2003 Runner of The Year - Jane Johnson

By Mary Jean Yon

To repeat is not a bad thing. And let’s just say, right upfront, that this year’s Female Runner of The Year is a repeat performance. She first gained this title in 1995 when she was relatively new to town and gave the women’s field at that time a much needed spark of excitement. Tonight we celebrate 10 years that this runner has graced the roads, trails and races of Tallahassee. She still spices up the women’s field and more so than the rest of us…her race times have stayed much closer to what she ran 10 years ago!

This runner also has a way of bringing fame and recognition to our track club by virtue of her accomplishments. Shall we pause for a moment and end the suspense? The Runner of the Year for 2003 is the very same person who served us so well for the past two years as our club president…Jane Johnson. We’ll come back to talk about the Presidential tour of duty later but right now, let’s talk about marathons…one of Jane’s specialties.

As Runner of the Year in 1995, mention was made that Jane ran her first marathon that year in Jacksonville in a time of 2:56:42 Since then, our Runner of the Year has run a total of ten marathons, all of them under the magic 3-hour mark. Quite the streak. She learned what many marathoners know which is that the race is a natural complement to travel and in time, she started bringing home hardware from New York, Chicago, Boston and many other races. Last year, one of many pinnacles in her career was reached when the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) invited her to run in the 107th running of the Boston Marathon as an elite athlete. The package included lots of perks and special treatment ranging from airport pick-up to housing at the same hotel where all the other invited athletes were staying. Rest assured, those of us traveling with her told anybody that would listen to us that we were friends of Jane Johnson!

There’s another trait of Jane’s that you need to know which is that she hates to disappoint. So imagine, if you will, how fired up she was to run well on Patriot’s Day so that the BAA would consider their money well spent. And oh how she must have hid her disappointment when race day dawned warm and windy (as in head-wind) and runners throughout Hopkinton feared this day would not be their best. Conditions caused these fears to be true and many runners crashed and burned out on the course that day…but not our Jane! Instead she buzzed about, happy that she had an opportunity to chat it up with greats like Marla Runyon and gave the race her best to continue her streak by running an impressive 2:58:43 on a day when even the Kenyans were slowed. Needless to say, BAA invited her back for this year’s running of Boston! Did I mention that I’m a friend of Jane Johnson?

Honestly, I could tell marathon stories about this woman forever! She’s a marvel to behold and she always adds her own special flavor to a race while she runs fast times. But let’s turn to her other notable accomplishments during 2003. In addition to finishing third overall in the Grand Prix competition, Jane also started out the year by winning the Bridge Run in Apalachicola and the GWTC 30K. After Boston, she settled into a Master’s groove and won that overall title at the following races: Springtime Tallahassee 10K, Pot Luck Bash, Freedom Springs Triathlon, Turkey Trot 15K, and the GWTC 10-Miler.

And let’s not forget Jane’s many other contributions to Gulf Winds. Her two-year term as our President has just come to a close and pity the poor guy who tries to fill her shoes…Tom! Under her leadership our newsletter blossomed as she routinely contributed not one, but four articles every month ranging from book reviews to featured interviews to her Running Tangents column. She represented the club with grace and dignity at countless events and kept us on the track of being a viable contributor to the community in so many ways.

In short, Jane Johnson is the epitome of what this award was always intended to be, a runner of exceptional achievement we can all look to as a role model. Please join me in congratulating her as our 2003 Runner of the Year!