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14 Mar 2005
IOC News

John Lucas: a story of revenge

The story of John Lucas, who is visiting the Olympic Museum in Lausanne this week, is a far from ordinary one. In 1952, aged 26, he crossed the United States, travelling from his native Boston to Los Angeles to take part in the US Olympic Trials for the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki. By finishing 11th, he just missed a place in the 10,000m. How frustrating!

It took him a long time to get over this, and was in tears for weeks, he admits. But eight years later, he was in Rome, determined to gain revenge of a sort. Dawn on the day before the Games began saw him alone on the track of the Eternal City, setting out to run his own 10,000m!

From Rome to Athens, more than 100 Olympic kilometres…
He would continue to do this for 50 years, at every edition of the Olympic Games, with the same fire in his heart. Except in Moscow, in 1980, as one press story reports. “Not true!”, he exclaims. “Of course I was there. But when it came to entering the stadium, I was given a categoric ‘nyet’ by the government.” As America boycotted those Games, the refusal is understandable. Undaunted, the keen runner still covered his 10 km – around the outside of the stadium! Today, after Sydney and more recently Athens, he is proud to have covered more than 100 Olympic kilometres, without counting the more than 160,000 others he has clocked up during his life.

Each to his own!
When you ask him why he does it, John Lucas replies, imperturbably: “Some people smoke, others take drugs, and others climb mountains or God knows what else. This is my thing! Of course, I am slightly slower each time, but at least I never lose!”

Honorary IOC lecturer
John Lucas has not spent all his life on running tracks. After teaching in Boston, he was a professor of physical education for 37 years at Penn State University. In 1991, he was appointed Honorary IOC Lecturer for North America by the then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He also received the Olympic Order in 1996, at the 105th IOC Session in Atlanta.

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