The London Olympics made me think back to past Olympics, specifically the 1972 marathon won by Frank Shorter of the US – yes an American really won the Olympic Marathon! It also reminded me of Jack Foster, a Londoner who had moved to New Zealand and also ran in that race. Here is his incredible story. May it be an inspiration for us to begin today doing those things we’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to get around to doing.
One day Jack Foster had enough. 32, married with a family and full-time job as a clerk, Foster, like so many of us, was out of shape and wanted to do something about it. He told his wife Belle one day that he was going out for a run. After what seemed like an eternity, he turned around and walked home. When Belle saw him in the house she said, “I thought you said you were going for a run.” Foster responded saying, “I did go for a run, why did you say that!” “Well you haven’t been gone 10 minutes, that’s all.” was her reply. Though hurting physically and emotionally, he didn’t quit. Over time it became easier and soon it became his joy.
By the time he was 37, he had burst on the scene as a world-class distance runner. I was very familiar with all the great distance runners at the time – Pre, Frank Shorter, Kenny Moore, Jim Ryun, and Dave Wottle from the US, Lasse Viren from Finland, Kip Keino from Kenya – but who was this old man from New Zealand? How could he suddenly appear? He placed 8th in 1972 Olympic Marathon at the age of 40! A year and half later he ran his personal best marathon of 2:11:38 (5:00 per mile!!!), setting the all-time record for those over 40. My old friend Steve Plasencia (current U of M Men’s CC & Track coach) couldn’t match it even being able to train full-time while sponsored by Nike. For Jack it was a joyful passion, done after his day job.
Jack died at 72 in a collision with a car while riding his racing bike. His story lives on as an example of what we can accomplish if we focus on starting today taking the first step toward our goals and not allowing our initial pain and lack of success deter us. Along the way we may find the journey a joyful pleasure!
On my home office desk I have a pewter block with the following quote, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I see it every morning as I enter my office. It’s a reminder to challenge myself to have courage to strive to do the things that really matter to me and others, and to not worry about the outcome. If it’s right to do it, and I give it my best effort, the outcome will take care of itself.
So I challenge you – What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
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