The power of genetics has always fascinated me, particularly when it involves athletic passion and ability. In the case of Harry Bruell, it is clear that his love of ultrarunning was passed on to his 14-year-old son, Leo.
A competitive ultrarunner since 1996, Harry has competed in dozens of races and continues to enjoy running long distances although, as president and CEO of Southwest Conservation Corps, his work schedule limits his training for the longer events.
Leo’s love of distance running began to surface in middle school.
“I began running as training for Nordic skiing,” said Leo. “I was on the middle school cross country team and discovered I really liked running.”
By the next fall, Leo was running longer distances.
“It was a gradual process,” he said. “I started running longer on weekends with Dad and discovered I liked it.”
Harry takes no credit for Leo’s ultrarunning passion.
“It is all Leo-driven,” said Harry. “I am not pushing him at all, which is really important.”
The duo does most of their running near their home in Overend Mountain Park. Neither Harry nor Leo track their mileage; they simply go out and run for two to four hours when they can.
Leo ran his first 50-kilometer race at the 2012 Durango Double. He and Harry ran together that year when Leo was only 13.
“It was hard,” Leo said. “I did OK, but at the end, I was pretty wasted.”
This year, they ran the Jemez 50K in New Mexico.
“Jemez was harder,” said Leo. “Even though I was in better shape, it was a lot of climbing, I could pace myself better and I felt better at the end.”
As a father, Harry clearly appreciates their shared interest.
“It’s fun for me. I’ve done over 40 ultradistance races and had never run with anyone,” Harry said. “Just think of it: Spending seven or eight hours outside in the woods running with your son. ... It’s hard to beat that.”
Both father and son recognize the importance of not overdoing it at this point in Leo’s running life.
“Being young, he needs long rest periods after racing and does no more than two ultras per year,” Harry said. “We’re also not doing more than 50K distance for a while.”
Another interesting piece said Harry is that Leo’s body appears to be built for long-distance running.
“He’s sort of like a diesel. He takes a long time to warm up, and then he just goes and goes,” Harry said. “At Jemez, we were near the back for the first five miles as we climbed to the top of the ski hill. From there back into town, we passed enough people to place in the middle.”
Leo plans to do the Durango Double 50K again this year if it works with his cross country schedule. He definitely is interested in doing longer races when he’s older.
The culture of ultrarunning has a strong appeal for Leo.
“It’s not as competitive. It doesn’t matter as much what your time is,” he said. “It’s more about finishing. It’s about the accomplishment, completing the distance.”
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com.