It is with sadness that we announce that CRR Bob Bennett, co-founder of the Creek Road Runners, died on Monday, March 16, at his home at age 78, after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Bennett grew up in Washington, D.C., where he wrestled and ran track and cross-country for St. Alban’s, the Episcopal school associated with the National Cathedral. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during which time he ran track and cross-country, competing well among the rival ACC schools. He went west to Stanford for graduate school, where he continued his running with local clubs and some of the West Coast’s elite runners at the time.
Bennett met his wife-to-be, Joan, in graduate school, and they came to the University of Delaware for his faculty appointment in the English department in 1969. Bennett’s love of Shakespeare professionally and the environment as a citizen were second only to his love of running.
Early into his time here in Newark, he joined forces with other advocates to block the proposed reservoir project that would have turned much of one of the areas of what is now White Clay Creek State Park from a natural woodland into a big lake. We Creek Road Runners remain beneficiaries of this civic victory, made possible by Bob and others having fought this proposal.
In terms of running, Bob was always one of the best in his age group in the area; his main competitors were CRR Bob Taggart and the late Doug White. In the fall of 1980, he met a young runner who had recently joined the staff at the University of Delaware—Mark Deshon. Together, they conceived of and began organizing the Creek Road Runners.
CRR Mark Deshon remembers:
Bob and I had great times together, beginning when we met nearly 40 years ago after a race on campus. He won the race, and I came in third that day. He and I began training together and remained training partners for the next 20 years.
In our second race together, the 1980 Turkey Trot 10K, we each achieved a personal breakthrough. Bob and I battled most of the way, he stretching into a lead on the downhills and me catching up to him on the uphills, until the final turn for home onto Barksdale Road. Seemingly out of nowhere, Bob blasted by both Doug White and me—a youngster of 24 at the time, out-sprinting us and clocking in at 34:01 (at age 38!).
I also remember how valuable Bob was to me as I trained for my one-and-only marathon in 1991, sharing both his vast experience and energy on my behalf. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve that milestone without him and others with whom I was running at the time. He and I shared many runs and races together, both on the roads and trails.
Bob was one of my dearest friends, and it was sad to see his decline over the past several years. I’m glad I got to spend some of that time with him—early on jogging in the park, later walking the trails, and most recently (when he neither could get around very well nor remember me), just visiting him.
CRR Skip White remembers:
I remember, starting the fall semester at UD in 1987, suiting up in the (old, old) general locker room around noon and going outside to stretch, where I ran into Mark, Bob, and CRR Steve Cottrell and asked if I could join them. I was instantly welcomed into “the club” and had new friends for life.
Bob and I were a little less than five years apart, so, unluckily for me, every five years we were in the same age category. I can’t remember how many times Bob beat me, but I do remember the two times that I beat him!
CRR Bill Rose remembers:
I first met Bob and Joan Bennett at St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church around 1990. I quickly appreciated that Bob was a gentle soul who loved teaching at the University of Delaware and sharing with students his love of literature, especially Shakespeare.
I first raced against Bob at a 5K at St. Thomas’s in October 1993. I remember it because it was my fastest 5K ever, and he beat me. My last run with him was a very nice couple of miles at the end of December 2014, at the annual Fair Hill trail event.
Bob wrote a book, Romance and Reformation: The Erasmian Spirit of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which was published by the University of Delaware Press in 2000. The “Erasmian” in the title refers to the great Dutch humanist Erasmus. Like Erasmus, Bob was a scholar and a humanist. I am glad I knew him. I will miss him.
Bennett leaves behind his wife, Joan, and adult children Miriam and Aaron, their spouses, and three grandchildren.