Bruce Tulloh

Barefoot Bruce Loses Final Race

Bruce Tulloh, of City of Portsmouth AC, died at his Marlborough home on Saturday 28 April, aged 82. The European 5000m champion of 1962 lost his final race to cancer and we would like to pay tribute to this athletics legend through the fond memories of runABC South correspondent Alan Newman, who enjoyed Bruce's company on many occasions.

I was priveleged to know Bruce as an athlete, coach and mentor during some of my best years as a runner. I was fortunate to be living in Newbury, Berkshire and starting my own coaching career when I was able to take a small group of promising athletes over to Marlborough for sessions overseen by one of the greatest and most unsung coaches in British athletics.

Bruce was a phenomenal athlete, possessed of an indomitable will and blistering pace that he modestly put down to his penchant for racing barefoot – many years before minimalist shoes had been invented. He once told me he had a simple mantra he would repeat to himself when preparing for major races: "Bruce is going to win today, hip hip hip hooray"! Perhaps he was the forefather of modern sports psychology and positive visualisation?

I recall running intervals on Marlborough College's cinder track with Bruce sprinting diagonally to provide 200m split times. There were also speed sessions on grass and endurance runs on the windy Marlborough Downs. All would be followed by a debrief over home-made cakes and sometimes Bruce's home-brewed wine. The cakes won on points!

Along with hundreds of other ambitious runners I also enjoyed Bruce's understated but inspirational leadership on spring training camps organised by former London Marathon champion, Mike Gratton, in Portugal. Bruce was quietly spoken but had a presence and the experience to hold an audience – perhaps his career in teaching helped to hone those skills.

One favourite but painful memory was the first Sunday Times Fun Run in Hyde Park. Bruce scampered to victory in his age group in his inimitable style. I decided to emulate my guru and felt great running barefoot to finish fourth place in my wave, until the adrenaline gave way to discomfort from a cut foot that took weeks to heal. Some things are best left to the experts!

Bruce Tulloh touched so many athletes' lives through his positive example, his coaching and as the author of many running books, including Four Million Footsteps (1970) that chronicled what was described as the physiological feat of the century when he ran 2,876 miles from LA to New York in less than 65 days in 1969, taking more than four days off the previous record.

Dubbed the 'barefoot biologist' and the 'original Forrest Gump', Bruce broke the British record for six miles (27:23.8) in 1966 and closed his competitive career with 10:19 as an M80 in the Victory Mile in his beloved Pompey 50 years later. Farewell Bruce and thanks for all your help and guidance on behalf of runners of a certain age everywhere.

For a suberbly detailed Bruce Tulloh profile visit Racing Past website here

Previous & Next News