The difference between dreaming the dream and living the dream is doing the dream. Such is the story behind veteran distance runner and Dog Island Run champion Rudy Gahler, MD, of Anacortes, now age 85 and going strong. Gahler has entered the Guemes Is- land 10K (6.2-mile) Dog Island Run nine times since 2004, and will register to run again on June 1. He finished the race last year in 64 minutes and 25 seconds, finishing before 26 other runners aged 8 to 73, including six runners in their 20s. He beat his 2011 performance by 3 minutes and 29 seconds.
Born, raised, and educated in Switzerland, Gahler studied medicine at the University of Zurich. He practiced medicine while serving in the Swiss Army, a program similar to the U.S. National Guard. He came to the U.S. as a medical intern, which landed him in Hart- ford, Connecticut, and then at the university hospital in Salt Lake City as a surgical resi- dent. There he met his future bride, Dolores, who was a nursing student. Rudy finally settled with Dolores in the town of St. John, Washington, 26 miles from the nearest hospital in Colfax. Rudy worked as a traditional country doctor from a well-equipped office, making house calls to distant farms and per- forming surgery in Colfax. While working in St. John, Rudy found himself running a short distance to his office to handle an emergency, only to arrive out of breath.
Alarmed by the way he felt, he realized certain decisions needed to be made. He stopped smoking and took on a regular routine focused on health and exercise. At 49, after hearing about the first Bloomsday Run in Spokane in 1977, he began running a mile several times a week at the local high-school track. He ran the 12K (7.4-mile) Bloomsday race the next year and eventually began running an average of 30 miles a week.
He was the only adult who ran at that time in St. John. Rudy never looked back.