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Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Heroine

Here is a photo of my sister, Lorraine, celebrating winning the 1984 Boston Marathon.

Wayne Clarke, kindly scanned a copy from his athletic club's photos and sent it to me - Thanks Wayne.

It has always fascinated me how Lorraine managed to have so much success as a runner over a breath-taking 28 years and at a time when women's distance running had so much depth and talent - Ingrid Kristiansen, Grete Waitz, Rosa Mota, Joan Benoit, Lisa Martin, the Japanese, all the other Kiwi women and more and more...

Lorraine never showed any athletic ability as a child, as far as I can recall. Her childhood was hardly remarkable other than the fact that it was physically robust. That could be said for almost every child in Putaruru. In fact, Lorraine was a rather sickly child who spent a lot of time in hospital and at the doctors. I vaguely recollect, at one stage the Drs ended up running out of options and Mum and Dad as good as brought her home to die or get better of her own accord (I am sure that she does not mind me saying this and Mum will eventually read this and get me to correct things, if I have got anything wrong). Mum resorted to alternative therapies. The one therapy I remember most vividly is "colour therapy". To state the obvious; Lorraine survived.

Her athletic ability began to show during h
er early adolescent years when she pretty much rewrote the regional and national age group record books for every running event in the country from about 220 yards and longer, including cross-country and road. As her brother, her physical ability never really registered with me during our teens, possibly because I could still dump her to the ground and force her into submission with a neck hold.

What I think set her out from the crowd was her dogged determination: She had the ability to push herself harder than anybody else. Did this ability come about as a result of her years of ongoing battles with serious illness as a child? It helped that she happened to be a real bright spark, leaping a couple of years in primary school to land in her big brother's class (Lorraine and I went through school together and even ended up doing nearly identical studies at Otago University). It certainly helped that she was coached from about 16yrs by the late John Davies using the Lydiard Method and she spent her three years at Otago University doing the long Sunday runs with the boys, including Richard Tayler. This time at Otago gave her the grounding for a long and successful career, as well the education for a life after running.

Lorraine is writing a book (No ghost writers for this athlete!) that will deal with these matters and by all accounts it is going to be a good read. I am not sure when it is coming out but it should not be too far off. Top triathlon caoch, Chris Pilone, who stayed with Lorraine this month got to read a draft of her book. This is what he had to say in his recent newsletter:

"To say I was glued to it would be an understatement. Would have to be the best I have read for many years and probably be in my top three of all time. Its probably a little way from the book shelves but when it gets there a must to buy".

When it comes out I will make sure that all my readers know about it.

For all articles about "One the Wings of Mercury, go here

1 comment:

Wayne said...

You say Lorraine never showed athletic ability as a child, By NZ standards back then in a rurual town that may be the case given the sheer fitness level of our kids, not getting driven about everywhere making their way around long distances on foot or covering fair distances just in their free time around the countryside, developing similar sourt of fitness that kenyan children still have today but most of our kids don't develop anymore. I look at younger workmates, the fitness I take for granted, they have never developed in themselves. I think this fitness developed a character in NZer's something John Davies referred to in an interview once, JOhns enthusiasm for fitness and athletics always shone through comentating on TV. It's getting harder for us to produce athletes as great as Lorraine. I belive JOhnWalkers slower times to NIck willis's in the 1500 metres are still superior as JOhn walker was world number one and winning more races than NIck who is often being dragged along by faster runners in a pack to achieve his records.
Nick is still a great runner and I hope he goes on to emulate Johns world no 1 ranking but there is still room for improvement to catch up to our athletic legends from recent decades.