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JAMMIN' ON THE QUAD: The band Allred performs during a day of welcome for returning students. Click Arts&Life for a link to photos. / Photo by Heather Routh

Today's word on journalism

Monday, September 3, 2007

"I've always been all over the lot in my writing. Except for poetry -- even though they say all the old-time sportswriters use plenty of it. Maybe it's just part of what we do."

--Frank DeFord, 2006

Hyde Park runner finds peace of mind in his dozens of marathons

By Laura Mecham

April 27, 2007 | HYDE PARK -- Joel Allred said his career of more than 15 years as a principal and teacher has sometimes been stressful, but he says he runs to "beat it all out on the pavement." He must be beating that pavement pretty hard because he's run 40 marathons and plans on racing in many more.

Leaning back in his black, leather chair at his desk at Greenville Elementary school in North Logan, the 49-year-old principal reminisces about his early running days. He smiles as he talks about his wife, then girlfriend, who he said he'd tag along with as she took her dogs for a jog nearly 28 years ago. Allred said he wasn't much of a runner then, but he said he would do anything to spend time with her.

He said, "I never thought then that I would ever run a marathon. Now I've run 40. Nuts, isn't it?"

Allred said after he and his wife were married she became more of a "power walker," while he found great pleasure in running and continued to do so. Allred said he started thinking about a marathon a few years later and that he thought it would be an incredible accomplishment to say he'd run 26 miles.

He said the St. George Marathon was his first, and after that he continued competing every year. He said he ran the St. George Marathon a few more times and the Top of Utah Marathon in Logan every year after he started racing.

According to the Boston Athletic Association, in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, a man Allred's age must have a race time of three hours and 15 minutes. Allred qualified and has now run the famous Boston Marathon twice. He said the most difficult marathon was his second Top of Utah because he pulled a hamstring and caught a cold right before the race. Not only was he running sick and injured, but the weather in Logan didn't cooperate that year either and the contestants had to make their way through a snow storm. He said he pushed through the tough spots then and continues to push through them now because of the satisfaction he finds in the sport. He said his best time was three hours and nine minutes and then laughed and said not to ask about his worst.

"For me, running is peace. It cleans out my mind," Allred said. Allred said running sustains him and gives him sanity and he refuses to listen to music when he runs because he'd rather listen to his surroundings and just think.

He said his favorite place to run is on trails where it is quiet and peaceful. He said he couldn't imagine his life without running and said he'll do it until his "old bones can't take it anymore." "I feel better in every aspect of life when I run," he said.

He said once he began racing he came in contact with a whole community of runners who he said he has developed a great bond and comradeship with. He said they have become kind of like a little family to him. He stood up, reached over to his windowsill and grabbed an 8x10 photograph of himself and two men on either side in running tops, in mid-stride, with faces glistening from sweat and smiling. He said he met these two men from Cache Valley racing and now trains and races with them. He said it is even more fun to be able to run together and cheer each other on.

Allred lives in Hyde Park but is a North Logan native and a Utah State University alumnus. He received his masters with a degree in special education and has been working in the education system since. After working as a teacher in Las Vegas for a few years, he became the principal of Cache High School, an alternative school for students from Sky View and Mountain Crest High Schools. He said after spending nine years there, he met a lot of incredible students and grew to really love them.

"They are my kids," he said.

Before the 2002 Winter Olympics began in Salt Lake City, Coca-Cola took nominations online from the public for people who they thought deserved to carry the torch as it made its way across the world and into Utah's capital. Allred said unbeknownst to him, many of the students at Cache High School were submitting his name daily.

"I bet the people at Coca-Cola got sick of seeing my name," he said. According to the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, there were 7,200 individuals chosen to run the torch. When Allred was notified he had been chosen as a torchbearer who would run the Olympic flame through part of Cache Valley, he said he was shocked and very honored. He said the day of the run it felt like it was 10 below zero, and as he ran the quarter mile up 1400 North in Logan past Lee's Marketplace toward the Spectrum, he said he was overcome as he saw many of his students red-faced and bundled up, battling the cold to loudly cheer on their principal.

"I think the nomination was kind of a 'thank you' from them," he said. Allred has taken his love of running and shared it with the students of Greenville Elementary School. In May, there is a school-wide competition called the "Greenville Mile" which he started a few years ago. He said the students start training with the P.E. teacher months in advance. Each class has their own race, and the winner from each class gets to race in the final competition. A few roads around the school are barricaded and all of the other students stand on the sidelines to cheer on their classmates as they race with their principal.

Allred said this year the competition will be at 9:30 a.m. May 18.

Despite all of his accomplishments in racing, Allred said his greatest achievement has been raising his family. He and his wife of 28 years have six children from age 12 to 26. Their oldest daughter just graduated from law school in Omaha, and their youngest is in middle school. While none have taken on their father's sport, he said he has found joy in seeing them grow and succeed, even if they'd rather play soccer than run. Besides his immediate family, Allred said he considers the students he has taught and worked with as part of an extended family. He said he takes his job very seriously and is genuinely concerned about all of the students he works with.

"My wife didn't know that we were going to have thousands of kids when she married me," he said.


Copyright 1997-2007 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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