Every year since he was a baby 21 years ago, Derek Reiser has watched Grandpa Ken Purucker run the Long Beach Marathon.
But this year the roles were reversed. Grandpa Ken, 85, stood on the sidelines on Sunday, October 9, watching his grandson cross the finish line and complete his first Long Beach Marathon in about 3 hours and 50 minutes.
“He did it!” Grandpa Ken called. “He did it! Fantastic!”
He gave his grandson a big hug.
As a member of the Long Beach Marathon Legacy Runners, Purucker has become a local legend in running circles. These are runners who have competed in each of the Long Beach marathons or half marathons since the race began in 1982. Grandfather Ken, a retired Long Beach dentist who now resides at Leisure World in Seal Beach, continued his winning streak this year by completing a virtual 13.1 mile run in his neighborhood.
On Sunday, grandfather Ken recalled stopping near mile 20 of the Long Beach Marathon 21 years ago and seeing his then two-month-old grandson Derek in a stroller.
“I leaned down and hugged him,” Purucker recalled. “Today I’m just so proud of him.”
In a post-race interview, Reiser told Long Beach Marathon publicist Dan Cruz that grandfather Ken was his inspiration for running.
“My grandfather made me want to follow in his footsteps,” said Reiser. “I was always so impressed and looked up to him every year for his consistency and dedication. I’m really proud to have him to look up to.”
Reiser, who said he was “very tired” after his first marathon, ran track and cross country in high school. He is now a junior at Cal Baptist University in Riverside. He runs 5 to 8 miles a day, five days a week.
When Reiser crossed the finish line, he became the third generation of the Purucker family to complete the Long Beach Marathon. Grandpa Ken’s son Alan also completed the race in the 1980s.
But that moment may have had special meaning, as the elder Purucker said his grandson would “sort of take my place and carry the torch.”
Purucker, who said he’s run 64 or 65 marathons, including two in Boston, said he has many stories to tell.
He particularly enjoys telling one about his brother David, who ran the marathon just six weeks after undergoing triple bypass surgery. As his brother crossed the finish line, Purucker took him to the medical tent to make sure he was okay.
One volunteer didn’t believe his brother had recently had bypass surgery until she saw his scar. David Purucker did not compete that year.
But Grandpa Ken, a Wilson High School graduate and student at Long Beach City College, said he was inspired to run after his father died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Purucker said he felt he had to run “to keep my heart healthy.”
Purucker, meanwhile, wasn’t the only Legacy runner in Sunday’s 38th Long Beach Marathon.
Other Legacy runners also participating on Sunday were: Jim Warnemuende, a former communications teacher and dean at LBCC who now resides in Sacramento; John Sumpter, a golf coach at Poly High School; and George Wallims, a sailing instructor based in Huntington Beach.
They all said they were tired but happy to have finished the race.
“I’m just glad I’m done. The pain comes and goes,” Sumpter said.
“Anyone who runs a marathon is a winner,” added Warnemünde, “no matter where they finish.”
“Completing means winning.”
Legacy runners Calvin Lau, Ken Williams, Michael Benov, Wayne Fong, Tom “Frosty” Frost and Lorenzo Herrera also competed in the marathon.
“You’re an inspiration to so many people,” race director Natalia Mendez said of the Legacy Runners. “What they have achieved despite advancing age and health problems is amazing. They really are the backbone of the race and the community.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/09/rich-archbold-grandson-turns-tables-on-grandpa-at-long-beach-marathon/ Grandson turns the tables on Grandpa at the Long Beach Marathon – Orange County Register