Pioneering ultra runner, four others set for Feb. 27 induction
(Fourth in a series highlighting the five members of the Sacramento Running Associationís 2016 Hall of Fame class. Today: Jim Howard).
Itís one thing to jog to stay in shape, another to compete in distance races as an avocation and still another to take marathoning seriously. Jim Howard was way beyond all that.
This ultra running pioneer had a year in 1981 and a career spanning 30-plus years few even dream about.
"To make life worth living, you have to have challenges and goals," said Howard, one of five inductees in the Sacramento Running Associationís 2016 Hall of Fame class.
Jim Howard ran in high school at Elk Grove High and then at Cosumnes River College and Sacramento State before transitioning to the roads, then the marathon and the trails.
Howard captured the American River 50-Mile Run title four times, was a two-time winner at the Western States 100-Mile Run, ran a 2:16.58 marathon personal best and in 1985, became the first man to win the Western States 100-Mile Run and the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run.
"He was just a champion," said fellow Hall of Famer and ultra runner Bill Finkbeiner.
"He was beating everyone, every time, yet heís such a humble man."
Howard competed in the 1980 Olympic Marathon Trials and was part of the winning team for 13 World Ride and Tie Championship titles, eight of which came with his daughter, Sara.
Ride and Tie is the sport combining running, riding, endurance and strategy. Teams consist of two runners and one horse that complete a 20 to 100-mile trail course.
His ability to win at almost any distance was uncanny and 1981 was the year he proved that.
In late March, Howard finished third at the Catalina Island Marathon. Then in mid-April, he defended his title at the American River 50-Mile Run. Three weeks later, he won the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in 2:18.04.
Two weeks later, in a tune-up for the famed Leviís Ride and Tie, he and his partner Dave Poston won the 30-Mile Big Creek Ride and Tie. They continued the winning streak at the 41.3-mile Leviís event.
Just six days after Leviís, Howard accomplished the remarkable, co-winning the Western States 100-Mile Run with Doug Latimer in 16:02.
Thirteen days later, he placed second at the 1981 San Francisco Marathon in 2:19.24.
And finally, in November, he won the Pepsi 20-Mile Run in Clarksburg.
"I had a great season of racing because I pushed the limits of physiological adaptation to training by racing every three to four weeks and running high mileage with some quality race pace preparation," said Howard.
"I had many good race performances during my running career.
"I would say I am most proud of the analytical approach I applied to training in preparing for race performances."
Howard, 61, joins CIF champion Clifton West, long-time Mira Loma and Del Campo High School coach Bob King, national high school record-holder Alex Kosinski and long-time Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run race director Greg Soderlund in the 2016 Hall of Fame class, which will be honored at the SRAís Hall of Fame and Annual Achievement Awards dinner on Feb. 27 at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento.
Tickets for the 6 p.m. event are $50. For more information, visit RunSRA.org.
Howard was also part of the winning USA team at the Worlds Masters 8k Cross Country Championships and the Worlds Masters Marathon Championships.
"I have enjoyed racing the whole spectrum of distances that cross country, track, road, and trail racing offers," added Howard.
"The opportunity to enjoy running and racing in the Sacramento-area just keeps getting better thanks to the efforts of schools, clubs and the Sacramento Running Association."
Jim Howard is a man of enviable courage, conviction and talent. His humble, analytical approach to competition and his ability to routinely battle the elements and endure loneliness, tough terrain and impossible miles made him one of the very best champions we have ever known.
Howard, who lives in Applegate, Calif. with his wife, Elaine, has four adult children - Eileen, 30, Luis, 29, Barten, 27, and Sara, 23. These days, the retired state employee spends his time and energy coaching the American River College cross country team where he is happy to share his love and passion for the sport.
Howard and the other four inductees join the 22 members already in the SRA Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of 2013 featured Billy Mills, Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith. The 2014 class included Michael Stember, Al Baeta, Patti Gray Bellan, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Harold Kuphaldt, John Mansoor, Heike Skaden Mansoor and Tim Twietmeyer. The 2015 class featured Sally Edwards, Walt Lange, Eric and Mark Mastalir, Jim OíNeil and Bill Finkbeiner.
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.