One of the many things I love about my good friend, Deborah Hafford, is how she has her finger on the pulse of women’s — je ne sais quoi — multi-faceted women’s issues, be it sports, business, social or other issues.
Deborah shared a NY Times article with me in which runner Lauren Fleshman makes this observation: “Women have never been more marketable in sports than they are now, from U.S. soccer to Serena. Forty-plus years since Title IX means we have our first generation of supportive parents and coaches who grew up with the idea of female athletes not being horrifying. People are training girls harder than ever.” This interesting observation brought to mind a related statement I heard recently from soccer star, Abby Wombach.
In anNPR article about Abby Wombach‘s retirement, she is portrayed as: “the youngest of seven, who says when she (Abby) was a little girl, she knew she had to be loud and tough to stand out. Her mom put her on a boys’ soccer team at 9 to challenge her.”
In this interview, her mother, Judy Wombach, said “And come to find out, many of the young women that were on the U.S. national team played boys during their early years. I did something right and didn’t know I did it.”
From an insightful English blog, “Run Young 50” , writer Katie Holmes states that “American women love to run marathons. In 2014, 43% of marathon finishers in US races were women, the highest percentage of any country in the world. In the UK the figure is 34%. And American women love half marathons even more than marathons. They outnumber male competitors at the distance, making up 61% of finishers in 2014.”
A cursory look into statistics of USA running indicates this trend to be true. For example, in the Running USA 2015 State of the Sport, one particular statistic shows “Females account for 10.7 million finishers nationwide and continue to represent 57% from event fields. Males in 2014 represented over 8 million finishers in U.S. races.”
Writer Katie Holmes further points out that “fifty years ago there was virtually no opportunity for women to take part in endurance running, let alone run a marathon. Women were prohibited from running further than 200 metres at the Olympics from 1928 until 1960 when the 800 metres was reintroduced to the Olympics. It took another 12 years before the 1500 metres featured in the programme and the women’s marathon was not added until 1984 . . .” She kindly gave my book a very positive review, and pointed to the work of all the early women running pioneers with credit for laying the groundwork leading to this tremendous growth of women’s athletics.
I am not a statistician, but I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence in my observations to verify this growing trend of women gaining ground in sports overall. Of course, we had a lot of ground to catch up in the first place. Looking back over time, it seems so antiquated that, for instance, one early advocate, Nina Kuscsik, had to stage a sit-in at the start of the 1971 New York City Marathon to protest the separate start times of the men’s and women’s races. It seems so odd now that certain running magazine columnists ever gave argument as to why women did not deserve equal awards at races. (Believe it or not, he was serious.) It doesn’t seem reasonable that we had to go to court to gain the right to even run as far or ski jump as far as the men. . . . but that’s another entire blog story (elsewhere on this site).
And as far as Lauren Fleshman’s statement about supportive versus non-supportive parents of potentially athletic young girls . . . . I will assume she was speaking in generalities. I for one took up running and immersed myself in training in spite of my disapproving parent-guardians, and the rebelliousness of it all probably played a role in my decision. So that argument about the parents could go either way. In fact, in my job as a Coaching Education Director and as an Athletic Director, I’ve witnessed plenty of cases with negative experiences in sports for children of all-too-supportive parents (aka: helicopter parents hovering). But I digress. Let’s close optimistically with the increased and growing trend of women represented in sports. Perhaps women do hold up half-the-sky or as Sheryl Sandberg recommends, they are “Leaning In.” Simply put, as Deborah states, something is happening here.
Thank you to USATF Women’s Track and Field Committee, Sue Humphrey and LaTanya Shefield, for selecting me for this honored award. I am beyond disappointed that I could not personally be in Houston for the presentation, but I was there in spirit, and thankfully represented by Julie McKinney, former Women’s Long Distance Running Chair. I appreciate the vote of confidence in Peter Thompson’s nomination.
Here are my thoughts from home, from my heart:
I looked into the history of Joseph Robichaux and to prior recipients of the award to find an impressive line of men and women I am proud to keep in company.
I wondered if my work towards including more women’s events in the Olympic program was the reason I was chosen. If so, this award goes to a small committee, the IRC, (International Runners Committee) and not just me. You have my fellow member Nina Kuscsik with you as testament to our good work. Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The International Runners Committee, for whom I served as president, fought for the women’s 3000, 5000, 10,000-meter events on the track plus the marathon, until women gained equal opportunity in the Olympic Games.
