today, I want to introduce you Bruce Tulloh. I had the privilege to get to know Bruce a little on the 2:09 training camp in Portugal, where he was – until this year – a regular attendee, daily runner, source of coaching wisdom, and a teller of amazing stories.
But more significantly, Bruce was a huge figure in British athletics. Firstly, as an athlete: he won the 5,000m at the 1962 European Championships as well as many other races. At the time he was famous for doing so barefoot – the first non-African runner to compete without shoes, saying – long before the barefoot trend became big business – that “on uneven grass surfaces the bare foot, with its thousands of nerve endings, adapts to changes far more quickly than the shod foot”. His diminutive frame masked nerves of steel, as time after time he floated away from his sturdier rivals.
But far from being satisfied with track success, he hatched a wilder scheme – to have a crack at the record for a coast to coast run across the entire of America. Long before the days when such attempts are tracked to a millimeter, sponsored and supported by full crews, Bruce took his family – his wife Sue and their seven year old son, Clive – and cracked on. He covered the 2876 miles in 64.9 days, breaking the record by more than four days – and this despite a couple of days walking with bad ankle pain. He later wrote a book about the journey, Four Million Footsteps.
In fact, he was a prodigous writer as well as inspiring coach, publishing an amazing 23 titles – many of them full of his coaching wisdom. He also seems to have had a knack for spotting future running trends years before anyone else – in 1971 he spent some time with the Tarahumara Indians, 40 years before Chris McDougall “discovered” them in Born to Run. As a coach, he guided Olympian (and still British 10 mile record holder) Richard Nerukar – and more recently Jenny Spink – to whom I know that Bruce was far more than a coach.
He didn’t exactly rest on laurels, either. He ran a 1hr 16min half marathon at 60 and a 2hr 47 marathon in his late 50s, and still competed into his 70s.
Bruce passed away this weekend, at 82, at home in Marlborough. In the Guardian style guide, there is a note about how the word “legend” should perhaps be reserved for mythical figures, the point being it’s overused. But Bruce was a legend.
Please share your own weekend highs and lows below the line, as usual, but if there is one thing you do today, on this wild, wet, windy grey Monday, listen to his Desert Island Discs from 1974, and get a sense for the humour, the story telling and the life of a wonderful man.