Good grief, what is he talking about now?!?

Harry Jerome - Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Harry Jerome – Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

I realized lately when a Facebook page I ‘belong’ to posted a cover photo of the bronze statue of Harry Jerome in Stanley Park, that ‘Harry’ has inspired me a good many times, including in the closing stages of the just completed Vancouver Marathon. The way the ‘new’ BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon courses go, both routes pass right by Harry in his eternal lunge for the tape. At that point there is about 3km to go to the finish of both events. It might be a bit early to be thinking about ‘chesting’ the tape, but it is a sure sign that you are almost there; a sure sign that it is time to dig down and put everything out that you have left.

When I had that deep thought, it made me realize there is another statue that has often given me a shot of courage to bear down to the finish of a race I often do.  It is Terry Fox, at ‘Mile Zero’ at the corner of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. The distance to the finish of the Goodlife Victoria Marathon is coincidentally just about 3km from the finish, but when you are running the marathon, you are indeed ‘almost there‘.

Now, I don’t really care who you are or how fast or slow, when you are that close to the end of a long race (both the half and full marathon routes in both cities, pass by Terry and Harry), you do need inspiration to take it home to the finish. I have certainly had that inspiration a good many times.

Terry Fox - 'Mile Zero' at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox – ‘Mile Zero’ at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox is an inspiration to all, and although I never met him personally, I have met several members of his family (more than once) and I know Doug Alward, his friend who drove the van for Terry and who also contributed to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes.

Harry Jerome is also an inspiration to a great many, but maybe less generally known and more a hero in running circles. The difference is that I did know Harry from way back in my own track and field days when we were both running with the same Track Club.

I don’t know how many others use these two guys (or at least their iconic images) the way I do, but if you don’t, maybe you should. Terry Fox has definitely helped get me to the Victoria finish a good many times. There is even a coincidental matter that the statue was officially dedicated the same day that the book, Running in the Zone, was officially launched at the Victoria Marathon Race Expo.

It is pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself as you pass that statue just off to the right and are reminded of what Terry took on with his Marathon of Hope, and what he has inspired afterwards. Still, when I go by that corner with muscles burning, back stiffening up and my head once again reminding me that only some kind of idiot would be doing this, seeing Terry there, ‘frozen’ in the middle of his ‘hop-step’ running technique, I have called out for his help to dig down for those last couple of K’s. It works pretty much every time!

Harry Jerome’s story is less known, especially to the younger folk, but if you need to brush up on his history, find the movie ‘Mighty Jerome’ and be prepared to be amazed. Harry also died young, but not in a similar way to Terry Fox. Still it was a shock. He also overcame severe physical trauma to run fast enough to set a world record. Doctors said, after basically ripping his quads to shreds, that he would never run again – maybe never walk properly. Although I truly did know Harry as a kid, I am not going to tell you I knew him well or that we were buddies. Still, watching him train and the work ethic he displayed, it was not surprising to see him refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer and to come back so strongly that he did set another world record AFTER he recovered. Harry had another physical handicap. He was black. We don’t like to think that is an issue here, but watch the documentary ‘Mighty Jerome’ and you will understand how he was also an inspiration in the world of racial equality, in most cases with a quiet determined approach, yet relentless. Harry Jerome was a man who made a difference.

So, you can see that it is not difficult to find inspiration from that bronze sprinter, forever leaning into an imaginary tape alongside Coal Harbour. The location is very appropriate because while there is still a modest little track at Brockton Point, back in the days when Harry was ‘the man’ in Canadian sprinting, Brockton Oval was the place where it all happened here in Vancouver. My own school (King Edward High) had no track so we would find our way to Brockton Oval, one way or another, for track workouts. I have a long personal history with running in that end of Stanley Park, and apparently so did Harry, even if that is not where I actually ran with him on Club nights.

In any case, now that the BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon (Seawall and road, respectively) pass right by Harry, I am thrilled to have another inspirational statue to get me through that last bit to the finish. It has certainly helped twice now (the Half in 2012 and now the full marathon just a few days ago, in 2014). That is not to say that I’ve not been motivated by Harry a good many times on training runs often done in Stanley Park, but a race is different!

These are just some personal ramblings, but I wanted to say something both about personal motivators and in this case about those who have provided me with that motivation. I wonder how many others are motivated exactly as I am by these same two memorial statues? How many have their own similar motivating symbols on these or other race routes? I guess you really don’t have to have a physical thing like a statue, it could be something in your head – a person, a memory, whatever, but today I’m on about emblems or images like the Terry Fox and Harry Jerome statues, which were actually not placed where they are to motivate anyone to a particular race finish, but now can serve to do so. And, just to be clear, those statues are the reminder. It is what/who they represent that is the source of motivation and inspiration.

Run on!

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