Then, I soon realized it was the unique combination of also working in youth sports that put me in contention. I would have never expected to be given a reward for doing so. This caught me off guard completely.
Youth sports has been the pleasure and joy in my life, which I do not consider work, but the constant source of joy in my daily life — It always has been and continues to today . . . and for many tomorrows to come. I have coached K-12 children since my own child started school over 30 years ago, and I still coach today. I had the good fortune to work for LA84 Foundation, directing all sorts of youth sports programs in running and other sports too. I directed coaching education for LA84 in eight different sports.
Today I coach at running camps, I write curriculum for PE and Health Education courses at Loyola Marymount University to prepare teachers. I coach at World Record track and field camps with Willie Banks and Mike Powell. I coach at the Culver Academies Distance Camp annually for high school kids. I write online course curriculum for the RRCA coaching education program and I participate on their grants committee helping youth clubs. So, you see, there are a lot of folks doing good for youth sports in this world, and I am fortunate to still be actively involved, thanks to organizations like yours creating the opportunities for young people. Once in my young life, one single high school coach gave me a chance, and I am glad to give back. Indeed I am compelled to give back.
Let me remind you — thanks to finely organized women and girls track & field clubs in this country in the 60s and 70s, I had a place to compete when there were no opportunities in school, no interscholastic sports for girls. We were pre-Title IX and before NCAA. If not for one forward thinking woman, my high school PE teacher who started a girls track team, my life would be different. If not for one remarkable coach, Laszlo Tabori, an Olympian and record breaker, who gave me a direction in which to train after I finished school. . . if not for him, my life would not be so enriched. He made all things possible.
Thank you for the recognition, thank you for giving young people an opportunity and making a difference in their lives. It is my pleasure and honor to receive this award.
May good health be with all of us.
I was on a pre-race run a few days before marathon day, getting a tour of Eugene, Oregon on my first trip there. The town was mourning the death of Prefontaine, from his accident just five months earlier. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, an entire community mourning.
Eventually, the running conversation included the inevitable question: “So what sort of time are you aiming for?” Somehow it just rolled off my tongue, “six-minute miles,” I caught myself saying. That comment was met with dead silence, followed by hushed murmurs while doing the math. That must have sounded presumptuous!
On race day, it all came together. I chose Eugene, knowing that the course would be relatively flat, fast, cool, maybe drizzly, and most importantly, accurately measured. The NIKE-Oregon Track Club Marathon was run over what was to be the men’s 1976 Olympic Marathon Trials course the next year. It was a sort of dress rehearsal as it were. The race successfully met all of those predictions. Plus, I came into the race feeling good about my workouts. Even my coach, Laszlo Tabori, said at the close of that last interval workout the week before I departed, “you’re ready.” That comment came after my two 5-minute mile repeats I did in the middle of workout, and even though I questioned the connection, I trusted him to know these things. Joe Henderson printed that workout in his book “Road Racers and Their Training” —
Tuesday: 2 1/2 mile warm-up; 15 x 100 shakeups – 8 medium, 7 hard; 10 x 400 with 3 hard (73, 71, 72 seconds); 2 1/2 laps easy; 8 x 150 – 2 medium, 1 hard; 5 laps hard (5:13 mile); 2 laps easy; 5 laps hard (5:17 mile); 2 1/2 laps easy; 10 x 200 – 2 hard, 2 medium; 2 laps easy; 12 x 100 shakedowns – 2 medium, 1 hard.
Monday and Wednesday, I did my favorite workout: “25-lappers” on the track both mornings, plus an 8-mile run one evening and a 9-mile run the other. Thursday was a modified interval workout, easier than Tuesday’s because I had a race on Saturday. Friday was a brief pre-race run. Saturday I ran a 16:55 cross country 5K race. Sunday I did my last long run of 19 miles before departing for Eugene the next week. Those 25-lap workouts were the best! You could do them anywhere, anytime, without using a stopwatch. I ran a continuous 25 laps consisting of a 5-lap warm-up, then repeated sets of four laps per set: 2 x 100 medium, 2 x 150 build-up, 2 x 100 medium and 2 x 100 hard with an easy jog on the curves in between each.
