Floyd Hatch will never forget running the 1982 New York City Marathon. But not because it was a first-time achievement for the Salt Lake City resident. And not because he set any record.
Hatch remembers the race because of the inspiration he received from another runner - Linda Down. A victim of cerebral palsy, Down crossed the finish line at 9:40 p.m., 11 hours and 54 seconds after the race started, according to the December/January 1982-83 issue of New York Running News.Recalling the race, Hatch related: "She did the entire thing; she took it one swing at a time. I was so impressed. I've always been affected by that."
Down was one of three runners - including the male and female winners - who were personally congratulated by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan for their achievements. In the New York Running News article, Down is quoted as saying: "Running the marathon felt impossible to me when I started, but I decided to try it. And no matter how far I got - and I wasn't sure I could even finish - at least I could say something is possible if you try."
Hatch also believes such dreams are possible if one tries. And so do officials of The Deseret News/Granite Furniture Marathon & 10K, scheduled for July 24th. Race officials and associates, including Hatch who serves as an adviser to the race committee, are inviting anyone - regardless of physical or developmental disabilities - to participate.
With the help of volunteers from civic and church organizations, escorts will be provided upon request for those with disabilities. In addition, a division, including awards, is being created for these participants. Entry forms for the races include a section for disabled participants to fill out. Also, anyone entering a race who is willing to be an escort can mark the appropriate line in the same section.
Walk-in registration goes through noon on July 20 at all Granite Furniture locations, at Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation at 2001 S. State Suite 4900, Salt Lake City, and at the Deseret News offices at 135 S. Regent St. in Salt Lake City; mail-in registration must be postmarked by July 15 to Salt Lake County Recreation, 2001 S. State St. Suite 4900, Salt Lake City, Utah 84190; and final registration is July 22-23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the University Park Hotel, 480 Wakara, in Salt Lake City. For more information, including entry fees and information about T-shirts and race packets, call (801) 468-2560.
Stephen Handy, marketing director for the Deseret News and the executive race director, said: "The race is open to anyone. There is no discrimination. The more the merrier. We are promoting the virtue of being physically fit - regardless of disability - and remembering the pioneers. If we can provide the way for escorts and runners with disabilities to be involved, what a great thing for the community and the state.
"One of the most important things about the race is it's about heritage and endurance. It seems natural, then, that we invite and make it possible for those with disabilities and challenges to participate with us. What is more in keeping with the spirit of pioneering than helping each other and facing challenges together?"
One person encouraging those with disabilities to participate is Ken Duke of Salt Lake City. "Come on. There's nothing to be afraid of," he said. And he knows what he's talking about. Duke is legally blind.
But that has never stopped him. He has participated in about a half dozen marathons throughout the state. Last year, he finished the Deseret News/Granite Furniture Marathon in a time of 4:01:52.
An officer of the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, Duke recently helped the organization host a race for those with visual impairments. He urges others with disabilities to start running, with escorts if necessary, to "get healthy, feel good about themselves and to be a part of the community."
Referring to the escorts, he added, "Give service to the community. That's what it's all about - to help other people."
Duke believes what he says. Through the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, he is reaching out to others. And he expressed gratitude for a group of friends who regularly train and run in races with him.
Duke wants others to join him.