Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ 10K special for one participant

Sunday, September 23, 2012 | 3:11 p.m. CDT; updated 6:02 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 23, 2012
John Lucas, left, walks across the finish line of the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ 10K with the aid of his caregiver Amanda Garrison-Reed on Saturday. Lucas and Garrison-Reed finished the race with Lucas' son Mark Lucas as two volunteers held the Olympic flag behind the trio.

COLUMBIA — An older man in a red and white jacket sits in a wheelchair a little ways back from the starting line of the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ 10K race. A tall blonde woman in blue stands behind him, her hands resting on the handles of his chair. 

"Five! Four! Three! Two! One!" cries the race starter.

The woman pushes the man forward and walks quickly among the other competitors. The man smiles, an Olympic flag resting on his lap. 

It has been 60 years since renowned Olympic historian, John Lucas, ran in the 10K race at the 1952 Olympic Team Trials for the Helsinki, Finland Games. Lucas didn't qualify for the Games, but it was a memorable day. 

Born Dec. 24, 1927, in Boston, Lucas moved to Columbia this spring after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in February to be closer to his son Mark Lucas, director of Student Life at MU.

Amanda Garrison-Reed, his caregiver, signed him up for the race Saturday with the hope that it would make him smile. 

"He was up and ready this morning, and he was so excited," Garrison-Reed said. "Even in the car he was smiling, and it was amazing because he doesn't really do that anymore."

John Lucas's passion for athletics is lifelong. He was an avid runner, and he ran almost every day. Before his move to Columbia, Lucas was a professor and coach at Penn State for about 50 years.

With the exception of this year's London Games, John Lucas has attended every summer Olympic Games since 1960. He was also honored with the title of Official International Olympic Committee Lecturer in 1992, and with the Olympic Order Medal in 1996. 

While attending the Olympics, John Lucas continued his passion for running by running around every Olympic track, except in 2008, when he was not allowed to run in Beijing.

Saturday, John Lucas was allowed to "run."

Garrison-Reed pushed him along the 10K course up until the last mile where Lucas' son joined her.

Just 20 feet before the finish line, the trio stopped. Cheers erupted from the crowd as Garrison-Reed and Mark Lucas helped John Lucas walk across the finish line, the Olympic flag billowing behind them. 

"I signed us up for him," Garrison-Reed said. "It's his favorite race. He loved running 10K's. This was just for him."

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