My friends in Eugene, Janet and Tom Heinonen, arranged for my housing with the Ledbetter family. Young Lili Ledbetter was a local high school track star. We became good friends and her mom made the best ever zuchinni bread complete with homegrown filbert nuts. I jokingly say that my race was fueled on zucchini bread, I enjoyed it so much. Throughout the race, Janet and Lili could be found bicycling from station to station, either making sure my bottles of Gookinaid were waiting for me, or more so to check on my progress and splits.
I once said in a Sports Illustrated article that “there were days I could run forever. . . ” and gratefully, this was one of those days. To say it felt effortless sounds overly confident, but it was true. In review, my splits averaged 6:02 per mile, my slowest was 6:08 or :10, and my last 5 miles were at 5:55. I’ve said it before, I cannot do the math when I’m running tired, but that day when I heard my 20-mile split, I could do the math that told me I was ahead of pace, so I immediately picked up the pace and took off, leaving the group of male runners in my company. Looking back, a move like that with six miles to go could have ended badly, but that day it worked.
Look at the picture above, the one with only me in the frame – the one with my glassy-eyed look on my face and not smiling. A sport psychologist once showed me a group of racing photos and pointed out that he could predict the athlete who was going to run well — the one with glassy-eyed look, the one who is focused and able to shut out all distractions. That was me, definitely focused exactly in that way, on exactly the right day.
I approached the finish line in 11th place and someone yelled from the sidelines, “Catch one more guy! Top ten get watches!” But I knew I had something more valuable on the line. What I felt upon finishing, besides pure elation, was a sense of no time passing. Having experienced more than my share of surgeries over my career, I can tell you that it felt like I was coming out of a deep anesthesia slumber, wondering when the procedure was going to begin only to discover it was all over. It was that kind of sense of no time passing. Almost an out of body experience because simultaneously, I had the clear recollection of every mile run, every water station, every split, every inch of the course.
Thanks to my friend, photographer Doug Schwab, I have great photos and a great story written by my friend, Tim Wason. Thanks to Janet Heinonen, it was written up in the OTC newsletter, so the experience was well documented.
Often I wished I could bottle up and patent that formula which made for the “peak performance” and pull it out of my repertoire for every race. However, it was simply one of those marvelous times that I will always treasure, feeling fortunate to ever have such an experience.
Memories of the day, on the 40th Anniversary of my best WR, the first sub-2:40, officially 2:38:19.
Photos made possible thanks to Doug Schwab. Many thanks to Janet Heinonen for support and encouragement on that day and ever since. Thanks to Jon Anderson for the “then and now” photo. Special thanks to Bill Leung for all the photo editing. Thanks to all for our close friendships then, now, and forever more.
Thirty-one years ago in 1984, women runners had reason to celebrate our first-ever Olympic Marathon and, not to forget, a 3,000-meter race too. Up until this point, our longest allowable distance to run in the Olympic Games was merely 1500 meters, the metric mile, an event we only gained in 1972 at the Munich Olympics.
It was a bittersweet moment in ‘84, knowing full well that as thrilling as it was to witness our first Olympic Marathon women’s champion, Joan Benoit-Samuelson winning the first gold medal right here in LA, we knew we still had not obtained equality. Once the marathon was successfully lobbied into the Games, the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races were orphaned.
The International Runners Committee (IRC) was the group lobbying for all women’s distance events to go on the Olympic program. It was on their behalf that I personally met with the president and secretary of our governing federation, the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) imploring them to add the two events, only to be told (in short) that the two events were of no value to them, they were boring events that would not sell tickets at the gate, end of story as far as they were concerned.
There was an ensuing battle in the courts. The IRC brought an international class action lawsuit on behalf of over 70 women from nearly 30 countries, representing the best 5,000 and 10,000-meter runners in the world. We went through the courts, ending in appellate court, where an empathetic judge wrote these eloquent words as time ran out to resolve the matter of equality before the Olympic flame was lit in Los Angeles. Remember the Olympic torch was carried in 1984 by our own Southern California decathlete, Rafer Johnson. Harry Pregerson named Rafer in particular as his friend.
