Story #17 in a series of 25. Written to celebrate the CIM's 25th Anniversary on December 2, 2007. By Cynci Calvin.
|2:12:09||1984||Rory A. Cooper||25||USA|
|2:08:41||1985||Rory A. Cooper||26||USA|
At his high school in the Syracuse, NY suburb of Chittenango, cross-country and track were Jerry Lawson’s second choice sports after missing the cuts for basketball and baseball. His high school times did not translate to college scholarships, but improved after two years at Mohawk Community College (Utica, NY). He still holds the 3K Steeplechase (9:21.5), the 5,000m (14:49.4) and the 10,000m (30:33.1) records there, set in 1986. Following a 10,000-meter-time of 29:03 at the 1987 Penn Relays, Boston University recruited him, but his academics suffered as his running improved, and his eligibility was jeopardized due to prize money earned at the Utica Boilermaker. He relocated to Jacksonville, Florida in 1989, where he started to work on a degree in elementary school education at the University of North Florida.
Running once again interfered with academia. As his times improved he traveled to races around the country, and his roller coaster road racing schedule included “off the chart” high mileage training of up to 200 miles per week.
1990: Set 25km American record of 1:15:36 at Old Kent but he did not finish the Chicago Marathon; he was 2nd in Huntsville Marathon (2:17:26).
1991: Missed much of year with a stress fracture, but won Albany's Corning Cup 10km (29:35).
1992: Missed Olympic Trials with tendonitis but won the Syracuse 10 Mile (48:52), was 3rd at Old Kent 25km (1:16:00), ran 14:08 for 5km on road, and tripled at the Empire State Games: 5000m (14:20), 10,000m (29:35), steeple (9:11). He won Stockade-athon 15km (44:38), was 5th at the Macao Marathon (2:19:59), and capped off the year with a Jacksonville Marathon win (2:14:33).
He previewed his appearance at the 1993 California International Marathon with another win at the Old Kent 25km (1:16:06) and a 10,000m win at the Olympic Festival (29:59.65). He was considered by pre-race press as a “wild card American” to win the 1993 CIM in a field packed with international elites: Jon Solly (Great Britain), Zbigniew Nadolski (Poland), Nivaldo Filho (Brazil), Alexander Vychuzhanin (Russia), 1987 winner Peter Maher (Canada), and Michael Musyoki (Kenya).
On a beautiful cool, clear race morning, Lawson went out strong, averaging a steady 4:58 pace and accompanied by Jon Solly who faded at the 20-mile mark. Lawson never wavered, in spite of an untied shoelace at mile 17, finishing strong in 2:10:27 to best Peter Butler’s 1985 record of 2:10:56 time by 39 seconds. His little published goal was to run 2:11, no matter where he finished, so the victory and the course record was a huge bonus. His time was a three-minute PR, the fastest marathon time set by an American since 1989 (Ken Martin, NYC Marathon 2:09:39), and the fastest American time for 1993. Little wonder he considered returning to the CIM.
In the next few years, Jerry ‘s times continued to improve. He ran the Penn Relays 10,000m in 28:44.48 in 1995, and in 1996 he finished 7th at the Chicago Marathon in 2:10:04 to tie the American Record.
The press at the time was having a hay day bashing American distance runners who had become “also-rans” at high profile, big money U.S. road races. Boston-based New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. was listening. Playing off of the established buzz, the company produced a clever advertising campaign that offered $1 million to the American man or woman who could break the existing national marathon records (men's: 2:08.47, set by Bob Kempainen at the 1994 Boston Marathon; women's: 2 hours 21 minutes 21 seconds, set by Joan Benoit Samuelson at the 1985 Chicago Marathon) by the end of the1998 calendar year. In October 1997, Jerry competed at the Chicago Marathon with the hopes of winning the cool million. He missed it by 48 seconds, but he captured the American marathon record with a 2:09:35 time. He now had until the end of 1998 to cut the 48 seconds off his time — so he set his sights for the 1998 CIM.
Forty-eight seconds – less than 2 seconds per mile… and the potential for his second CIM course record. Lawson had dropped out of the ’98 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury but believed he had fully recovered. He had also learned to double knot his shoelaces. His plans included having elite runner John Sence pace him through the first half.
The weather cooperated – no rain, no wind, cool and cloudy. Jerry and John quickly left the field behind, running 19:27 for the first four miles and 34:25 at the 7-mile mark. They ticked off sub-5-minute miles until mile 11 when times crept up and at 13.1 miles a 1:05:04 time meant Jerry was 34 seconds off record pace. Sence left him and after a 5:25 fifteenth mile, he knew his chances for the million were nil. Still fading by mile 18.6, he pulled off the course, and waved on Morocco’s Abderazzak Haki who went on to win his second-in-a-row CIM in 2:15:41. Jerry has since commented that the missing link in his carefully planned assault on the American record was the increased nutrition and fluid intake his finely tuned metabolism required.
