Yes, that Bob Kennedy. When you’re one of the all-time greats in American running history, no matter what you do as a runner later in life creates a bit of a buzz in the running community. So when Kennedy ran a small 50K trail race in the foothills outside of Denver on Saturday, word started to get around on social media.
For the record, Kennedy, 44, finished 80th out of 135 runners at the North Fork 50K in 7:35:37. He was running with Christi Beth Adams, who placed 79th in the same time. Willy Kinney, 25, of Denver, won the race in 4:29:17.
It’s not likely any of the runners in the field knew who he was, although two-time British Olympian Kathy Butler, who lives in Colorado and was at the race coaching another runner, spotted him as he ran by.
No doubt coming up from the 680-foot elevation of Indianapolis to the thin air of the 8,448-foot elevation of Pine, Colo., was a challenge for Kennedy. When reached on Sunday, he admitted his first foray into the ultrarunning world was admittedly difficult.
“It was my first. It was pretty rough,” he said. “I wasn’t very well prepared for it.”
But let’s give the guy a break. He’s done plenty to just enjoy running for its own merits for the rest of his life.
The former Indiana University star was a two-time Olympian in the 5,000 (12th in 1992, 6th in 1996) and formerly held American records in the 3,000 meters (7:30.84), 2 miles (8:11.59) and 5,000 meters (12:58.21). His 5,000-meter U.S. mark, which made him the first non-African to break the 13-minute barrier, stood for 13 years until Dathan Ritzenhein eclipsed it in 2009.
Although Kennedy tried to make the Olympics in the 10,000 in 2004 and later hoped to run a competitive marathon, injuries got in the way and led to his retirement. He eventually did run a marathon in 2014 as a recreational runner, finishing the New York City Marathon in 3:26:17.