Bank of America Chicago Diary: Stories of Jonesy

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20171005_124518.jpgSteve Jones with Larry Eder, Chicago Presser, October 5, 2017, photo by Mike Deering for The Shoe Addicts

Steve Jones may be the most modest world record holder that you may ever meet. Steve Jones is Welsh, and a former RAF mechanic (he calls it a technician), who worked on F4 Phantoms for much of his career. Racing close to fifty times a year as a journeyman (weekends, plus a mid week race for the RAF), Steve ran cross country, track races off a steady diet of 75-80 miles a week.

His first marathon attempt was the Chicago Marathon in 1983, which was then sponsored by Beatrice Foods. Jonesy hurt himself in a 20 minute warm up, and by 16 miles could go no farther. He tried to return his per diem to then race director Bob Bright (think, P.T. Barnum meets Hunter S. Thompson). Bright refused.

The next year, in 1984, Steve Jones returned to Chicago, finished the race, and broke the world record.

I have known Steve Jones for nearly three decades.

Jonesy is a straight shooter. His approach to running is old school. "You can not do everything well. You have to concentrate." That concentration, that focus on his sport, helped make him one of the finest runners of his era. Steve Jones has highs and lows in his running, yet, he always came back and his sponsorship with Reebok, over 26 years, was one of the longest in the sport of running.

The 1984 Chicago Marathon was a typical Steve Jones race. Get out front, and when one felt he could break his competition, he just did it. With three miles to go, the late Chris Brasher, co-founder of the London Marathon (and one of the Three Musketeers, the men who helped make Sir Roger Bannister the first four minute miler) said, "Jonesy, if you can run the last three miles in five minute pace, you got the record."

Jonesey noted to this writer, ' I did not know which record Chris Brasher was speaking about. I thought it was the course record!' Actually, Steve Jones ran 2:08:05 and set a new world record!

In 1985, Steve Jones came back and missed breaking the new world record (by Carlos Lopes, the 1984 Olympic marathon champ, who would eat a big steak and a nice bottle of Portugese red wine for a pre marathon dinner,), by a mere second.

In 1986, Steve Jones won the NYC Marathon with no competition, such was his fitness. A 2:08:04 gave him the win, and also it is notable that he had no sponsor logo on his vest (Mr. Fireman had not agreed to a sponsorship by Reebok prior to the race).

Speaking to Steve Jones today, one gains even more respect. " I ran in a special era. With men like Carles Lopes and Rob De Castella, it was very high level of competition. We were friends off the course, but once the starting line was crossed, it was all about winning."

A modest man, Steve Jones still has the twinkle in his eye. A man who has given his all to his sport. "There were times when I came home from a trip, I did not know if my wife would be home. I had put all I had into running."

Steve Jones may the last honest man, or one of the few. The typical mind set now is that one can have it all. According to Mr. Jones, that is total rubbish. One must decide what the focus is, and come hell or high water, keep the focus.

Steve Jones has been there, and in 1984 and 1985, he was the best marathon racer in the world.

And we, his fans, were the better for it.

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