Frank Levine’s role in Fast marathon debut is . . . inspiring

Jason Fast

Frank Levine.

We talk a lot about inspirational stories in masters track: “He’s my hero,”  “She’s such a role model.” But real-life people are indeed moved by what we do on the track and field. No cliche. Latest example is 28-year-old Jason Fast, the de facto meet director of last July’s Oshkosh masters nationals. Check out this story — on how watching M95 Frank Levine chug around the track motivated Jason to tackle a little race known as the marathon. Here’s Jason’ s results. ”The defining moment was when he watched Frank Levine, a masters athlete, break a world record for 5,000 meters in the 95-99 age group,” the story says. “Stunned by his performance and dedication, Fast realized that it was an amazing feat. ‘That is when I decided, if he can do something like this, then I can do a marathon,’ the Vikings coach said. ‘I want to emulate this guy who tackles the sport even at his age.’ ”


Here’s the story, in case the link goes dead:

Gloria West column: Lawrence team helps coach pull a Fast one

Lawrence University cross country coach Jason Fast likes to coach runners because it helps him stay in shape.

Little did he know that his career as a coach would have additional benefits, including a massive pit crew following him as he ran the Community First Fox Cities Marathon last Sunday.

This past summer, Fast decided to expand his horizons and to do a marathon. The idea evolved from working at the 2009 USATF National Masters Championship held in Oshkosh last July.

The defining moment was when he watched Frank Levine, a masters athlete, break a world record for 5,000 meters in the 95-99 age group.

Stunned by his performance and dedication, Fast realized that it was an amazing feat.

“That is when I decided, if he can do something like this, then I can do a marathon,” the Vikings coach said. “I want to emulate this guy who tackles the sport even at his age.”

And so with only eight weeks to train, he signed up for the marathon.

This fall when he told members of his cross country team he would do his first marathon, their reaction was to come up with a plan for him.

As the team’s plan unfolded, Fast had the entire Lawrence cross country team follow him like bees diving for pollen from flower to flower. “They were everywhere — at the start, mile four, mile eight, mile 14, mile 18, mile 20 and, for sure, at the finish,” Fast recalled with a laugh. “They cheered for me, yelled, screamed and cried. At times, they got right in my face. It just made me push faster and faster.”

Fast was a late-bloomer as a cross country runner, When he was at Menasha High School, his teacher, Janelle Jansen, told him that he “looked like a runner” and should take up cross country or track.

His last name is even suited running.

Fast’s initial exposure to prep running didn’t go well.

“I hated it,” he recalled. “I just hated my first three-miler, so I quit right away. I couldn’t even walk after it. Yet his parents encouraged him to go out for something.

Then he joined the Menasha track team knowing there were many events to choose from.

“I did not know what I wanted, so I told my coach I will close my eyes, pick an event from a list and wherever my finger landed,” he said. He became a miler and stuck with it. At the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he became an asset to the team, especially in 2002. That’s when the Titans won the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championship.

But back to the marathon. Fast crossed finished in two hours, 52 minutes, 58 seconds. Breaking three hours is almost unheard of for a first-time marathoner. He finished 12th overall, too.

“He was realistic about his time, so I knew he could do it, an LU runner commented. ” We felt the least we could do is support him at his first marathon. He is always there for us, so positive and upbeat. He is a new coach and we really like him.”

But running marathons are hard work. Fast lamented that there was pain, especially near the end.

He mended quickly, though, and now he’s looking forward to another 26.2-mile excursion.

And he’ll continue to count on his student fan club to give him a boost.

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September 26, 2009

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