Tackling it somewhat more difficult. Aiming to complete the walk in a week required 12 miles per day and a Tulloh day is usually six in the morning to six in the afternoon.
Along the A4 might seem an appropriate choice, but most sections of his chosen route avoided the tedium of walking along a main road.
The Kennet & Avon Canal, the Thames around Reading, Wargrave, Windsor and Richmond and the Embankment from Putney through to the finish all made the walk much more enjoyable - if that is the appropriate description of his achievement.
Not that this was a solitary walk, friends and family all joined Bruce at various stages.
Bruce is no stranger to self-challenges. For his seventy-fifth birthday the Athens marathon seemed a suitable choice. So in 2010, joined by his wife Sue, family and friends, they tackled the route of the original marathon - raising a significant sum for charity.
Being fit is a way of life for Bruce. A runner for more than seventy years it is clear that his health and continuing fitness are a result of his continued activity starting in youth competitions, winning his first race at the age of 12, becoming more committed as Universities Champion in 1958 and then as a UK international athlete for many years.
“Running defines me” is his description of this commitment. But we should not forget his earlier and very popular book - a guide on how to run.
What went through Bruce Tulloh's head during all those miles - barefoot or not? There is a clue in his 1974 Desert Island Discs: Louis Armstrong, a Sibelius Symphony No 2, The Beatles' Penny Lane, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, the song My Elusive Dream, Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep..., Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (you would know it if you heard it) and the one-to-save from the marauding sea gulls was Jobim's A Felicidade (again - assuming you were around in the seventies - you would know it if you heard it.)
And that guide book? It was called Running is Easy. But his island was obviously going to be too small for much running so he opted to take Ms Austen's Pride and Prejudice and a harmonica - a good fit for Rodrigo's melodies.
** Currently available as an eBook through Amazon and other on-line retailers.