A True Hero: Jim Jenness

A True Hero: Jim Jenness

Kellogg’s Chairman Jim Jenness has completed 22 consecutive Chicago Marathons to raise funds that help kids at Mercy Home—that’s more than 576 total marathon miles he’s logged through the streets of the Windy City.

Additionally, the 67-year old prepared to run his fourth Boston Marathon last April—despite having suffered two broken ankles while hiking in Arizona just three months prior!

This amazing athlete and Mercy Home board member was nearing the finish line in Boston when the event was abruptly halted by two terrorist bombs.

We asked Jenness to share his experience that day with us, as well as the uplifting moments later in May, when he and 34 other runners were allowed to complete their Boston Marathon journey at the Indianapolis Speedway prior to the start of this year’s Indy 500. His own determination and courage is a testament to the runner’s spirit and the community that binds them, while his generosity toward Mercy Home’s kids is an inspiration to everyone willing to go the extra mile to make a difference.

“Well, after completing my 22nd Chicago Marathon in a row last October, I decided to go for my fourth Boston Marathon in April. My wife and I made all the reservations. Then in January, we went hiking in Arizona, where I broke both of my ankles. I was in wheelchair with two boots on. Later, I used a walker before being fitted with air casts. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona said there was no way could I recover in time to run Boston. We returned to Chicago and a found a doctor who specializes in runners, and he said maybe I could still make it in time for Boston, but it was a long shot…

Thankfully, I was able to recover and managed to get a few training runs in. The doctor cleared me, saying that I wouldn’t do any permanent damage. But, he said I had to run very slow—ten to eleven minute miles as opposed to my usual 8:30 pace…

April 15th. It was a beautiful Patriot’s Day in Boston. I wasn’t sure I could make it to the finish line, so I figured I would do what I could and try to go for it. The crowds were inspiring and amazing. As the miles ticked by I felt elated that I just might make it. The hills around mile 20 went by and I passed through miles 22, 23 and 24 feeling amazed that I would finish. I neared 25 miles and the turn that takes you on to Boylston and on to the finish line…

Then the runners just stopped…

Fully expecting to get going shortly, minutes passed. Finally, because some folks had phones and were able to get texts, we got word of explosions and wild rumors about the number of people killed and hurt. Sirens, police cars, fire trucks and ambulances were all over the place. Police came by with loudspeakers and told us to stay in place for our own safety. They then told us that in about a minute we’d hear an explosion. They were about to set off another device they’d found…

At this point, folks from surrounding buildings and spectators came into the crowd of runners with water and garbage bags to help us keep warm. Runners and spectators were searching for family with great concern that they were injured or worse. The police announced after about an hour to move along Commonwealth and head toward the Boston Commons…

Chaos continued as thousands of runners moved slowly with no one really knowing what was going on and with concern more events could happen. (My wife) Sharon and I agreed we would meet at our hotel after the race. It took me about two hours to finally make it back there. I had no way to let her know I was ok. By that time our kids and many friends were calling and emailing her with concern since they knew I was running. Many were tracking me on the GPS during the race and they could see I passed mile 25 and was getting close to the finish when the tracking stopped…

It’s still surreal to me how that sunny, beautiful Patriot’s Day in Boston—and the greatest marathon in the world, with so many people about to fulfill their dream of completing it—turned ugly and dark. The sadness, anger and desire to find and punish the devils who did this was in everyone’s hearts…

Indianapolis, Memorial Day weekend. The BAA (Boston Athletic Association) and the Indy 500, as a tribute to the city of Boston and its first responders, and to the spirit of American patriotism, came up with the idea to have folks who ran Boston but did not finish symbolically finish by running a half-mile stretch down the track and across the famous Brickyard just before the start of the Indy 500. I had the unbelievable honor of participating and crossing the finish line with about 34 other Boston runners…

As the event unfolded, we heard the crowd sing “God Bless America” and then our National Anthem. There were about 400,000 folks in attendance. And as we ran down the home stretch, spectators, race drivers, and pit crew members all rose to their feet yelling and cheering and applauding—all in the spirit of thanks and recognition, of tribute to those killed and injured and to all the folks of Boston, and ultimately, in celebration of the strength and will of the American spirit and the American people…

As I reflect on the last year, it’s hard to explain and capture a certain fateful aspect of all of it and the events for me as they unfolded. What I can say is I am so grateful to be a runner and proud of the strength and determination of runners, and in so many ways how that strength and determination is at the core of how folks across our country feel…

My wife and I already have reservations in Boston for next year’s marathon. You can bet I plan to run and to cross that finish line!”
If you would like to join Jim on Mercy Home’s Marathon team and enter the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, we still have spots available! But the deadline is fast approaching.

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