— Submitted photo
Jerry Whitten puts his head down and walks really, really fast.
Fast enough to complete 10 miles and cross the Tely 10 finish line at Bannerman Park two hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds after the starter’s gun popped in Paradise.
His 3,359th placing didn’t generate race-day headlines Sunday, but the Mount Pearl man’s finish was impressive and inspirational.
It was his first Tely 10 since his second hip replacement in 2012.
That’s pretty darn spectacular for someone who weighed 285 pounds in 2008, and thought, “I’m done with it all. I’m just so big and crippled.”
He had his first hip replaced that same year. Doctors told him to shed some weight and he walked off 80 pounds.
He did his first Tely 10 in 2010 and his second the following year. But then his other hip crapped out and he needed another surgery in 2012.
He sat out the last two Tely 10s, but was back this year with a vengeance, walking at a brisk and steady pace down Topsail Road, up Cornwall Avenue and down Military Road.
He says Sunday’s race was a struggle and that he hit a wall around Mile 7. It was because of the heat, Whitten says, not his hips, because the replacements are supposed to be good for 25 years.
“It’s only two years old, so hopefully I’ll have a few more Tely 10s left in me.”
He sucked it up and finished the race and was greeted by family members, including his granddaughter, Georgia.
Anyone who did the race at the same pace — like this columnist — could only be fuelled by Whitten’s determination.
He’s quick to downplay that notion, the thought he’s an inspiration.
“I don’t think it would take too much to find 50 other stories from 50 other people who done it yesterday,” he said Monday.
He’s right. There are dozens of runners in every Tely 10 who overcome personal battles to be there. That’s what makes the race one of the province’s most beautiful annual events.
It inspires spectators and participants to live healthier, and gives them a goal. The payoff of training and completing the 10 miles is a tsunami of accomplishment.
If you catch him, just ask Jerry Whitten, a 50-something father of four.
“Any time I finish one now is an accomplishment,” he says, “because I figured I’d never, ever do one.”
Steve Bartlett is managing editor of The Telegram. He finished 35 seconds ahead of Jerry Whitten. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.