25 Apr

It’s been a while since I posted and here we are at the end of ocean swimming for another year.  I did the Cole (not great for us geriatric lassies) and the North Bondi Classic (awesome) but since then, I’ve been on the run.

Well not quite.  Annie, Can Too founder, asked me to speak to the Inner West half marathon group.  So I have been learning all about bandits, rabbits, lollipop loops and bonking.  Yes, bonking.  Apparently not simply a pseudonym for ‘rooting’ but suddenly feeling the effort – associated with the depletion of glycogen.  I have got into the habit of looking behind Sarah in our office for a tribe of Tarahumara Indians and debating barefoot versus shod running with her in between quoting Forest Gump (yes, she is signed up for the half with Can Too).  I am in awe of those runners.  Good luck in 3 weeks!

Come Anzac Day, Gill suggested we went down to swim with the Bold and the Beautiful again.  They had arranged a trumpeter and someone called Bruce to say the Ode.  Gill thought it was ‘our’ Bruce that we met ‘Straya Day 2011.

The water was fresh but calm and clear and the group were great.  We invited our novice swimming friend James who did really well and kept our minds off the jimbles.  Beautiful ceremony – thanks for having us.  But no Bruce Paterson as we now know ‘our’ Bruce is called.

In fact, we’ve found out a bit more about Bruce since we first met him.  Mostly courtesy of Manly Daily archives – so thanks for that Manly Daily and to Simon Dean for the photo.

The BNB swimmers know Bruce well but we don’t, we’ve only met him twice but we nonetheless wanted to share what we have learned about  this remarkable man.

Manly Daily’s Bryn Kay says – ‘Bruce Paterson is to locals what Manly Beach is to tourists – inspirational and iconic’.  Known locally as ‘the man in the wetsuit’, this man is a legend and inspiration to many including Gill and me.

In August 2008, Bruce Paterson was told that he had advanced prostate cancer.  The diagnosis was bad.  The cancer had escaped, was very aggressive and at 79 Bruce was 10 years past the cut-off point of eligibility for an operation to remove his prostate.  Or so, the surgeon thought until he realised what sort of man Bruce is.

During his Manly school days, Bruce said he was hopeless at any team sport and regarded by his peers as a sissy.  At 18, he joined a gym and came to love exercise.  So much so that he got into it, big time.  He cycled across the Nullabor, ran up Mount Kosciusko, and aged 57 was competing in the six foot track ultra marathon where he came 31st in a time of 5 and ¾ hours.

The surgeon concluded that Bruce was at least 10 years younger than his chronological age and did the op anyway.  After treatment including chemotherapy, Bruce set about getting stronger and better.

So inspired by him was Andrew Lye of Dripping Wet Surf Company that he decided to unofficially sponsor him as a role model for the community.  Wearing his sponsor’s wetsuit only, he would rise at 5am every morning and cycle down to South Steyne for a swim to Shelley Beach and back with the Bold and the Beautiful.  In 2009, he was one of the founding group of the swimmers.  Then a short run along the beach before a home-made coffee on a bench at North Steyne and a 5km cycle back home.

In 2011, he took a surfing lesson and was standing up within 30 minutes.

Not long after we met him, in April 2011, a routine test revealed more cancer.  According to the Manly Daily, Bruce was asked to get himself down the road urgently for an x-ray  –

“He asked me if I could get to Dee Why on my bike in 15 minutes (before the clinic closed),” Mr Paterson said.

“I said fair go, I’m 82 years old … how about giving me 17 minutes?”

As we were headed back to the car on Anzac Day, we saw Bruce after all.  He said he wasn’t well enough to cycle down to Manly at the moment and the first bus isn’t until 6.30am so he misses out on swimming with the BNB.  We asked Bruce if he might come down in November and swim with the Manly Can Tooers.  It would be such an honour to have him along.  In the meantime, he takes my Anzac biscuit.  Keep up the fight Bruce.

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