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Several months ago my sister Autum suggested that we do a segment on each podcast featuring a notable marathoner. Since I haven’t implemented that yet I decided to do an entire podcast episode on four runners I admire.
There are hundreds of amazing runners I could talk about from all over the world. Here are four you should know:
In 1976 Terry was involved in a car accident that left him with a sore right knee. After a few months of dealing with the knee pain he went to a hospital and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a malignant bone tumor) of the knee. Treatment involved an above the knee amputation of his right leg and months of chemotherapy.
Shortly before his cancer surgery Terry had received an article about Dick Traum the first amputee to finish the New York City Marathon. Terry was inspired and challenged by this undertaking and after recovering from surgery he embarked on a 14 week marathon training plan.
After finishing his marathon in last place to tears and cheers from other participants and spectators, Terry announced his bigger plans of running across Canada to raise money or cancer research. His goal was met with mixed reactions, especially from his mother who understandably felt protective.
Terry’s trek called the Marathon of Hope began on April 12, 1980 at the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia.
He had raised $1.7 million by the time he was forced to stop. He realized that the nation was about to see the consequences of the disease, and hoped that this might lead to greater generosity. In the following months, Fox received multiple chemotherapy treatments; however, the disease continued to spread. Fox was re-admitted to the hospital in June 1981, with chest congestion and developed pneumonia. He fell into a coma and died on June 28, 1981, with his family by his side. The Government of Canada ordered flags across the country lowered to half staff, an unprecedented honor that was usually reserved for statesmen.
The Terry Fox Run is the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research, and over $500 million has been raised in his name.
The second runner I want to talk about is Kara Goucher. She came onto my radar in 2008 when I was training for my first marathon and I’ve enjoyed following her career ever since.
Kara grew up in Duluth, Minnesota with her mom and two sisters. Her father was killed by a drunk driver when she was four years old. By the seventh grade she was totally addicted to the sport of running. At first she ran because she loved it, but she also started to have some success in high school. Kara continued running at the University of Colorado after graduation where she earned a degree in psychology.
She met fellow runner Adam Goucher in college and they were married in 2001. They moved to Portland, Oregon to run under coach Alberto Salazar with the Nike Oregon Project. She struggled with injuries for several years as a middle distance track athlete before making her marathon debut in 2008.
Kara will be representing the United States in the Olympic Marathon this year. She also competed in the 10,000 meters in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Here is a glimpse at her best times:
- 5k – 14:55.02
- Half Marathon – 1:08:05
- Marathon – 2:24:52
I like this quote from her book, Kara Goucher’s Running for Women,
“As a runner, I deal with fear almost daily. To prevent fear from defeating me, I have to fight back against it in my mind. Reminding myself that I am doing what I was born to do—that, win or lose, embracing the challenge is still worthwhile—is one way I do that.”
Good luck Kara on Aug. 5th!
Another U.S. runner to watch in the Olympic marathon this year is Ryan Hall. He was born in 1982 in California. Running was the furthest thing from his mind until one day he decided he wanted to run around the lake near where he lived. After a slow and grueling 15 miles at 7,000 feet of elevation he was a changed person. Ryan says that he somehow knew that he had been given a gift to run with the best runners in the world and could somehow use running to help others.
After graduating from high school he attended Stanford University and ran track and cross country. During college Ryan’s high school successes didn’t carry over and he struggled with motivation, injuries, and depression. After graduating from college in 2005, Ryan married fellow Stanford runner and longtime girlfriend, Sara Bei, and started training with the Mammoth Track Club coached by Terrance Mahon and Bob Larsen.
I’ve read a book by Ryan called Running with Joy. It’s an intimate look at his training, faith, and personal life. In the book, Ryan says that life as a professional runner isn’t very glamorous and involves a lot of repetition.
Ryan stands 5’10” and weighs 138 pounds. Here are some of the highlights from Ryan’s career so far.
- 5k – 13:16.03
- 10k – 28:07.93
- Half Marathon – 59:43
- Marathon – 2:04:58
Ryan Hall holds the American record for the half marathon (59:43) and his marathon PR is the second fastest ever by an American. In 2009 Ryan and Sara launched The Hall Steps Foundation which urges the running community to take a step forward toward ending global poverty.
Joan Benoit Samuelson
The final person I want to talk about is one of the pioneers of women’s running. Joan Benoit Samuelson was born in 1957 and began running track in high school in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
She won the Boston Marathon in 1979, setting an American and course record, before she graduated. Samuelson won the Boston Marathon again in 1983, this time breaking the world record.
In March 1984, Benoit injured her knee severely during a 20-mile training run, forcing her to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery just 17 days before the United States Olympic Marathon Trials were scheduled. However, she recovered from the surgery much more quickly than expected, and showed up at the trials as the woman to beat.
She competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Grete Waitz of Norway, who had won all seven marathons she’d entered and had beaten Benoit in 10 of 11 races, was favored to win the gold medal in the first Olympic women’s marathon in 1984. However, Benoit took the lead just 3 miles into the race and never gave it up. While in the tunnel, she vowed to give back to a sport and a state that had given her so much before running into the light of the L.A. Coliseum and the electrifying welcome of the thousands that were there to greet the winner of the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon. She was 27 years old and her winning time was 2:24.
In 1985, Samuelson won the Chicago Marathon with an American record time of 2:21:21. A decade later in 1998 Samuelson founded the TD Bank 10K as a way to give back to the sport which has given her so much. The race motto started as “Shine the Light on Kids,” and benefits a different children’s charity each year. More than a decade later the race annually attracts over 6,000 runners. It includes some of the world’s most elite athletes as well as first time competitors.
On October 10, 2010, she ran 2:47:50 for 43rd place at the Chicago Marathon—the site of her American record a quarter century earlier— and recording the fastest-ever performance by a woman over 52. This year Samuelson ran the Boston Marathon with her 24-year-old daughter to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of women running the event. So much for giving up marathons. She says, “For me, running is now about storytelling. As long as I’m passionate about the sport and as long as I’m capable of running, I’ll stay with it.”
Also Mentioned in this Episode
Angie’s Summer Reading List of Running Books