Here are the words proclaimed by Judge Harry Pregerson in 1984:
“The International Olympic Committee made concessions to the widespread popularity of women’s track and field by adding two distance races this year. The IOC refused however, to grant women athletics equal status by including all events in which women compete internationally. In so doing, the IOC postpones indefinitely the equality of athletic opportunity that it could easily achieve this year in Los Angeles.
When the Olympics move to other countries, some without America’s commitment to human rights, the opportunity to tip the scales of justice in favor of equality may slip away. Meanwhile the Olympic flame — which should be a symbol of harmony, equality and justice – will burn less brightly over the Los Angeles Olympic Games.”
I have written extensively on this matter, including my own memoir, “A Long Time Coming: Running through the women’s marathon revolution.” I specifically addressed this case in chapter 20, “Pressing our Case.”
Don’t ask me what has taken so long to interview the judge and write this story, but I have just spoken for the first time with the man who wrote those words in an eloquent dissent to the ruling that ended our appeal for equality in the Games in 1984. Judge Harry Pregerson will be 93-years of age next month and he is still active on the bench. What an extraordinary man, a true champion for justice.
I was pleased to report to him that although we may have lost that battle, we certainly won the war. I have no doubt in my mind that our actions resulted in adding the 10,000m and 5,000m races in subsequent Olympics. Not only that, our lawsuit served as a model for the women ski-jumpers, who brought a lawsuit of their own in 2010 (Vancouver Winter Games), resulting much the same way the women runners’ suit concluded, and their event was included in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Harry Pregerson was appointed to the “Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals” in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He had been practicing law since the 1950s and then served as a judge in public courts since 1965. He remains active today and I remain astonished at that fact.
Here stands a former Marine First Lieutenant, veteran of World War II, wounded in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The reason this even came up in our conversation – because he explained more than once why he continues to workout at the gym to keep his legs strong. His quadriceps muscles, in both legs, were severely damaged from gunshot wounds. It also explains his deep compassion for veterans’ rights and his support for the non-profit organization “US Vets.”
We talked at length about the LA Athletic Club (LAAC) where at one time he would workout daily, running a mile in the morning on their short indoor track and swim in their pool. However, all the time he was concerned about whether or not they practiced a policy of discrimination. He looked into it, and it bothered him that women and minorities did not have the same privileges or access to the facilities that other members did. Instead of quitting the gym, however, he told me he had a conversation with the owners. Eventually, policies were changed. This was not uncommon among private clubs across the nation.
In California, the Unruh Civil Rights Act originated in 1959, which guaranteed “all persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal; and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Any organization in the State is within the Unruh Act unless it is “truly private.”
The LAAC boasts in their background profile that women have been admitted to the Club since the 1920s. However they might have been allowed access, even to train there, they were not allowed membership before the 1960s. Even so, it was discovered when complaints were made in 1975 that the club admitted women and minorities in a slower and more regulated process, but at least the Club responded with positive action promptly.
The LAAC is credited for being the first club in LA not to discriminate long before required by law to do so. Other clubs weren’t so quick to change policies. As late as 1987, Mayor Tom Bradley signed a bill to ban discrimination at most of the city’s large private clubs. In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that cities are allowed to force large private clubs to admit minorities and women.
Judge Pregerson explained to me his reason for the lengthy story of his experiences at LAAC. The owners, the Hathaway family, honored him at their annual awards ceremony one year, along with Peter Ueberroth and Buster Crab as his classmates. The Hathaways publicly acknowledged and thanked the Judge for “showing them the right way.”
Perhaps the Judge wisely anticipated my questions regarding our own lawsuit. Yes, we based ours on the Unruh Act. Yes, we drew the judge that indeed understood this civil rights act better than anyone. Yes, we drew a compassionate and empathetic audience – he was a champion for justice.
Our conversation began with Pregerson stating that while he might hear 300 to 400 cases a year, the Olympic case of 1984 is one you do not forget. He proceeded to explain jurisprudence to me, and why judges often act very cautiously, hesitant to “upset the apple cart.” This was evident in our case. I understood even at the time — who wanted to interfere with the Olympic Committee? He confided in me that another judge “liked what he did” but still “went with the IOC.”
I had so many questions for him, all these thirty-plus years later. As I reflect on our conversation and review court documents with our IRC newsletters (the International Runners Committee), I can read between the lines to see that he was providing me answers, indeed anticipating my questions.
