In Search Of...Running Man: Part 2
A La Crosse man's big accomplishment after an unimaginable tragedy
One foot in front of the other.
That's how John Blanchar approaches race after race. "You can't think about the finish. You just go aid station to aid station. I'll go five miles at a time."
And state after state, whether a 26 mile standard marathon or a 50 mile ultra, you put one foot in front of the other. Words to live by in running and in life especially when it turns upside down.
"I was out running that day and they had to try and come find me." On a hot morning in July of 2001, John tied his shoes and left the house for a run just like he did every other morning.
The night before, John's 20-year-old son Steven and 18-year-old daughter Julia left the house with separate friends to separate locations for separate sleepovers.
"I woke up to pounding on my back door and there were police cars. And they came into my house and said I needed to sit down. They said, "where's your husband?" I said,"he's out for a run. I just said, "just tell me who."
Sue braced for the worst wondering which child had been lost not knowing that at some point during the night Julia and Steven's paths crossed and their separate plans suddenly intertwined.
"Two of your children were in a car accident with their friends. It was a very hot night and they were going to the drivers parents pool and they didn't make the curve. They hit a wall and they died."
"I came home and cop cars were there. Yeah."
But even in the midst of this unimaginable sorrow, John, Sue and their remaining daughter Katrina found a way to put one foot in front of the other. "We've come to believe that they lived the life intended for them. That's the only way they can get thought that. You can't let that define your life. It's always part of you but it's not the defining part."
Instead of running from this tragedy, "they run with me."
In April of 2008, John crossed the finish line in Ocean City, Maryland. "It was my 100th Marathon, 50th state."
Goal met, but with a surprising result. "After doing the states, it was kind of a let down. There was no goal to do at than point. Then we decided to do the continents. We saw a brochure that had a marathon in Antarctica. We said, "boy this would be something."
"And if you get Antarctica done first, why not do the rest."
Running on a glacier with whales and penguins to cheer him on, John checked Antarctica off the list. "After Antarctica, on the same trip we did one in South America."
Followed the next year by a trip down under. "That was nice. Spent a couple of weeks there."
In 2009 came Africa. "We climbed Kilimanjaro on that trip."
In 2010 it was Europe. "And I did my race in Switzerland. And that was in the Alpines. That was a 78K - just short of 50 miles."
The last stop in his run around the world, Asia and the Great Wall of China. "I was elated. I was very glad to have that done because that was a grueling race.
6:40 "It was just awesome seeing him come through and we were all excited."
"I don't know if he realizes how special this accomplishment is. Because it is."
And he is not nearly done. "My goal is 200. And where are you at right now? 149. 84 marathons, 64 ultras."
He has a ways to go, but it's nothing compared to the road already traveled. And he'll get there the way he always has, putting one foot in front of the other.
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