Following the 1998 CIM, Jerry struggled with a recurring calf injury and in 1999 dnf’ed at the Columbus Marathon and his hometown Jacksonville Marathon. He finished 75th at the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials.
Jerry now resides in Jacksonville, FL where he is the father of twins born in mid-October, 2007!
In the southern hemisphere, Queensland Australia to be specific, circa 1975, three-year-old Nickey Carroll started playing tennis. At 12 she had earned a spot on the elite Queensland Junior Tennis Squad, and although she continued to compete, she found that the running she did to stay fit for tennis held more appeal. In her late teens she cut her ties with competitive tennis and contacted a top Australian coach, Dick Telford, who agreed to work with her. Below are the answers Nickey gave us regarding her stunning marathon career.
What was your running background?
I only started running at age 17 after spending my childhood and teenage years on the tennis court. I was on the Queensland tennis team as a 12 year old. Pat Rafter and Nicole Pratt were also on this team. They both went on to be in the Sydney Olympics as tennis players, however I turned my attention to getting fitter for tennis and of course became obsessed with running instead. When I started running I did not know a thing about it and happened to join a marathon/ultra-dominated club. (Ashgrove Rangers) Everyone else was running long so I thought this was the right way to begin. I also thoroughly enjoyed being able to explore the forests around here with a pack of like- minded obsessed runners. My first trail race was the Glasshouse Mountains 80 km not long after I started running and this began a long string of trail races throughout Queensland. I entered the 50km Champs at Caboolture the year before Las Vegas and was very much hoping to go through the marathon in under 3 hours but had no idea what I could do. The course was a dirt loop just over a km long and it had two “u” turns in it, needless to say it wasn't very quick. It was run at night to take advantage of the cooler conditions. I was feeling great but a few kilometers from the marathon mark was told the course wasn't certified so I should just run the 42 as well as I could. I ran 2:44 and the course was nearly a km long after they measured it. I was wrapped and here started my marathon career.
Las Vegas, NV: 1997 - 2:33:20
Paris, France: 1998 - 2:27:06
Osaka, Japan: 1999 2:26:50
London, England: 1999 - 2:25:52
CIM, Sacramento, CA: 1999 – 2:29:21
Any others of note?
There were a few bomb outs! Chicago 1998 I think was about 2-40
To what do you attribute your distance running talents?
Don't know about talent but I have always possessed the things that will take any runner far-PERSISTENCE, DETERMINATION & COMMITMENT. I also had an incredible coach in Dick Telford, and it was with him that I trained with consistency and goals for the first time.
Our press records show that you decided to run the CIM to enhance your credentials for the Australian Women' Olympic Marathon team selection. Correct?
Correct. I ran 3 sub 2-30's in 1999 and in the end that paid off. I also absolutely love the USA, California in particular. The redwood forests are awesome and I got to train in a forest just North of Sacramento for a few days.
We know you finished well ahead of the 2nd place woman - did you lead the whole way?
Yes. I remember another girl was just behind me for the first 800metres or so, then I was on my own, which is how I prefer to race, although it is harder than sitting in a pack.
What were your overall impressions of the race?
Loved it! Although it was more difficult than I imagined it would be. I never drive the course before running a marathon (once is enough!) so it wasn't as flat as I thought and the hill around half way took its toll. The support along the route was fantastic. I particularly appreciated the encouragement I got within a km of the finish line when I was really just taking it one step at a time.
You made the Australian 2000 Olympic Marathon team, but had to dnf – what were those circumstances?
I had been having trouble all throughout my career but didn't know what was wrong. From the age of 17 things very slowly went down hill. I would have good months and then very bad months where it just wasn't possible to train properly let alone finish marathons. I was very erratic but didn't know what was wrong. A couple of months before the Olympics I lost about 50% function in my left leg and couldn't work it out. To cut a long story short I was later, after seeing many doctors, diagnosed with advanced chronic Hashimoto's (under active thyroid) and SLE (systemic Lupus). This would explain the way I had felt all those years.
Did you continue to compete after the 2000 Olympics?
The next four years I continued to have severe problems with autoimmune disease and despite trying very hard could hardly walk around, let alone even jog. I have only managed to get on top of things this year but it is still an uphill slog. I managed to string a couple of 100+ Km weeks together this year and ran in a team in the Kokoda Challenge at the Gold Coast, which was a dream come true after many years on the sidelines. I have nearly regained 100% function in my leg but not quite, so I am restricted to running off road. We won The Kokoda Challenge in record time, albeit a lot slower than marathon running.