The very Unruh Act he spoke of was the basis of our court case. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the US Olympic Committee (USOC) are not private clubs; they are business establishments, so the Unruh Act did apply to them. As Judge Pregerson wrote in his dissent in our case:
“I do not believe the California legislature intended an athletic contest such as the Olympics, which is a major public event, should be free under California law to discriminate openly against a class of participants on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.”
Number one, I was perplexed at the majority opinion against our appeal, two-to-0ne, that first, the Olympic Committee could do what they wanted as a private club, and second, that the Unruh Civil Rights Act was deemed not applicable because it addressed “integration” not “segregation” that we women runners were accused of requesting. They used the word “apartheid-like.” I felt like Alice in Wonderland. As you read this, you are probably thinking the same thing I did. I agree with Pregerson’s response. He stated that the Olympic Committee deemed the events would be run as “separate but equal” (men’s and women’s); and it was not our idea.
The International Runners Committee published newsletters (thanks to writer-editors Joe Henderson and Janet Heinonen) documenting the years of lobbying efforts and the resulting court case. The papers have provided research for many scholars and reporters over the decades since. One woman in particular, Cecile Houry, wrote her dissertation resourcing our history, and mentioned: “the difficulties encountered to add these women’s distance events into the Olympic program, including having to form an organization to lobby the IOC and IAAF, having to prove that women could physically compete in such events and having to go to court, highlight the rough situation sportswomen still faced as late as the 1980s.”
The IRC lawyer, Susan McGrievy from the ACLU, stated that this was true, “. . . until one generation of women said ‘enough, we deserve to be in the Olympics’.”
From some of the women plaintiffs –
Julie Brown said, “I’m obviously disappointed. I think that it’s something that was greatly needed. The decision is an injustice and needs to be changed.”
Kathy Hayes stated among other things . . . “It’s also ridiculous to say that track events have been added for women while none have been added for men. That’s because all the events are already being offered for men.”
Added Hayes, “It’s also obvious that the Olympic Committee uses its rules when it suits them and goes around them when they want. They win either way.”
I stated at the time: “I will always be angered that the integrity of the process was more important than the athletes. This means the world will miss seeing a number of very talented women in the ’84 Olympics. They didn’t ask Frank Shorter to wait another four years.”
The marathon was a long time coming, like I titled my book. Fortunately, the wait for the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races wasn’t as long, as I explained here earlier. The fact that we lost a battle, won the war, and served as a model for the women ski-jumpers, well, their wait was not as long either, as their event went in at 2014. All the waiting and the battling were worth it in the end.
Waiting to speak with the Judge was worthwhile too. At least he has remained active and easy to find, so I could tell him of the effects and consequences of our actions, all these years later, and thank him for his role. Our true champion for justice.
Additional notes: Ironically, I ended up working for the Amateur Athletic Foundation, which grew out of the 1984 LA Olympic Games, and is now called LA84 Foundation. Rafer Johnson is a highly active Board member there. Rafer and I happened to be honored at the same awards ceremony by the ACLU in the summer of 1984. Rafer is also the founder of the Southern California Special Olympics, where we intersected at this year’s Special Olympics 2015 World Games here in LA, and where he symbolically and appropriately enough lit the Olympic Torch once again.
“Hi Jacqueline, Great news! You can announce your title as Half Marathon Sports Commissioner for the World Games.”
Thus began a new chapter, another adventure, one which involved the Special Olympics for my first time. A lot of my friends cheered me with congratulations bringing promise of a rewarding experience to come. Oh my goodness, what an inspirational and fulfilling experience it has been working with Special Olympians.
In what became the largest event in town since the LA 1984 Olympic Games, the Special Olympics of 2015 spanned nine days, hosting 177 countries, consisting of 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches in 25 sports. Athletes were housed in 100 “host towns” across the Southland. It took 30,000 volunteers to cover events at 27 different venues with 500,000 spectators cheering the athletes on. At the site of both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games in the LA Coliseum, the opening ceremonies lit up the skies. LA Times writer Bill Plaschke described it as “Out of this World,” and indeed it was a magical night! Or, as one young athlete Plaschke quoted stated it, “This is the most amazing place, a place we don’t always find in the rest of our world. This is a place where we are all equal.” (I am tearing up. Again.)
