Profile on Paul Bliss
How many years have you been running?
I started running track and cross country in ’78 (39 years). I was in 8th grade and our PE teacher made our class run around the entire campus, maybe a mile, because a few 9th graders were misbehaving.
As we finished I found myself in the top five and my ego/confidence soared. I started running on my own in the mornings, a half mile run to the end of the street and back. I had no idea what I was doing but in my mind at the time I thought I was doing something important.
I wore my school clothes on these runs. Track season was just around the corner and I joined the team running the 660 yards on cinder tracks.
Who inspired you to start running?
Even though it was my PE teacher that was the catalyst to start me actually running, it was in the back of my mind that I recalled seeing the made for television movie The Loneliest Runner (’76) by Michael Landon. Landon used to run home from school every day racing to beat the bus because his abusive mom would hang his pee soaked sheets out of his top floor window for the world to see as punishment for wetting his bed.
He went on to be a successful collegiate track star. I thought I remembered he went on to run in the Olympics but I can’t find anything to verify that now.
Why did you join the Lake Run Club?
Runners join running clubs. When I came out to Illinois to house hunt in May ’15 part of my checking out this community was to discover Parkside JHS hosted the IESA State cross country meet, Constitution trail, and meeting Heather and running with Merlin at Green Gables for the Thursday night run.
The Lake Run was that weekend but I left Friday, just missing my first possible local race. Park-2-Park ended up being my first local race just weeks later.
What makes your favorite race your favorite?
New York City Marathon (’87 and ’88) is my favorite marathon experience. The experience was so grand on every level.
The 3 million spectators through all five boroughs was beyond epic. It was such a great experience I came right back the following year to do it all again.
What race really sticks in your mind for one reason or another?
There are so many but Boston ’16 was quite special because I got to share the experience with Andy Williams and Steve Laning in our almost daily training regimen, our travel group of Carol Pratt, Mitch Hobbs, Amber Ferre, Gene Harding, and so many others back home that followed us.
Do you have a favorite route that you run?
I did in Washington State. My daily go to course went along Deschutes river (5 minutes from my house) and park, home of the now closed Olympia/Rainier brewery, down to the Puget Sound where I’d run along the waterfront boardwalk and marina and around Capital Lake.
I’d often see bald eagles, deer, and a wide variety of birds and critters. The run was 6 miles and could easily be made into shorter/longer as desired.
If you could run any race in the world, which would you pick, and why?
Tokyo Marathon. Running is a great excuse to travel.
Do you have a “you’ll never believe what happened on my run today” story?
I did see a bear at close range on a bike trail run in town while I was running with my cross-country kids. I thought it was a dog at first and didn’t think much of it. My lead kid went by the bear before I realized holy smokes there’s a bear between me and my lead runner (50 meters or so)!
The bear took off in the bushes and we kept running as if nothing had happened. It took a while for it to sink in but the adrenaline eventually kicked in and I realized my disbelief.
If Chilly Chili isn’t the most unusual race you’ve ever taken part in, what race is?
When I lived in Guam (’84-’86) they had a race that still runs to this day called The Perimeter Relay, an eight-person team that goes around the entire island (8 x 26 miles) with exchanges about every 200 yards for 60 miles. That’s 7.5 miles and 60 x 200-yard sprinting legs for each runner.
Every exchange ridiculously chaotic as the van must floor it every time to get to the next exchange. Use your imagination to figure out how we took our potty breaks! Priceless. Excruciating leg pain the next few days but we all could hardly wait for the next year’s run.
Which race do you think is the most fun to volunteer at and why?
I used to supervise a water station at mile 10 of the Capital City Marathon and Half in Olympia Washington aka the ’84 women’s Marathon Trials course. My cross-country team got $750 for handing out replenishment for two hours.
I really enjoyed watching the 2,000 runners go by but enjoyed even more watching my kids get excited helping other runners survive their running experience.
What are you training for right now?
My daughter graduates from Oregon in June then I’m taking her to Guam for a week where I served two tours in the Navy for 2 ½ years in ’84-‘86. There is a 5k there we plan to run. When I return Park-2-Park is my next race I’m training for.