Surely You Don’t Mean Me?
David Yon, January 25, 2013
Bob Keller walked out on the deck of the Premier Fitness Center pool at 6:00 a.m. one recent Monday. One at a time, those around him stopped their workout and started applauding. Just like at the GWTC Awards Ceremony the previous Saturday, Bob first seemed oblivious, then suspicious, then stunned, and finally overwhelmed as he recognized they were clapping for him, the winner of a very special award.
That special Saturday night Bob was straining to hear Robin Safley describe the 2012 inductee into the GWTC Hall of Fame. (It is a tradition at this ceremony to describe the award winner’s achievements while keeping the audience in suspense by holding the name as long as possible.) Bob and Stacia, his wife of 54 years, had tried to play the guessing game as they drove to the awards ceremony. Never once did it cross either of their minds it might be Bob’s year. Not even when his good friend and training partner, Robin, got up to present the award. But then she started talking about this 79-year-old man, who got knocked off his bike by a car, picked himself and his newly warped bike up, and proclaimed, despite the blood and bruises: “I am fine, I don’t need a ride.” Bob and Stacia looked at each other knowing that there was only one crazy old guy that story could be about. Oblivious became suspicious, then surprise, then stunned silence and finally became overwhelmed, as Bob Keller was announced as the 2012 inductee to the GWTC Hall of Fame.
Bob has completed 615 running competitions and 287 multi-sports events (bike-run and swim-bike-run) and despite winning hundreds of awards, he never really thought of himself as anybody special. He is closing in on 1000 competitions, territory that only Margarete Deckert has occupied. But he is one of those very special members of GWTC you can easily overlook. Always gracious and ready to help, he is a talented competitor and a terrific role model. Robin summed it up beautifully in her presentation when she said – “If God had given me a choice, I would have picked you as my Dad.”
Some of his most fun competitions have involved the World Duathlon Championships. To reach the Worlds, Bob must first qualify for the US Team. He has done that a remarkable number of times. He has competed in Edinburgh (Scotland), Honolulu, Geel (Belgium), Affoltern (Switzerland), Hobart (Tasmania), Ferrara (Italy), Guernica (Spain), St. Wendel (Germany), Huntersville (North Carolina), Calais (France), Venray (Holland), Weyer (Austria) and Alpharetta (Georgia). He has finished as high as 2nd and been in the top 10 in his age group many other times.
A little over 3 years ago, he decided Tallahassee should play a major role in the Senior Games. There are plenty of track and running events in the games, but also archery, cycling, golf, horseshoes and more. He has knocked on doors and found plenty of interested people. He has worked with the City Parks and Recreation Department and together they have made it happen and grow. This year’s version is coming up March 9-18.
He has plowed through knee surgery as if he were in his 40’s instead of the last year of his 70’s. He now swims 3 miles a week, bikes 50-75 miles and runs 15-20 miles. Even more impressive he gets Dr. Joe Camps and Commissioner Bryan Desloge out of bed at 5:00 a.m. at least 3 days a week to run. He has been a fierce GWTC Grand Prix competitor winning his age group maybe 80% of the times he has competed since the early 80’s.
Most of all, Bob embraces life and provides a great example for all of us to follow. We should all be thankful the awards committee recognized that.