Firecracker Run

Dominic Ruffalo, of Kenosha, takes part in the 40th annual Firecracker 10K run on July 2, 2017.

For lifelong Kenosha resident Dominic Ruffalo, the decision to start running marathons started out simple enough.

At the time, it was a lifestyle change that had the 16th District alderman turning to a healthy fitness regimen.

And 199 marathons later — actually, 200 on Saturday — the 68-year-old Ruffalo continues to hit the pavement and rack up the miles several times a year.

Saturday’s Wisconsin Marathon, half marathon and 5K in Kenosha is a milestone event on a number of fronts, Ruffalo said.

It’ll be his 200th marathon, but it means more than that.

“Being an alderman in the 16th District makes this Wisconsin marathon in my hometown very special,” Ruffalo said. “I have my son, Andy, (running) with me, (and that) is the best a father can ask for.”

Lifestyle improvement

Ruffalo started running marathons in 1988 when he decided to try to get in better physical shape, which included ridding himself of both drinking and smoking.

“I had a bad lifestyle,” he said. “First, I quit drinking. Then I had to make a decision. I started running, and I was still smoking. That wasn’t working out very well. I’ve been running ever since. ... I enjoyed running so much, and I just kept it up. I lost a few pounds. You start feeling good about yourself. I wanted to be a good influence on my children.”

The love of running just grew from there.

“I love the mental and physical challenges of running marathons,” he said. “I always register for another marathon so I (have) something (to prepare) for.”

More than 59,000 miles

Ruffalo estimated that he has run more than 59,000 miles in his lifetime — or more than twice around the world.

“I’m hoping to make it three times around before I have to give it up,” he said.

He is a member of the Kenosha Running Club, and that group has a few tricks up its sleeve to celebrate Saturday’s race, including the presentation of the number 200 last month for the bib Ruffalo will wear.

KRC President Dave Dusenberry said it was Ruffalo who helped push him into continuing with his running regimen.

“I ran my first marathon in 2012 (in Chicago) because of Dom,” Dusenberry said. “We did our long runs together, and his commitment to running and his company on those long training runs is what inspired me. Plus, his knowledge of Kenosha was amazing, and he told me stories about everything along our routes.”

Those stories and his enjoyment of life around him draws people to Ruffalo, said Ashleigh Henrichs, another KRC member.

“Dom is absolutely all about the journey of life, not the destination,” she said. “Running is part of his journey, a big part of who he is, and he regales those of us lucky enough to share some of his miles with stories, inspiration and encouragement.

“I’m incredibly proud of him and lucky to know him.”

Getting to the number 200 before his 70th birthday was a goal, Ruffalo said. Another KRC member, Larissa Arellano, challenged him last year to get on a marathon pace that would get him to the 200 target on Saturday.

He ran 17 marathons in 2018.

And while many of the expected 2,600 runners competing Saturday will be gauging their success by the time on their watch, that has never been Ruffalo’s motivation.

It’s all about knocking another one off the list to get to this particular milestone.

“I’ve never been a real fast runner,” he said. “I’m steady. I can go for a long time. This marathon, I’m looking at (taking) about six hours on Saturday. I don’t care any more about my time. I just enjoy it.

“If I wouldn’t sign up for anything, I might get lazy. And as you get older, it’s easy to get out of shape. I just keep it going.”

And there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping him.