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10/15/2012 4:12:00 PM
Still running after all these years
Minnetonka resident has run more than 106,000 miles

By Barbara Campion


Although he was more than 30 years older than the average runner at the 2012 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, 68-year-old local running legend Bruce Mortenson ran the 26.2-mile race more than 33 minutes faster than the average time.

Mortenson, of Minnetonka, finished with a time of 3 hours, 43 minutes and 38 seconds.

"My best goal was hopefully to run 3 hours 44 minutes, which is a 8:30 [minutes per mile] pace, so I was right there," said Mortenson.

Mortenson's running career, which spans over 50 years, began at St. Louis Park High School in 1959. As part of the ninth-grade physical education curriculum, Mortenson was required to run the 440-yard dash.

Mortenson ran the race in 62 seconds and almost beat one of the school's varsity runners. St Louis Park coach Roy Griak noticed the freshman and asked him to come out for cross country.

This was the start of Mortenson's lifetime passion for running. Mortensen won the Minnesota high school state mile championship in 1961 with a 4:26 mile and again in 1962 with a 4:22 mile.

After graduating from St. Louis Park in 1962, Mortenson attended the University of Oregon where he ran under the direction of Bill Bowerman, the renowned University of Oregon coach and co-founder of Nike.

Bowerman encouraged the Oregon runners to run the steeplechase race, said Mortenson. The steeplechase is a 3000-meter obstacle race with 28 3-foot high barriers and seven 3-foot high water jumps.

Mortenson emphasized that unlike the barriers used in hurdling, steeplechase barriers do not move if hit. Mortenson won the 1965 NCAA National Steeplechase Championship in his junior year and was All American in 1965-66.

In addition, he was invited to the Men's World Cross Country Championship in Morocco in 1966.

Mortenson continued to race after graduating from University of Oregon. In 1970 he ran his first marathon. He was the first American to cross the finishline in the 1972 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:19:59. He placed sixth overall.

Mortenson does not remember the number of marathons that he has run.

"I am not sure exactly but at least 65 and maybe close to 70. I haven't kept count," said Mortenson.

But Mortenson does keep count of his annual mileage. He has a 53-year streak of running more than 2,000 miles a year.

Mortenson, a retired rehabilitation specialist, keeps busy traveling with Rosie, his wife of 39 years, volunteering at the Intercongregation Communities Association food shelf, and coaching the track and cross country teams at Eden Prairie High School.

When asked what he enjoyed most about coaching, he said the students.

"They are such great kids. They are good students. They are good citizens. And like all runners they have a positive outlook on life," said Mortenson.

Mortenson credits his own coaches as the key to his successful running career.

"Griak and Lefty Wright at St. Louis Park and then Bowerman at Oregon were a lot of it," he said.

Mortenson also credits his teammates and fellow runners.

"In Oregon, everybody just enjoyed running, we did a lot of running, a lot of exploring on trails, it was such fun," he said.

"I was just lucky," said Mortenson. "At every point in my life where I thought maybe I will not run so much anymore I have always been able to hook up with a great group of people who are running and it just gets me reinvigorated."