At 55-years-old, Bob Montgomery doesn’t begin his day with a newspaper and cup of coffee. Instead, a quick 50 pushups are his morning staple, a small taste of the 200 to 600 pushups of the day. Even that was just a step on the road to his goal for the year: 55,000 push-ups.
In honor of his father-in-law, who lost a battle with cancer, Montgomery set out to complete 55,000 push-ups in 2012 and to raise money for the American Cancer Society along the way.
He achieved his goal on Dec. 1, the one-year anniversary of his father-in-law’s passing.
“Cancer doesn’t care who you are, your background, your faith, whether you are rich or poor, sick or healthy. It just doesn’t care. I hate cancer,” said Montgomery.
Originally from Terre Haute, Montgomery now works for Care Logistics, a company near Atlanta that helps hospitals become more efficient, improving the patient experience. He holds two rather opposite degrees from Indiana State University: one in percussion performance in 1982 and a master’s of science in industrial and professional technology in 1986.
Montgomery still works his passion for singing into his daily life. In fact, he met his wife through an a capella jazz group in the Atlanta area. “I love to sing, love to harmonize, probably what I love to do most,” he said.
Although Montgomery wasn’t too enthusiastic about putting in long hours of practice for percussion, he has been strangely consistent in exercise. At different stages in his life, Montgomery has been an avid runner, biker and swimmer. Specifically, push-ups.
Early in 2011, he recalled a time during college when he consistently did 50 pushups a day, wondering if it were perhaps possible to start the habit again.
Montgomery remembers thinking, “But now I’m 55. It’s been a lot of years since college.”
In the spring of 2011, Montgomery began running again. One day, he completed a 2.5 mile loop, stopping every so often to do a set of 50 pushups. By the end of his jog, Montgomery had completed a total of 300 pushups.
“I enjoyed it, and it made me feel good to know that I can do this at 54 years old. That’s kind of cool. It inspired me to keep doing it.”
After doing the math, Montgomery wondered if he could complete 50,000 push-ups in one year. “After I realized I would turn 55 in 2012, I thought, why not do 55,000 instead?” But he wanted to make it count for something.
Just a few months later, he found his cause.
On Sept. 30, 2011, doctors diagnosed Montgomery’s father-in-law with stage 4 lung cancer.
Before Gene Rundquist passed away two months after his diagnosis, Montgomery told him of the goal, in Rundquist’s honor.
In describing Rundquist, Montgomery depicted a technically brilliant and well-loved man who worked for years as an aerospace engineer. Rundquist worked on the team developing Saturn 5 and the Hubble telescope.
“He was at a launch once where the rocket blew up. They were in lockdown and no one could leave for 24 hours while they tried to figure out what [happened] led up to the explosion, what they did during and immediately after.”
After retiring, Rundquist kept busy. He transformed a 1962 Mercury Comet from just a frame to a new ivory car. He handcrafted a toy chest and a doll house bookshelf that he designed and built for his granddaughter.
“He was well-loved,” said Montgomery.
Rundquist’s late wife had died of cancer as well, battling the disease for six months before passing away in 1996.
The widespread impact of cancer is something Montgomery has observed through speaking to groups.
“Every time I’ve spoken to a group and asked how many have had a loved one fight cancer, almost every hand goes up. Almost everyone has been affected by cancer.”
For this reason, Montgomery was determined to complete his goal of raising awareness and research funds.
“Barring injury, sickness, or death, I will complete 55K pushups,” he said as a promise to himself and to his father-in-law.
Montgomery’s amount varied per day, averaging just more than 1,000 push-ups a week and at times up to 1,700.
“There was one week where I only did 900,” he said, being as precise as possible.
“It sounds like a lot coming off of my lips,” he acknowledged. “It certainly feels like a lot at the last few push-ups.”
A typical day for Montgomery might have looked like this. He began his day by completing about 50 push-ups at home, placing his feet on the incline of the stairs to make the push-ups more “interesting,” or in other words, more difficult. Upon arriving at work, Montgomery would enter the “Coliseum,” an exercise facility at his workplace. While coliseums have been used for gladiatorial displays and public battles, Montgomery lookrf to a battle of his own, 300 pushups.
He also took part in his workplace’s “Boot Camp” class and balanced out such a high number of push-ups with other strengthening exercises.
Through the process, Montgomery learned some lessons.
“I’ve discovered you can do more than you think you can do. Fifty-five isn’t old.”
He hopes to be a role model for other middle-aged men and serve as an inspiration to get in shape and be proud of themselves that many don’t think they can.
Montgomery, however, doesn’t want anyone to be under the impression that 400 push-ups will magically feel simple one day.
“Just so there’s a clear picture, I didn’t go from being a couch potato to, ‘Hey, I’m going to do 55,000 pushups in your honor.’ It takes hard work,” he said.
His secret is good, old-fashioned will-power.
“It’s kind of a rollercoaster. I kept going out of plain old dogged determination. I’ve done so many darn pushups.”
That he has. In fact, after completing his goal a month ahead of schedule, he decided to raise the bar to 60,000 push-ups, an aim he met with his 100th push-up on New Year’s Eve.
Although he has reached—even surpassed– his objective, Montgomery doesn’t plan to quit doing push-ups. “I burn a lot of calories. [If I stopped,] I’d have to change my eating habits. Exercising and eating are good hobbies to have hand-in-hand-in-hand,” he joked.
In all seriousness, however, it’s worth the effort, he said.
“If all that’s accomplished is that one person catches their cancer quicker than they would have otherwise, then it’s successful,” he said. “If one person improves their lifestyle by being inspired to start exercising, it’s worth it.”
Montgomery’s blog can be viewed at http://55kpushups.blogspot.com, where donations to the American Cancer Society are still welcome.
Bethany Donat, ’13, is a media relations assistant for the Office of Communications and Marketing.