We understand that you enjoy ultra and trail running. The Sacramento area has become an ultra runner's Mecca so our readership will be very interested in what you have accomplished within ultra running.
I read Trail Runner Magazine and would love to get over there within in the next year to do one of the shorter races, 50-100km. California is an incredible place to do trail running.
I can understand why so many people are doing it. There was an article on a trail /ultra runner in the states who had similar auto-immune problems to me and his story gave me more hope than anyone has so far. I can't find the magazine now but it was a few years ago. I have run mainly trail races but most of them in Queensland and before I stepped down to the marathon. I really believe the more obsessed you are the longer you want to race, the more you want to train. I am impatient, could never have imagined taking ten years to slowly build up to the marathon. I would be thinking why wait?
Are you competing now?
The Kokoda Challenge was the only race this year, but I am working on doing something within the next 6 months (fingers crossed).
Would you consider returning to the CIM?
If I were to improve considerably in the next year I most definitely would, CIM is a fantastic race. Also the support along the course was very encouraging.
Could you tell us a bit about your family and social life, and other interests and hobbies?
Very keen gardener. My partner of 17 years is Don Wallace who is also a mad keen ultra runner with some pretty good credentials in the world of ultra-distance running. He was in the team at Kokoda Challenge. We have two "running" dogs also, a border collie and a blue heeler. What can I say, a runners household basically. I am a wildlife lover, like most trail runners, we appreciate nature.
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
All the best to everyone out to run the CIM this year. It is definitely a worthwhile experience and I hope to return there one day if I can.
Julia’s competitive edge provided her with a life-saving tool and made her a shining star. She participated in 10K runs with her father at age 10 and went on to compete in the 1984 and '88 Olympic Trials. She joined the Navy just out of high school to put herself through college, where she set national records in long-distance open-water swimming, including the 18K, 38K and 42K.
Tragedy struck in 1993 following her participation in a cycling competition. She was the victim of a 1993 hit and run automobile accident that tossed her into a gully where she lay for 14 hours with a nearly severed left leg. Once she was rescued and hospitalized, severe infection resulted in several amputations. A year later, bone cancer was found in her right leg, resulting in amputation above the right knee. For six months her recuperation was burdened with depression, but this lifted as she began to train and her competitive spirit reawakened.
By summer of 1996 she was ready and during the next two years she had competed in more than 40 wheel chair events, won 26 and finished in the top three in all but three of them. The 1996 California International Marathon was one of her earlier wins and her 1:58:11 course record time fueled her with the confidence to continue.
She set her personal best (albeit unofficial) marathon time of 1 hour and 48 minutes during a 26.2-mile stretch within the 1997 367-mile Midnight Sun Ultra Marathon between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska (now the Sadler's Ultra Challenge). She also won this eight-day race, with a course-record time of 28 hours, 29 minutes and 32 seconds, finishing just behind the top two men and nearly four hours ahead of the next female finisher.
In 1998 she was the first woman disabled athlete and third overall in the Hawaii Ironman competition, finishing in 13:31:14.
During this time her cancer was never in complete remission and she balanced her training and racing with rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. She ultimately succumbed to the cancer, but left a legacy of courage and undaunted spirit, summarized in this quote to LA Times Staff Writer Rizza Yap:
"There's nothing someone who is disabled cannot do without a little bit of adaptation. It's important for people to know that. It's important for disabled kids to know that. You can live in pity and fear or go out there, go for it, get it.''
In 2006, near her hometown of Ransom, New Jersey, the New Jersey Marathon named its Wheelchair Division in her honor. She had won the event in 1997.
With 21 world records, a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Games, and a personal-record bench press of 410 pounds (two and a half times his body weight), Craig Blanchette is truly a world-class athlete. A double amputee since birth, Craig has always had a passion for competition and incredible talent for sport. In 2000, Craig added handcycling competitions (comparable to bicycling) to his wheelchair racing career, and he became the U.S. Champion handcyclist in 2000 and 2001.
Craig competes in fewer races now but continues to influence and teach younger athletes. At the Dam2Dam Thumbs Up Bike Tour in Washington, he holds a cycling clinic for those who want to learn about hand cycling, racing strategies and nutrition. Sponsored by the Mike Utley Foundation, proceeds from the Dam2Dam go towards research for spinal cord injuries - which affect approximately two million people worldwide.
In addition to professional racing, Craig loves other sports like skateboarding, rock climbing and scuba diving. He is currently a motivational speaker and resides in Spokane, Washington. craigblanchette.com