In the hours preceding the ceremonies, before being seated in the Coliseum, my friends and I busied ourselves at a reception reuniting with friends and colleagues in our familiar world of coaching and sports foundations, as well as making new acquaintances including more than a few celebrities.
Once seated inside, awaiting ceremonies, I could hardly contain myself before joining the team I was assigned to — which turned out to be Germany. What a great group of athletes! They were so full of cheer and excitement, and befriended me instantly. However, I admit I was a little worried about the language barrier until one bilingual and willing athlete volunteered to translate for us. For an instant, I was flashing back to the days when my first international running competition took me to Waldniel, Germany. I remembered Christa Vahlensieck, who became my friend and strongest competition in those years, as we traded records back and forth. We communicated as if in a game of Charades. I was grateful to be marching this night with an interpreter. We were snapping scores of pictures of each other (I had one giggle moment when I saw the selfie-sticks came out . . . )
Marching into the stadium, among a sea of red uniforms, I was a speck of all-white-uniform on the floor of the Coliseum which made it easy to spot me for my friends, Jeaney Garcia and Bill Leung, after all. Jeaney, a natural born cheerleader, was also easy to spot doing jumping jacks in the grandstands. The German team – and I – were singing and cheering at the top of our lungs all the way into the tunnels of the stadium where the sound reverberated. Once every team was seated, the star-studded performances followed one another all night long. Inspirational speeches were delivered by celebrities, sponsors, SO Officials and from the keepers-of -the-flame since Eunice Kennedy Shriver originally founded the Games.
Finally, President Obama greeted the athletes via the “big screen,” and Michelle Obama herself greeted the athletes with motivational words, and declared “Let the Games begin!”
At the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, the skies were ablaze with fireworks.
What a fitting moment, when stepping on stage for the lighting of the cauldron, the torchbearer was revealed to be none other than Rafer Johnson, who took this role, in this very place, 31 years ago at the 1984 Olympic Games. This 1960 Olympic gold medalist decathlete, the one who founded the Southern California Special Olympics. How great to see his presence at this World Games, on his doorstep. It certainly was a night “Out of this World.”
And so the Games began.
During the week, when attending Track and Field events at USC, I learned one little-known fact of great interest to me. A program called “Healthy Athletes” provided volunteer healthcare from professionals, at seven venue sites to the Special Olympians. Athletes could receive such things as prescription eyewear, hearing aids, exams, referrals for follow-up care, dental care and such. What an extraordinary program benefitting the athletes with valuable resources.
Just one week later, the starting gun went off for the Half-Marathon at the Long Beach Alamitos Beach venue. I was fortunate to reunite with Rafer one more time, with the honor of presenting athletes with awards, and to share their excitement and their pride. Yes, as the athlete said at the opening, it was an amazing place, a place where “we are all equal.” Yes indeed.
Another wonderful summer week at Culver Academies Distance Running Camp in Culver, Indiana. More than 170 distance runners from high schools all over Indiana and beyond. Even high school graduates were included, garnering good information about what to expect in their collegiate future. University of Oregon coaches, Maurica and Andy Powell, fresh off their NCAA title win that week, were featured guest speakers. Founder and President of the Board, Joe Mendelson, with Camp Director Dana Neer, assembled perhaps the finest coaches, counselors, athletes, and activities combination of any Culver camps to date. How they keep improving is beyond me, but this camp is a growing success year after year. What a joy to participate.
The second camp I had the good fortune to do with Willie Banks and Mike Powell at their World Record Camps came this summer in Casper, Wyoming.
Covering all track and field events for 170 student athletes, we were joined by coaches Dick Fosbury, Tonie Campbell, Ian Waltz and Stacy Dragila plus local coaches accompanied each one of us. The athletes’ coaches were in attendance as well. It was the perfect balance, keeping all athletes active with a whole lot of fun. They were all so anxious to learn along with the coaches. The runners had some fun relay races to wrap up camp. What beautiful country, at altitude, with clear skies, and scenic mountains on the horizon!
