The retired NFL wide receiver set to make his marathon debut in St. Louis on Sunday.
Retired NFL wide receiver Isaac Bruce has never been one to walk away from a challenge. After all, Bruce, who proudly wears a Super Bowl ring from his days playing for the St. Louis Rams, amassed a mind-blowing 15,000 receiving yards during his impressive 15-year career.
But even though the 40-year-old former football star no longer plays the sport he loves, it doesn’t mean he’s finished running those long yards. This weekend, Bruce will take on 46,112 of them at the Quinn Family Foundation Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon & Half Marathon To Benefit Team Activities for Special Kids (TASK) on Sunday.
Bruce, who is used to running half a football field one lighting-quick play at a time, has been logging long, slow, steady runs in training — up to 20 miles — and believes the work ethic he developed as a professional football player has helped him on the roads. “The discipline that it takes to play in the NFL carries over, without a doubt,” he says. “But it’s not just in the marathon — it’s in life.”
Bruce says his strong religious faith has been instrumental in his preparation — he’s been listening to the Bible during his long runs — and even though he’s well prepared to run the marathon, he will be leaning on God for help, especially during the tough miles. “The days that I’m listening to the Bible, I can run further and run longer,” he contends. “I run in the strength of the Lord and not my own strength. In my own might I couldn’t run this thing. I’m putting the onus on the one who can handle the onus.”
Despite the long road ahead of him in training, Bruce says he likes to approach mileage the way he approached grueling team practices in the heat. “I never look at the miles in front me,” he admits. “I try not to think of it — the [same] way I didn’t think about how many plays we had to do in practice. I just go and do it. It’s not a sprint at all.”
One thing the star wide receiver finds himself having to do is keep his competitive nature in check when training. “When I’m out running and someone blows by me, I kind of want to kick it up,” he admits with a chuckle. “I have to hold myself back. I need to run a smart race and not one where I’m trying to win it.”
Regardless of his finishing time on Sunday, Bruce will be achieving a victory of sorts. He is running on behalf of TASK (Team Activities for Special Kids), a grassroots, non-profit St. Louis organization that provides safe, accessible activities for children with special needs. TASK is the chosen charity of the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon and is supported in part by the Quinn Family Foundation. Founder Jeff Quinn got involved with TASK when his daughter, Grace, become one of its athletes and he got to witness firsthand the value that TASK brings to kids and families.
“I think TASK is really special,” Bruce says. “I was excited when I found out about how TASK and the Quinn Foundation started building makeshift basketball courts, and makeshift playing fields for special-needs kids. These are children who have physical difficulties, but at the same time, their mental capacity is right up to date. They follow baseball, they follow football and TASK goes out and gives them the opportunity to go out and do something that they see their heroes doing.”
Come race day, Bruce says he’s going to treat the marathon like a football game. He’s got a game plan, and that entails running at a “jog back to the huddle” pace. But Bruce isn’t ruling out picking it up along the course. After all, he’s a born competitor with a Super Bowl ring to prove it. “I believe everything I do, I finish strong,” he says. “The finish will definitely be faster than the start.”