‘Celebrating the movement’
EAGLE COUNTY – Inspiration is easy to come by for Eagle resident Fred Bapp. If the 67-year-old psychiatrist is to accomplish his goal of running a marathon in all 50 states, he’ll need every ounce of inspiration he can get.The undertaking, which will take Bapp nine years to complete, poses obvious physical and logistical challenges. His inspiration comes from all around – the scenery, the breathing, the escape that running provides. But in March of 2002, Bapp, and his family, endured a loss that continues to serve as his greatest inspiration – his wife, Judy, died after a 14-year battle with cancer.”(Running a marathon) prepares you to go through things in life you don’t know if you can endure,” Bapp says. “Metaphorically, Judy endured so much in her fight just to stay alive for the kids and the grandkids.”When the going gets rough for the runner, he thinks of the hardships his wife endured, and finds the strength to pull through. Each time he laces up his shoes, he never feels alone, he says. “She was so supportive of me and my running over the years,” says Bapp, who works at Colorado West Mental Health. “Often, she would meet me at mile 25 and walk the last mile in with me. She was a special spirit, and she is with me on every marathon.”Running has always been a form of therapy for Bapp. It is how he’s taken care of himself psychologically, he says. When Judy died, the therapeutic part of running became even more essential.”It’s hard to be actively grieving and doing long-distance running at the same time,” he says. The idea of running a marathon in every state came up a year-and-a-half after her death, when Bapp was doing a race in Ship Rock, N.M.”I was riding the bus to the start line, and a guy on the bus told me how he was doing a marathon in every state,” Bapp says. The conversation got Bapp thinking.
“I was (single), and was dealing with some issues that might lend itself to going around and doing these marathons,” he says “It also was a good way to go around and see the country.”So, his odyssey began; but that day did not mark the real beginning of Bapp’s running life.First stepsBapp began running at age 34, in 1972, while living in Fort Worth, Texas. His motivation was not age, health or a desire to get in shape.”I was jealous,” says Bapp. “Judy told me that there was a guy in the neighborhood who was up circling the quarter-mile track for an hour. I couldn’t believe it.”So, the aspiring runner went up to the track the next night and ran for 10 minutes. He tore tendons in his right ankle and was laid up for a month. While on his back, the man from the track stopped by with some running magazines for Bapp to read.”That’s how I got interested,” says Bapp. “In November 1972, I took my first serious running steps. Five years later, I ran my first marathon.”The first was the Dallas White Rock Marathon – which he has now done 12 times. Thirty-three years – and 38 marathons – later, the hour run of which he was envious would just be an easy warm-up. Bapp now runs 25 miles a week to stay in shape; his self-described slow pace has helped keep him injury free since the setback when he first began.
After living in Fort Worth for years, Fred and Judy relocated to Eagle in 1983. They had always wanted to live here, and when a job came up at Colorado West, Bapp jumped at it, he says. “I am so happy we moved here,” says Bapp. “I feel like I’m in heaven on earth here.”Running foreverBapp’s fastest marathon was clocked at four hours and 20 minutes. That works out to about 10-minute miles. Now, he runs closer to 15-minute miles, crossing the finish line in between six and seven hours.”At 67, I am not running for speed anymore,” says Bapp, who adds he is often one of the last to cross the finish line. “I have given up the idea of running for speed, and I run mainly as a form of celebrating the movement of it.”There is a point, he says, when the ego of running falls away, and all that’s left is the breathing and the rhythm. “You find a pace you can hold forever, and the endorphins kick in at certain points unpredictably,” says Bapp, who calls the last six miles of a marathon “a real emotional gut check.”But it’s the meditative, soothing side of the sport that has kept Bapp hooked over the years. He loves to train on the path in Glenwood Canyon, and calls it “an absolutely wonderful place to run.”He is also a fixture on the roads in his Bull Pasture neighborhood and Upper Kaibab, says daughter Robyn. “I always hear from people up there, ‘I saw your dad out running again,'” says Robyn, who is the children’s librarian at the Eagle Library. “I think people really admire his determination.”
The therapy of running is a family affair for the Bapps. They are all runners. Earlier this year, Bapp completed a race in Phoenix, Ariz., called the Rock-and-Roll marathon with his daughter. His son, Kevin, is an artist in New York City and runs in Central Park. Robyn and Amy are doing a half-marathon together in September. “I will be there to greet them at the finish,” Bapp says. “It will be payback for all the times they were there for me.”Robyn says she, her dad, her brother and her sister have all used running as away to ease the pain of the loss of their mother.”She was quite the grandma, and losing her was tough,” says Robyn, whose children, Jasmine and Zack, were Judy’s only two grandchildren. “It’s hard to describe what she meant to us.”This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.Vail, Colorado
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