Jerry Johncock, shown last year after a 50K race in North Carolina, completed the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, October 4, 2009, after getting an unexpected assist from a bystander with a catheter.

Handout, Provided by Toni Johncock

Wednesday: Once he could go, runner just kept going to finish marathon

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • October 8, 2009 - 11:42 AM

Octogenarian marathoner Jerry Johncock wants to find and thank the man who gave him a catheter that allowed him to go, so he could keep on going -- all the way to the finish line.

A good Samaritan's spare catheter at about mile 21 of Sunday's Twin Cities Marathon "was just a gift from the Lord," said Johncock, 81, who lives in the tiny southwestern Michigan town of Gun Lake.

Johncock, who became the first American 80 or over to break the four-hour mark at last year's Twin Cities Marathon, was overcome with discomfort from a full bladder during this year's race. He knew that a blood clot was preventing him from urinating.

With no catheter at the official aid station on East River Road in St. Paul, staffers there were telling the age-group

champion runner that he would have to drop out and be taken to a hospital.

"I told them, 'I gotta finish this marathon!'" said Johncock, who has run more than 100 marathons since he took up running at age 50 and has never dropped out.

Then from among the spectators, a middle-aged man piped up. "'I have a catheter in my car,'" Johncock recalled his anonymous rescuer saying.

The medical device was retrieved, Johncock entered the first aid van and "a first aid person helped me poke it into my bladder," allowing him to urinate.

"As soon as I got the catheter, I [urinated] and I was good to go," the retired television repairman said. "Oh, what a relief that was."

On Wednesday, however, marathon race officials were consulting with USA Track and Field, the national governing body, to determine whether Johncock violated the rules when he received the informal assistance on the way to winning his gender's 80-84 age division.

"We are going to resolve this as quickly as we can," said marathon executive director Virginia Brophy Achman, who added that the winner is in line to receive $225.

Johncock, when told of the possibility of being disqualified, said, "That sounds like a crazy idea, doesn't it? I think in the future ... I may just carry one of those catheters along with me; if I have any trouble, give myself some relief and be on my way."

According to the race rules, " ... a competitor who has received any assistance whatsoever from any other person may be disqualified by the Referee." USATF rules further state that "medical treatment necessary to enable an athlete to participate, or continue participation once in the competition area, may be provided by members of the official medical staff ..."

Johncock said he just wishes he had gotten the name of the man who saved him from dropping out.

"Give me a call," he said, "so I can call and thank you."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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