Ruth Anne Bortz, long-distance runner and Portola Valley resident, dies


Ruth Anne Bortz of Portola Valley, a long-distance runner of marathons and back-country races, died July 14 at her home. She was 84.

Ms. Bortz grew up in Boston and attended Brimmer and May School, where she was president of the student government and a star athlete. She graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in 1952 and married Walter Bortz in 1953, having met him at a summer school at Harvard College.

The couple lived in Hawaii, New Orleans, Mill Valley and Munich, Germany, and spent eight years in Philadelphia, where they raised four children and where Dr. Bortz practiced medicine. In 1972, the family moved to Portola Valley, which Ms. Bortz called "the best place in the world."

As a couple, Walter and Ruth Anne ran road races all over the world -- in China, London, New York and Boston, to name a few. Running "became the bastion of her life," Dr. Bortz said in an essay saying goodbye to his wife of 62 years.

She started running at age 48 after coming home from a hard trek in Nepal, she said in an interview for a 2011 story in the Almanac. She raced in Dublin, Australia, Honolulu and Greece, and ran eight times in Boston, the nation's oldest marathon.

At the age of 71, Ms. Bortz finished the 2002 Boston marathon with a time of 5 hours and 46 minutes, 11 minutes behind her husband, according to Boston Athletic Association records. The couple were also running that marathon in 2013, when domestic terrorists struck, but were far from the finish line when the bombs went off.

She took first-place awards in Boston when she was 60 (with 10 women in her group) and 70 (with three women in the group). At 80, she ran Boston in 7 hours and 41 minutes, coming in second out of two women in her age group. Her husband was her support team for that race. He met her at six points along the course with M&Ms, peanuts and "a big smile," Ms. Bortz said.

She had twice run and finished the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, a sub-30-hour race along a mountainous route between Squaw Valley and Auburn, California. She finished in 28 hours and 11 minutes in 1984, and 24:34 in 1986, according to race records.

When she wasn't away for a race, she could be seen training along Portola Valley roads, for many years with her close friend Nikki Weicker and later with a hand-held radio to keep herself company. She also used Windy Hill and other trails in town for training. To prepare for the 2011 marathon, she ran 50 miles a week, including eight 20-mile days.

White petunias and azaleas were among Ms. Bortz's favorite things, her family said. And Old English sheepdogs. And singing along with a piano on festive occasions, including "Oh, Susanna," "Bill Bailey" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

Ms. Bortz is survived by her husband; by her daughters Danna Breen of Portola Valley and Gretchen Lieff of Montecito, California; sons Edward Bortz of Portland, Oregon, and Walter Bortz of Ukiah, California; her sister Joan Bryson of Weston, Massachusetts; and nine grandchildren.

The memorial for Ms. Bortz will be private for the family.

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Like this comment
Posted by Marlene Hunter
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Dear Bortz' Family:
Bidding farewell to your loved one is not easy. Just remember that you cannot keep your beloved forever. All the beautiful memories that she left for you will be cherished and fondly remembered by you. God Bless and love, Marlene Hunter

Like this comment
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jul 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm

I will remember Ruth Anne for her lovely smile as she ran on the shoulder of Alpine Road - occasionally I would see her in Konditorei or at a town event - she will be missed - condolences to the family.

Like this comment
Posted by Nicholas & Elise
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jul 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bortz family. Mrs. Bortz brought style and grace and showed us what is possible.

2 people like this
Posted by Carol Tolen
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

Mrs. Bortz was a lovely woman and an excellent public speaker. She spoke at a continuing ed. Stanford class her husband presented at the university 3 years ago, and it was a delight to meet her. The following week, after the class terminated, some of us convened at Rossotti`s for burgers and socializing, and I had the chance to meet her 2 daughters. Great fun.

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