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Forty-seven years and counting

Paul Steckart is one of 20 Bellin Run Legends who have run the race every year since it’s inception in 1977. Bellin Health photos

By Tori Wittenbrock

Associate Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – Though thousands gather to compete at the Bellin Run each year, Paul Steckart is one of just 20 people to hold the title of being a ‘Bellin Legend’ who has participated in the run each year since the first run in 1977.

After 47 years, Steckart said that 2024 is no exception.

“The number one benefit is, when I look back through the years — and I think this is true for a lot of individuals —  it really has created accountability for a lot of people because they know the consistency of the Bellin Run,” said Steckart.

“It comes around once a year every June, and for those that want to keep living a relatively healthy lifestyle, they want to be ready for it. It gives them something to keep them on track and keep them focused for the Bellin Run, whether it’s a 5k walk or run or a 10k, it keeps them on their toes.”


Steckart said that he has had a unique perspective on the Bellin Run as being one of the few people to see the impact it has had on the community over the past nearly half-century.

 “Back in ‘77 when they had their first heart warming run, running back then was mostly for freaks — it was not for people that were normal,” said Steckart.

“That was then. The big change through all the years — and Bellin has been a big catalyst for this — is that people become a lot more aware of how to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Steckart said that he has seen first hand the amount of people that have had life changing experiences through participating in the Bellin Run over the years.

“Bellin’s efforts have kind of snowballed and the way I’ve seen it evolve is that there are more people who say, ‘Yeah, I want to live an active lifestyle.’ More importantly, it’s spread out. It’s gone to schools, it’s gone to the Kids for Running program, which is a spin-off of the Bellin Run. It gets kids involved in teamwork and a role setting. Those are all things that nobody even gave a thought to back at the first run in ‘77,” said Steckart.

Individually, Steckart said that the community he has created with the other Bellin Legends has been a big part of what has kept him motivated to continue running.

“For me specifically, I’ve got 19 other Legends that I don’t want to let down. I also don’t want to let myself down. Running is always something that I have enjoyed, and it has to be, otherwise I wouldn’t do it,” said Steckart.

“What the Bellin Run means to me is seeing the same Legends every year and seeing the running community come together as a whole and get together with a lot of other people who have reached a lot of milestones, whether they are cancer beaters or heart attack beaters, they are all coming together at this one scene to really get together once a year for the run.”

Sense of community

According to Steckart, not only participating in the run, but just being there on the big race day to witness some of the amazing stories from around the community can be empowering.

Although Steckart said that over the past 47 years he has had quite a few amazing memories with the Bellin Run, there is one memory in particular that altered his perspective on the running community of Green Bay as a whole.

Steckart said that one of the most rewarding parts of running the Bellin each year is seeing the sense of community that is created in Green Bay.

“One memory that specifically stands out is a couple years ago when all the Legends got together back in 2022 which, I believe, was the second one we ran virtually at a park near Manitowoc or Algoma. We had a 10k course all mapped out. We all ran it and got together after the fact, so it was kind of a nice off-base get together for some of us and just a great way not to forget what the Bellin Run means to all of us,” said Steckart.

Aside from all the changes that Steckart said he has witnessed with the Bellin Run, he said that on a personal level he is able to acknowledge the ways in which falling in love with an active lifestyle has changed his life. 

“One thing is my waistline has stayed the same — that’s the benefit of running. A lot of people ask me how I do it, and I say that it’s like anything else. You have to find something that you really enjoy as a sport or physical activity, and if you enjoy it, you kind of stick with it and it keeps you smiling, it keeps you outdoors and it keeps you up with it,” said Steckart of his enthusiasm for being a runner.

“It’s all about life and applying yourself to a given task. It’s about teamwork. It’s about applying yourself and keeping those around you accountable and in a positive frame of mind,” said Steckart.

The training game

Though the mental aspect of preparing yourself for runs can take you very far, Steckart said that he is dedicated to his craft and that he sticks to his training regimen through thick and thin.

“It’s certainly different today than it was even ten years ago, but generally speaking in the winter I will run ten miles a week indoors. Then up to the Bellin Run I will be running outdoors about 15-20 miles a week, which I’ve been doing since February this year since February is always such a wild month,” explained Steckart.

“Generally, I’ll be logging about 15-20 miles of running a week, along with a mix of biking on the trails around Green Bay, and maybe twice a week just doing longer walks. I don’t run everyday. I run about every other day and then break it up with cross training with walking and biking.”

Even though Steckart said he loves the sense of community he gains from the Bellin Run, when it comes time to race, Steckart said that he prefers to go it alone.

“I’m a solo runner. I’m maybe a little different than people who run with maybe two or three others. I’m usually up early in the morning and enjoying it until shortly after sunrise. I generally don’t like to run later in the day. It’s certainly a lot hotter and I just enjoy getting up and getting out in the morning,” said Steckart.

However, Steckart said that he believes that he would not be where he is today as a Legend runner without witnessing people coming together for themselves and for each other.

“The Bellin Run brings together, not only the running community, but a lot of people who have mastered or won medical battles, whether it be cancer beaters or heart attack victims who have come back from open heart surgery. There are so many runners coming back from obesity issues,” said Steckart.

“It brings all these people together, even if you’re not a runner. If you’re a walker. Having the goal of walking a 5k and being together with other active members of the community, well that’s a big shot in the arm for a lot of people.”

Steckart said that being a part of the Bellin Run is not just a single day’s effort. Being a part of the Bellin Run community can be a year-round experience.

“Bellin has always been, in my opinion, has always been a great instigator of making sure that it is no secret and helping people move towards an active lifestyle. They sponsor the Titletown Wellness Race Series, which involves a seven race series that starts with the Marinette 5k and goes all the way to the Turkey Trot in November. Those who participate in that have the opportunity to win awards and be a part of the dinner together at the end of the season for those people who place first in their age category and that type of thing. Those things never existed before and to have programs out there to keep people active is a great feather in Bellin’s hat,” said Steckart.

In all his years of running the Bellin Run, Steckart said that in his opinion as a seasoned pro, he has some advice for people just starting out on what could be one of the greatest experiences of their life.

“Don’t give up. Don’t go for running the race fast. It’s not about the finish, it’s about the journey. Stick to your training routine and have fun. Don’t kill yourself getting to the finish line, just have fun from the start,” said Steckart.

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