Bob Callori was never an athlete in high school or college. He stands at about 5 feet 7 inches with short, salt and pepper hair. His eyes are the color of toffee, and reflect his hunger for life and adventure. His skin is bronzed from daily exposure to the California sun, and after a full life and career in architecture, he became a competitive runner at the age of 59.
After graduating from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1969, Bob moved to San Francisco to pursue his career. After years of working and mastering CAD, Bob decided to add something different to his resume—competitive runner. Once again, he started from scratch and enlisted the help of two organizations that are now a huge part of his semi-retired life. As he recalls, he needed someone to teach him how to run.
Bob is an expert in computer-assisted design, (CAD) having written eight books on the subject and lecturing at UC Berkeley. Bob traveled all over the world as the corporate CAD manager for Interior Architects—an international interior design firm—customizing software and training others in contractual documents.
He was laid off after four years with Interior Architects, and decided to spend his time becoming a runner. He was a beginner. An amateur. But he was determined. He practiced and trained with help from other members of the San Francisco Frontrunners (SFFR) and San Francisco Track and Field (SFTF) clubs. After six to seven months of training, Bob participated in the 100- and 200-meter sprints in the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney.
“I finished almost last,” Bob recalls. “As soon as I returned home, I was on the track with new goals and renewed enthusiasm.” At least now, he knew what to expect, and he had four years before the next event. This time around, a few months of training and light jogs weren’t going to cut it. For four years, four days a week, Bob prepared for the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. Bob trained with SFTF on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. This club stretches, runs drills and completes interval training, bends and leg activities to break down the running style into multiple segments. He also ran three miles on Saturdays with SFFR. Bob also took up yoga, another activity he never practiced before the age of 59.
As if he had time for a social life, during the four years of training, Bob met his partner Chris Goodwin at the Men’s Social Club. Bob convinced Chris that he would also be interested in two other clubs and together, they trained daily for the event.
During the Gay Games in July 2006, Chicago was hot and thunderstorms caused the cancellation of many events. Despite the weather and bad track conditions, Bob was ready. He entered in the 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter dashes; the 4×100-meter and 4×800-meter relays and; the shot put event. “I was prepared for the challenge, and I had confidence that kept me winning.” In the end, Bob took home eight medals, a gold in shot put and one for each dash and relay in which he participated. Chris—not too far behind—won five silver medals in the dashes and relays. “Bob and I support each other as best we can at these events,” Chris says. “We are always jubilant for one another at the finish of each event.”
After succeeding in so many events in 2006, he was still yearning for the gold in the sprint and relay events. He went back to his training routine with persistence, only leaving time to rest on Fridays. With diet and exercise, both Bob and Chris felt well prepared for the next event. And in the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, Bob did exactly what he set out to do the very day he joined the two San Francisco running clubs.
In Cologne, the two San Francisco clubs could not be overlooked. Combined, there were 50 individuals representing their city, and they were often referred to as the “U.S. Boys” by the events’ announcers. Because San Francisco was the first city to host the Gay Games, the two clubs led the parade before the start of the events. The Vice Chancellor of Germany, Guido Westerwelle and his long-time partner, Michael Mronz, greeted the U.S. Boys, increasing their enthusiasm with light jokes and well wishes. “This was the best track event we’ve ever had,” Chris recalls. “First we competed against George Takai from Star Trek in Chicago. Then in Cologne, we meet and shake the hand of the Vice Chancellor of Germany. It was an unforgettable experience.”
Both San Francisco running clubs met for breakfast every morning in the Cologne Marriott to discuss track events and to arrange their relay teams. During the events, the weather was overcast, leaving many of the participants to run during light drizzles. Still, the atmosphere was like no other track Chris and Bob ever experienced. Chris describes the venue as superb and the stadium didn’t have an empty seat throughout the weekend.
When it was time for his events, Bob stepped on the track and waved to his teammates before taking his position in lane six beside his competitors. “We were at the start line for the short events,” Chris says, “and we are there for each other at the start and finish usually with camera in hand.” With gay celebrity athletes such as retired NBA player John Amaechi and retired NFL star Dave Kopay supporting participants from the sidelines, the pressure was on.
Chris describes Bob’s track and field persona as the “cool dude.” He wasn’t nervous. He wasn’t anxious. Chris says the only thing that makes either of them nervous about the events is the trips’ affordability. Once the financials are worked out, they’re ready for anything.
By the end of the awards ceremony, Bob and his fellow U.S. Boys took home more medals than their necks could carry. After participating in four sprints and three relays, Bob won the gold in each event in his age group, adding a silver medal in shot put to top it off. Chris took home two silver medals, a bronze and a gold medal for the 4×200 relay in his age group. “At home, we have a wall that holds our medals,” Chris says proudly. “Over two-thirds of that wall is Bob’s medals.”
The celebration over their 2010 success has died down, but Bob and Chris are still active each day. Run with club members on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. His beloved Yoga—which he refused to miss to be interviewed for this article—on Mondays and Wednesday. Rest and relaxation on Fridays. “At my age, I have to stay busy,” Bob says.
Bob turned 69 on Feb. 9, 2011, and he’s still preparing for more competitive running. Since the conclusion of the 2010 Gay Games, he and Chris have been planning to attend and participate in the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, which Chris says will be like a homecoming for his partner of seven years. “When it comes to the games, for Bob and me, it is not a question of if we’re going,” Chris says. “It is a question of where the games are being held and how will we budget for them.”
Bob’s participation in the Gay Games these past few years was for the experience and to prove at his age, he still could do it. In the meantime, he fell in love with his partner Chris and with running. Though he still takes on the occasional AutoCAD programming as well as various architectural projects, Bob is still athletically active. “As the oldest member of the SF Track and Field Club, sharing the experience with my teammates defines my passion for life.”