Glenn Ruiz isn’t your average 73-year-old half marathon runner.
After suffering through an extensive seven-way bypass heart surgery in 2014, the Louisiana native continued running with his youngest daughter, Cynthia Yu.
“I didn’t start half marathons until I was 65, believe it or not,” he said. “My youngest daughter is an enthusiastic runner, and she is the one who encouraged me.”
Glenn said that Cynthia has inspired him to keep exercising.
“She encourages me and inspires me to do it,” Glenn said. “She wants me to run a marathon, but I’m not quite ready for it.”
Exercising has more than one benefit for Glenn.
“I want to keep myself in shape so that I can be with my grandson,” Glenn said. “I want to be able to take him kayaking on the Okatoma Creek.”
Glenn said he has continued to work, but he is just taking one step at a time.
March 21 was just another exciting race day, and Glenn was ready to begin the 2015 Bring It to the Bay Half Marathon in Bay St. Louis, his fourth half marathon of the year.
“We all started, and within a mile you’ll reach the bridge,” he said. “That’s a challenge in itself, but starting off it wasn’t so bad.”
As the race continued, the temperatures continued to rise. Glenn said he reached for sunscreen to keep from burning.
The lotion was in a plastic bag, and with the wind blowing, Glenn dropped it and the bag blew into the roadway.
“That’s where I made my mistake,” he said. “I tried to pick up the bag at the same pace I was going, and I lost my balance.”
Glenn fell onto the pavement, scrapping his arms, legs and face.
“I went down, and I broke the fall with my hands and my elbow, but my head scraped the street,” he said.
Blood was pouring down the left side of Glenn’s face and dripping into his eye.
Glenn said, “I could have left it there, the bag, but I can’t stand littering.”
He stopped a race volunteer and asked for a second opinion. The man was able to put a bandage on the scrap, and Glenn took off to finish the race.
“When I went down, and got up, I was determined to finish the race as well as I could,” he said. “I thought they might make me stop, and I was totally determined to finish the race.”
Shortly after, medical personnel noticed the blood on Glenn, and persuaded him to let them check his wounds.
“One of them wanted to see how hurt I was, and he tried to make me guess how many fingers he was holding up,” Glenn said. “I read writing on his shirt to prove there wasn’t anything wrong. It was just a matter of continuing the race.”
Glenn reached the ten mile marker, and continued to cross back over the Bay St. Louis Bridge.
“Getting back over the bridge was an absolute killer,” he said. “You feel like quitting, but I just wanted to continue.”
Glenn paced, step after step, working to finish the last few miles of the race.
Nate Smith, a co-founder of the Mississippi Mud Pirates running group, was celebrating his race completion at the finish line with fellow runners.
Smith said he was talking to a race volunteer while he was waiting on other members to finish.
“She told us about an older man who had fallen, and about his eye,” Smith said. “And then she told us he wasn’t stopping.”
Smith said he was stunned.
“She said, ‘We can’t forcefully make him stop. What are we going to do?’ and all I could think was how awesome it was that he kept going,” Smith said.
After several minutes the volunteer was able to contact others on the course and find out where Glenn was.
“When we finally tracked him down, he had just crossed the last checkpoint,” Smith said.
The band of MS Mud Pirates started walking the course backwards to meet up with Glenn.
“When we got there he was still bleeding, and the bandage kept falling off of his eye,” Smith said. “We just kept encouraging him and walking with him.”
The group walked with Glenn all the way to the finish line.
“He kept a stopwatch around his neck to see the time,” Smith said. The race had a four hour time limit, and Glenn was determined to finish before the clock ran out.
Glenn said, “When I got to the finish line I had a whole crowd cheering me on. I was the last one to finish, but I did it within the allotted time.”
The reaction from spectators and runners was overwhelming.
“It was really a great experience,” Glenn said. “I was surprised when people came up to me and did all of that; it made me feel like I was appreciated.”
Crowds of people congratulated him on his success, offering words of praise and admiration.
“Some people said I was an inspiration, and I’m no hero or anything like that,” Glenn said. “I was just trying to do my best.”