My thoughts . . . This past weekend, March 28-29, I visited Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan, with Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the triple jump, at one of his “World Record Camps” for youth athletes in Track & Field. His partner is Mike Powell, Olympian and current world record holder in the long jump. Assisting them (besides me) was Olympic hammer thrower, Ken Flax. The camp was hosted by the Yokota Striders, a club comprised mostly of military personnel living and/or working on base. Day one, a track meet between three schools was competed on base. Day two, athletes returned to the track for our day-long camp workshop. Among the four of us, we covered all the categories of events – jumps, throws, sprints, distance running. The student athletes were amazing! They were so attentive, receptive, excited to take part, and extremely grateful. Did they ever have fun! The day was full of activity, with fun games –and even dancing– interspersed with the traditional event workouts plus Olympic and world record story-telling by the coaches.
Coaching is what I do for fun. My regular profession is all about education, including teaching, and primarily working to support aspiring teachers earning their credentials. I recognize someone who makes an effective teacher, and I hope I don’t embarrass Willie by saying his teaching skills are exemplary. It’s not often when I see a large group of children, (and these were a wide range in ages), who are completely engaged and positively enthralled, by his leadership skills. This is how learning happens, when children are enjoying themselves and challenge themselves.
It was sad to leave so soon, and the children seemed sad to see us go, but what sweet memories. I’ll cherish those moments, as I will cherish my first viewing (hanami) of the cherry blossoms (sakura) on my final day in beautiful Tokyo.
Last month, I traveled to the Honolulu Marathon which always brings back fond memories of the first time I fell in love with the islands upon my first trip there. It was the perfect journey — winning the marathon in course record time, making lifelong friends with the Chun family (known then as the “Hunky Bunch” as some of my friends remember), flying to Maui to make the drive up to Hana, then hiking Haleakala to watch the sunrise on the crater, and making plans to return to Honolulu for the 140-Perimeter Relay around Oahu. . . . something that became an annual trip. Fond memories indeed.
My how things have changed. The marathon still begins before sunrise, but the crowds have grown in numbers beyond belief. The spectacular fireworks display starts the race in the pre-dawn hours. The first 10K takes the participants through downtown’s Honolulu lights and Christmas displays winding through Kapiolani Park before the ascent up over Diamond Head. This is where I have walked the course for the past few years. However, this year was different. Instead, I was asked by the Marathon President Jim Barahal to do the commentating on the women’s race, along with Toya Reavis of San Diego. We are friends, and this was a “first” for both of us. We were excited at the prospect of broadcasting, and thoroughly enjoyed our new task!
I would encourage all my marathon friends to consider your next destination marathon be Honolulu. Hey, early registration is available now at discounted fees, and it’s never too early to make your plans. It’s a guaranteed fun time, at the world’s most beautiful, hospitable, scenic marathon, complete with aloha spirit and they host the best concert you’ll ever enjoy. By the way, if you need some training advice, you can ask either Toya or me to help you, since we both are coaches as well. So c’mon, no excuses.
In addition, I had the honor and pleasure of speaking to an audience of the Positive Coaching Alliance, for Executive Director in Hawai’i, Jeaney Garcia. At the “Breakfast With Champions,” I participated on a panel of athletes including football coach, June Jones, and NFL Super Bowl Champions, brothers Chris and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. We spoke on a panel together, bringing each of our unique stories to our listeners thanks to the excellent questions posed by our moderator, Kanoa Leahey. The event highlighted award recipients from local high schools, each with their own inspiring stories. Each student athlete received a scholarship from PCA, and all proved to be exemplary leaders amongst their peers. Tradtionally, the trips to Honolulu always include a reunion dinner enjoyed with the Chun families, and here they are today:
I attended the San Diego Triathlon Challenge this weekend in La Jolla, and I’m still beaming with inspiration at being in the presence of so many amazing performances, made possible by the Challenged Athletes Foundation‘s (CAF) good work. Several of my friends have asked me how to get involved, and I don’t mind singling out two athletes in particular who gave so much of themselves this weekend for an incredible cause.
Anna Deshautelle participated in the triathlon, and she swam a mile in the not-so-calm waters of La Jolla Cove, then rode 44 miles over the hilly-est possible course, then turned around and ran another 10 miles over those same hills.
All the while, John Pilkington and Stephen Burton were on a like-minded mission for CAF, riding their ElliptiGOs — yes, that’s right! — tough as that sounds, all the way from San Francisco to Encinitas (San Diego County) over hill and dale in wind and gales, night and day. These amazing feats were all for the good work CAF does.
My admiration and gratitude goes to them today. I love each one of you!