CHICAGO (AP) – Once or twice a week, Bob Herskovitz commutes from the North Shore to downtown Chicago by running. The journey takes about three hours.

“I always like to think about the day ahead,” Herskovitz said.

The measure of a man is never in miles, but the miles in some men are remarkable. Bob Herskovitz is a 54-year-old father of two living in what he calls his “cozy little home” in Glencoe for the past 15 years. Herskovitz, a disabled Gulf War veteran, commutes 21 miles to the James R. Thompson Building in the Loop – running. He makes the “commute” once or twice a week, coming back on the Metra train.

Once, he made the round-trip commute.

“My coworkers are very supportive and even my (boss),” Herskovitz said. “Next month, I’ll be running the Boston Marathon for the third time.”

He has completed “50 or so” marathons. He has run “four or five” 50 kilometer ultra-marathons and one of his goals is to run a 100-mile race. He’s earned the moniker “Trail Bob” from fellow runners. Beyond his commuting, he runs throughout the area, including with the Alpine Runners of Lake Zurich.

However, he says running is not his focus.

“I focus on public health,” said Herskovitz. “We are very proactive in the ‘Let’s Move’ campaign and the ‘Building a Healthier Chicago’ campaign.”

Herskovitz’s remarkable commute while suffering from a serious inner ear disease is only part of the larger picture of someone who wants everybody to be healthier no matter what their disabilities. As deputy regional health administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this former Navy senior chief petty officer is second in command at the Chicago regional offices, which oversees many health-oriented programs from anti-smoking efforts to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign aimed at eliminating childhood obesity.

Herskovitz speaks to local schools and other venues, using his own experiences as an example.

Born in Chicago, the former Senn High School football player joined the Navy for what turned out to be a 20-year career. Much of that time he spent working for Armed Forces Radio, including during the 1990 Gulf War. He first started noticing health problems after the conflict, which cannot be definitively linked to his Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that left him completely deaf in his left ear and partially so in his right ear.

By 1996, he already had suffered what he calls “drop attacks,” black-outs and fainting spells caused by the disease. During his first drop attack, he was running and fainted, hitting his head on a fire hydrant. Without a sense of balance, he couldn’t continue as a Navy lawyer, as he had intended.

A period of uncertainty and brain surgery followed. But a Naval Station Great Lakes audiologist suggested Herskovitz, a former disc jockey, use headphones for a stereo-effect, helping balance the hearing between the two ears. He now uses two hearing aids as well as his headphones, mixing his own music on his iPhone. He’s partial to “surfer” music.

Mornings between 4:30 and 5 a.m., Herskovitz begins his run south along running paths and streets. A typical run takes him three hours and he’s ready for the showers at the North Shore Athletic Club. He maintains he does not arrive tired for work, in fact, he uses the time to think about work.

“I always like to think about the day ahead,” Herskovitz said. “Commuting like that I have more time on my hands to think.”

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press


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