The 32-year-old captured his fifth Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series victory on Sunday night.
LAS VEGAS — Somehow, someway, a man must support his family. For 32-year-old Ben Bruce, that means hitting the road. Bruce and his wife, Stephanie, both professional long-distance runners, celebrated the birth of their first child on June 14.
With Stephanie physically recovering, Ben has been the sole bread winner.
To feed the family, Ben took part in five Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons this year. He had never run a marathon before lining up at New Orleans in February.
He batted 5-for-5, winning them all. Number five came Sunday night, with Bruce winning the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 22 seconds.
Bartosz Olszewski of Poland placed second in 2:30:31.
Moments after crossing the finish line, posing for pictures with his son, Riley, Bruce broke down, tears welling in his eyes, his voice choked up.
“A marathon makes you very, very emotional,” said Bruce, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. “It pushes your body beyond where you’re supposed to go. Then, there’s nothing like becoming a father. To share this with my son, it’s beyond words.”
Cathy Cullen of Winnipeg, Canada, won the women’s race in 2:56:57. Cullen’s victory came wrapped with a family theme, too. Her win came 11 months after giving birth to her second child.
In the event’s half marathon, Jeff Eggleston of Boulder, Colo., pulled away from training partner Andy Wacker to win in 1:03:24. Wacker finished second in 1:03:49.
Lindsey Scherf of Chapel Hill, N.C., captured the women’s half in 1:14:15. Ukraine’s Anna Nosenko took second in 1:14:45.
Combined, the two races attracted nearly 35,000 entrants. Starting at 4:30 p.m. in 52-degree weather, the runners toured arguably America’s most famous street, Las Vegas Boulevard, a.k.a. the Strip.
Past New York-New York, Paris, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Treasure Island and Palazzo the runners ran, the nightfall illuminated by the casino marquees.
“It was spectacular,” said Scherf. “I was excited to run a night race. There’s no better place to run at night than Las Vegas. You’ve got all the night life and all the people lining the street. It was awesome.”
Bruce’s four other Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon wins came in New Orleans, San Diego, Montreal and St. Louis. Vegas marked his third marathon in 50 days. At the half marathon, Bruce trailed Olszewski by about 10 seconds.
By Mile 15, the American had pulled even.
“Then he took a hard turn into the bushes,” said Bruce. “I think he had a digestive issue.”
A bad Vegas buffet?
“I felt bad for him,” Bruce said.
Regarding pulling off the 5-for-5 feat, Bruce said, “Maybe it was a little bit of stupidity. It is a nice accomplishment, but I’m glad it’s over.”
In the women’s marathon, Cullen caught up to the early leader, Anna Nosenko of Ukraine, by Mile 9 and was never threatened the rest of the way.
“I just pulled away,” said Cullen. “Luckily, I didn’t see her again.”
Cullen never glanced over her shoulder to see if someone was gaining ground.
“Never look back,” she said. “That’s a sign of weakness.”
Nosenko placed second in 3:05:57.
Las Vegas has produced some decent two-person acts over the years – Siegfried and Roy, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Sonny and Cher. Eggelston and Wacker are the latest duo to hit the Strip.
They’re self-coached and have been training together in Boulder, Colo., since July.
Eggleston set his marathon PR earlier this year in Australia (2:10:52), then finished eighth in Boston. In Vegas, he and Wacker took turns sharing the lead for 10 miles. Then Eggleston downshifted and Wacker couldn’t respond.
“The atmosphere here is electric,” said Eggleston. “It’s unlike any race I’ve been a part of. You’re running under the lights, which is really cool. There’s just so much energy and you feed off that.”
Scherf, who led from Mile 2, earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard. She received her master’s from Michigan in kinesiology. Her victory in the half solidified her lead in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Grand Prix, a year-long series worth a $15,000 bonus.
Asked how she’d spend the money, Scherf said, “Lots of student loans. It’ll only put a dent into those student loans.”