//Heard Around the Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip (Jan. 15, 2015)

Heard Around the Lake: News, Notes and Idle Gossip (Jan. 15, 2015)

I’ve always been a sucker for a great story and Unbroken, the best seller by Lauren Hillenbrand, told one of the most incredible stories of survival of World War 11. The movie, like most films of unforgettable books, didn’t do the story justice.

Although I never met Louis Zamperini, the focus of Unbroken, I knew an Australian marathoner whose story paralleled Zamperini’s in many ways. His name is John Gilmour and he is still alive at 94 years old.

In 1980, I spent the best of a year in Australia and most of that time was spent in Perth on the far West Coast. Every Thursday was track night and it was there that I found myself working out with and racing against this old guy who kicked my butt week after week.


Gilmour always wore sunglasses—even after the workout in the pub—and what I didn’t know at the time was that he had lost almost all sight as the result of malnutrition which destroyed his optic nerves. When he was just 18, Gilmour captured by the Japanese forces on some island and was made a POW for three years. The Japanese, who mistreated their prisoners in open defiance of the Geneva Convention, nearly starved Gilmour to death which caused such damage to his eyes that when I knew him, he could only see a few feet. In track races, he was OK because he could follow shapes, but on road runs he needed a guide.

That never stopped him. To this day, Gilmour remains the greatest masters (or veterans) runner in Australian history. At one point, he held 20 Aussie records and four world records at every distance from 1500 meters through the marathon—all accomplished as a blind runner after his 55th birthday.

Herb Elliott, the 1960 Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 1500 meters, is also from Perth but he thought the greatest runner he had ever raced was Gilmour.

After a few months of running with Gilmour, I finally got to know him–a little bit. Off the track, he was gruff and his bitterness extended to the Japanese.

Couldn’t blame him for that. Two stories he told me that I have never forgot was how the night he was captured the Japanese, they wouldn’t let him eat or sleep until he memorized the Japanese alphabet. Then, after he finally did, his captors made him race in a sprint against a Japanese guard. If he won, he got beat. If he got beat, he was brutalized. (Just like Zamperini.)

Somehow, he survived the POW camp and, near the end of the war, was shipped to a warehouse in Tokyo. He told me the greatest day of his life was when the Americans fire bombed Tokyo. Gilmour was nearly incinerated, but instead of getting executed as many of his fellow Aussies were, he escaped in all the confusion caused by the fires. When he returned to Perth on a hospital ship, his eyes were so damaged he could no longer cry.

Even though his strength returned, his eyesight never did. Still, the next year Gilmour started running again and went on to represent Western Australia in national competitions. He couldn’t have children of his own, but Gilmour influenced thousands of children in youth running programs in Perth.

Unlike Zamperini who later forgave his captors, Gilmour never did. After an early December track workout, a bunch of us repaired to a pub where I told him I was leaving the next day for Japan to go to Fukuoka Marathon.

I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I do remember he was irate with me for going. Even 35 years later, Gilmour still called Japanese by derogatory names and he couldn’t understand why anyone would go there or associate with any Japanese.

Rob de Castella, the great Australian marathoner who was living in Perth at the time, was also going to Fukuoka and Gilmour blistered both of us in no uncertain terms how he felt about that.

It would be nice to report that Gilmour later apologized to us for going and made peace with the Japanese. But he never did.

I never saw John Gilmour again, but have never forgotten him.


O Rogue’s Mia Behm and Kristen Findley acquitted themselves well in the Great Edinburgh 6-K Cross Country race last Saturday in Scotland. Behm, the former UT runner from Tyler was 14th in 22:34, while Findley, who went to Vanderbilt, placed 20th in 22:46 in cold, sloppy conditions. Behm was the fourth finisher on the USA squad which placed second in the team competition behind the Euro team.

O Tia Martinez, arguably the top woman track and road runner in Austin the past three years, has pulled up stakes and on Tuesday, moved back to her native Oklahoma. Her boyfriend Reid Regan took a new job in Oklahoma City so Tia and her son headed up there with him. Said Tia, “It’s bittersweet to leave Austin, but I haven’t lived there {OKC} since sixth grade so I am ready to be around all of my family again.” She will be missed.

