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Friday, April 3, 2015

Bruce Jenner Physical Fitness Trail

The running and fitness craze of the 1970s, and the popularity of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, led to the creation of the "Bruce Jenner Physical Fitness Trail" at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda.


Named in honor of Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, the trail was dedicated on Wednesday, October 5, 1977. Jenner was on hand to cut the ribbon.
Bruce Jenner with his gold medal for
winning the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics
US Magazine photo.
The trail was designed by the Lake County Forest Preserves' landscape architect, Janie Brown, and built in part by the Youth Conservation Corps and CETA. It consisted of 20 exercise stations along a one-mile wooded, jogging trail off Shelter E road at Lakewood Forest Preserve.

Trail map, 1977. 

The Forest Preserve District was following a growing trend across the country for "proper physical conditioning." It was felt that the Preserves' land and the "great beauty of the Illinois landscape" was ideally suited for "low-keyed, individualistic forms of recreation."

The "running boom" of the 1970s is credited to the excitement of the 1972 gold medal win of American marathon runner, Frank Shorter. At the time, marathons weren't as well known or understood by the public, but Shorter's dramatic finish sparked a sensation for marathons and fitness that has continued to grow.

The Forest Preserves' jogging and exercise trail was developed to be adaptable to various ages and physical conditions, and provided both "physical conditioning and enjoyment of the out-of-doors."

Although "The Herald" newspaper reported that the appearance of the exercise stations "looks a little like a medieval torture chamber, with its chains, ropes and strange-looking apparatus," the fitness trail proved to be quite popular with folks from around the county.

Photo by Scott Sanders, The Herald, June 7, 1978
A wood-chip path winding through a hilly wooded area led joggers to stations that in some cases resembled a playground or obstacle course. Included in the activities: a tire run, rope ladder, climbing wall, and balance beam.

Bruce Jenner was scheduled to speak at the College of Lake County about his Olympic training regimen and the 1976 Olympic competition. Following his gold medal win, Jenner began a new career covering sports for ABC with appearances on "Good Morning America."

Poster promoting Jenner's appearance as the
"Grand Opening Speaker" for the physical fitness trail.

Jenner, who was much admired as an all-around athlete and extremely well-liked, became a sought after motivational speaker. He was also very accommodating to the many requests he received for personal appearances. Since he would be in the area to speak at CLC, the trail opening was arranged for the same day, and Jenner graciously agreed to be on hand.

In 1978, the Forest Preserves received a special award from the Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the design of the trail.

In recent years, the fitness trail apparatus have been removed.



Sources: 

Press releases, memos, brochure from the Lake County Forest Preserves' "Bruce Jenner Physical Fitness Trail" reference file.
"Decathlon Champion to Speak at CLC," News-Sun, September 13, 1977.
"Olympic Champion to Dedicate Forest Preserve Jogging Trail," News-Sun, September 21, 1977.
"Jenner to Open Fitness Trail," Barrington Courier, September 29, 1977.
"Bruce Jnner Opens Fitness Trail," Lake County Papers, September 29, 1977.
"Shaping Up in the Woods," The Herald, June 7, 1978.

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