By Eric Barton
Back in high school, Robert Runcie had a biology teacher who used to talk about everyone’s “bucket of beats.” The idea was simple: the human heart has a certain number of beats before it quits. The good news is that there’s a way to make it last longer.
“My teacher would say you can extend your life, and it’s real simple,” Runcie recalls. “When you exercise, your heart rate goes down, so you use less of your beats.”
Runcie, now the superintendent of Broward County schools, took the lesson seriously. He was already playing basketball, but, in between seasons, he started running cross country to keep his heart rate down all year.
Running is still part of Runcie’s regular routine, his way to conserve those limited beats. This year, at age 54, he’s even taken on a new challenge. On Thanksgiving Day he’ll serve as grand marshal of the Turkey Trot & Paddle.
Runcie will lead about 3,200 runners in the annual race, which benefits the management training organization Leadership Broward and childhood obesity fighter iTrace. The Turkey Trot is in its fifth year now and has tripled in size, says Laurie Menekou, who’s on a committee helping to organize the event.
“We wanted to find a grand marshal who could lead by example, and that’s exactly what Superintendent Runcie does,” says Menekou, owner of Conceptual Communications. “He’s literally out there exercising with his students and showing that you can do this important job and also have a commitment to fitness.”
After high school, Runcie went for daily runs with his roommate that usually ended with the two of them sprinting to the finish. “It really helps having a running buddy to keep you motivated,” Runcie says. These days, Runcie’s back-to-back schedule limits him to three or four days a week of cardio.
“It helps relieve stress, it helps you think better, and it just helps you feel better,” Runcie says. “If I go a week without it, I start climbing the walls.”
With all the talk of childhood obesity and children skipping exercise, Runcie hopes he can be something of an inspiration. Two years ago, he ran in the school district’s cross country 5K finals.
“Our kids need to increase their activity, and they need to see adults in the community doing that,” Runcie says. “To be at your best, you need to be healthy.”
And getting healthy means slowing that heart rate, which just might save a few beats for when you need it.
IF YOU GO
Turkey Trot & Paddle, Nov. 26, 954-767-8866, turkeytrotftl.com. The Turkey Trot & Paddle begins at 7:30 a.m. on A1A, a block south of Las Olas Boulevard. Online registration ends Nov. 22 and costs $5-$35.