O Boerne now has its own running store. The Boerne Running Company opened its doors for business last weekend with a grand opening. Owned by Edgar Gonzales of We Run in San Antonio, BRC is right on Main Street (347 Main), next to Wild Game Meat Processing. Boerne’s favorite son—David Fuentes–hosted a clinic at BRC last Saturday.

O Last Saturday, Bandera served as the USA 100-K Trail Championships in gloomy, icy cold, mucky weather. But ultra runners love just about any hardship they can endure. In the men’s US champs, David Laney—a 26-year-old from Ashland, Oregon—won in 8:35.46, but our 41-year-old Paul Terranova of Austin was second, only four minutes back. Terranova’s finish also gets him an automatic entry into the Western States 100 in June. In the women’s championships, Aliza Lapierre of Vermont won in 10:17.

O More Bandera. In the women’s 100-K, Anabel Pearson of Helotes was 13th in 13:59, Cara Bass of San Antonio was right behind her in 14:09, Julie Koepke of San Antonio was 16th in 14:54 and Nyleva Corley of Austin was 18th in 16:53. In the women’s 50-K, Katherine Timlin of San Antonio was second in 6:26, Dorea Wilder of Austin was 48th in 6:38 and Adreanna Haley of Austin was next in 6:40. Jennifer Wright of Austin was the first woman in the 25-K in 2:35. Meredith Gardner was 33rd overall in 2:48.

O Last Bandera. In the 100-K, Matt Smith of San Antonio was sixth in 10:14, Lorenzo Sanchez of San Antonio came next 10:21 with David Brown of Boerne in eighth in 11:04. Jeff Wendling was the second Austinite (after Terranova) in 10th in 11:59. Michale McGinn of Georgetown won the 45-49 age group in 14:52 and Dana Mundari of San Antonio took top honors in the 50-54 in 12:45. In the 50-K, Doug Brock of Austin was fifth in 4:44, Tim Thornton was sixth in 5:04 and Brett Parker was ninth in 5:12. Erik Stanley of Austin won the 25-K in 1:57 with Peter Mallett third in 2:05 and Borut Grgic of Austin right behind in 2:06. Austin’s Allen Daniell was seventh in 2:21, John Jertson was eighth in 2:22 and William Jabour rounded out the top 10 in 2:28.

O Registration for the ’15 New York City Marathon opens today for the November 1st race and will probably close on February 15th. There are all sorts of ways to enter NYC (including qualifying for a guaranteed entry), but last year only 9170 of the 77,000 lottery applicants got in. Go to www.tcsmycmarathon.org for more info and/or to register for the lottery.

O Meanwhile, the Napa Valley Marathon—a spring favorite with Austin marathoners—has closed its registration for the March 1st race with 3000 runners. Now in its 37th year, Napa reached its cap in late November.

O Big congrats to Gilbert’s Gazelles stalwart Roger Hickman and his wife Kasey Brizendine on the birth of their son Gibson Nicholas Hickman on Saturday morning. His son is the ultimate present for Roger whose birthday is tomorrow.

O Former UT runner Katie Hoaldridge is on the cover of the January/February issue of Runner’s World—for good reason that has nothing to do with her running. Hoaldridge, who is from Burleson, now lives in New York City where she’s running for the New York New Jersey Track Club and also pursuing a career as a model where she is represented by the famed Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. Evidently, the modeling is going better for Hoaldridge, who graduated from UT last year, than her running.

O Mellow Johnny’s, the bike shop opened seven years ago by Lance Armstrong and two partners on Nueces Street, is opening up a new shop in Fort Worth in May or June. The new store will be operated by Mellow Johnny’s and will be part of the Clearfork Trailhead Cycling and Fitness Center, right off the Trinity River bike path in Fort Worth.

O What I’m listening to this morning: “Simple Dreams” by the great Linda Ronstadt. Her memoir, also called Simple Dreams, has been out for a year.

Have any news for me? If you have something, send it along to wish@texasrunningpost.com.

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2017-10-19T00:34:53-05:00 Categories: Heard Around the Lake|Tags: , , , , , , , |