Sunday, February 27, 2011

Remembering Jack Foster

Recently in the running mags I've read articles pertaining to growing older and dealing with the inevitable slower racing performances. I can't help but think of Jack Foster when I see these articles.As I write this, I wonder how many runners today even know who Jack Foster was. Foster emigrated to New Zealand from England at the age of 24.Before and after his move he was a serious cyclist but gave that up for a number of years when he started running at age 32. His running accomplishments are remarkable to say the least. At the age of 39 he set a world record for the 20 mile run.The one record he is most known for is the one he set at the age of 41 in the marathon, 2:11:19 at the Commonwealth Games where he won a silver medal. This master's record would stand for 16 years. He also ran the marathon at the '72 Munich Olympics(age 40) and the '76 Montreal Olympics(age 44) where he finished 8th and 17th respectively. In 1975 he was a member of the New Zealand team that won the World Cross-Country title.There were other records set and marathons won (8) during his career but Jack Foster was more than just a man who achieved running success at an age when most resign themselves to what I call "diminishing returns." Friends and elite runners alike remarked at the appreciation he had for life and the zest he had for living it. It was reflected in everything he did,even his training,of which he said: "I don't train; never have. I don't think of running as training. I just go out and run each day,and let the racing take care of itself." As far as growing older and running Foster said this: "I feel like I'm running as fast as always--as long as I don't look at my watch." When he realized that he had lost his passion for running he returned to his first love, cycling, which he resumed with the same zeal he had applied to running. Fellow New Zealander John Walker said this when visiting him shortly before his death at age 72: "Jack hadn't changed. It was like seeing him 20 years ago, the bike kept him young, at 72 he was a young man." Sadly, a cycling accident would end Jack's life shortly after this meeting. As I have said before,it is nice to see when there is more to a champion than just great times and records. May we all learn from Jack's example and heed the words of the sign that was pinned to the wall in his garage which said, "We don't cease to play because we grow old. We grow old because we cease to play."

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