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Jacki Hansen — March, 2012
Jacqueline Hansen is best known for winning the 1973 Boston Marathon and for her activism which was instrumental in adding the women’s marathon and later the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters to the Olympic Games. She started racing at a time when young women had little opportunity to run and race in high school and college. Jacqueline improved tremendously when she began training under Hungarian Laszlo Tabori, the third man to run a sub-four minute mile. Twice she broke the World Record in the marathon, winning the 1974 Western Hemisphere Marathon in 2:43:54 and the 1975 Nike-OTC Marathon in 2:38:10. Jacqueline won 12 of her first 15 marathons. She won the 1978 AAU National 50-mile Championship, setting 11 World Records along the way. Jacqueline won the 1987 World Masters Championships at both 1,500 and 5,000 meters. During the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics she hosted Joan Benoit in her home as Joan won the first women’s Olympic Marathon. Her accolades include receiving the ACLU Leadership Award for her lobbying efforts, the Woman of the year Award from the Women’s Long Distance Running Committee of The Athletics Congress and induction into the RRCA Hall of Fame. She was a volunteer coach for Team Diabetes for seven years and continues to do private coaching. Jacqueline resides in Los Angeles, California and instructs teacher credential candidates in Health Education at Loyola Marymount University. She was kind in spending over two hours on the telephone for this interview.
GCR:For anyone under the age of 40 or 45, it is difficult to fathom the lack of opportunities that girls and women had to compete in sports until sometime in the mid-1970s. What were the sports prospects for you as a teenager in the 1960s and what was the influence of your coach, Dixie Griffin?
JHI was horrible at P.E. in high school. I couldn’t stand P.E. People today think I was a P.E. major but I was not. I hated softball the most as I’m a little on the short side and I was never picked for teams as I wasn’t athletically gifted and couldn’t catch or throw. I went to a large high school with over 900 students in my graduating class alone and I was one of five J. Hansens - all women. So I took electives for P.E. that allowed me to get out of regular P.E. because it was always humiliating to be picked last on a team if I was picked at all. I ended up in an elective for tennis and my teacher was Dixie Griffin who was new to the school. She was advocating track and field for girls in high school as she thought that if we did that across the country that some would turn into Olympians and be able to complete with the rest of the world. I didn’t realize at the time that she was such a force. She looked around and said, ‘Why is there a boy’s track team and there is not a girls track team?’ So she started one. Her background was as a shot putter and javelin thrower and I knew she was an Olympic Trials competitor in the javelin. She announced, ‘Does anyone want to pass this tennis class and sign up for the track team?’ And so I raised my hand as it was a bonus. The team didn’t have to choose me and then I would pass tennis where I wasn’t doing very well. The longest distance was 440 yards and I competed in 50 yard dashes, hurdles and even threw the javelin. I tried the shot put and long jump. I wasn’t good enough to qualify for the City Championships in any event but she introduced me to track and field. Years later when I was speaking at an event and telling this story I heard a voice in the back of the room, ‘Be careful what you say. You never know who’s here.’ It was Dixie and she told me that she knew I was a distance runner even back then.
GCR:During your first two collegiate years at Pierce Junior College was there much of an increase in the amount or specificity of your training?
JHA golf teacher was teaching the track and field class and she taught it out of a book. For example, one week we did long jump and the next week we did shot put and there was a quiz at the end of each week. There was one other girl in the class who had gone to my high school and we liked to see how far we could run without stopping. So maybe I was meant to be a distance runner. After class we would practice but without real coaching. There was a great men’s coach there, Bob Chambers, and we had a great men’s team. I don’t know why we didn’t run with them but maybe just because they didn’t ask us. I would go to the guy’s meets and I was the scorekeeper. To this day they laugh and say things like, ‘The scorekeeper is the only one who made good!’ I did have an opportunity to run a longer race of 880 yards and we did go to meets, but I didn’t have the necessary training to race well.
GCR:It seems that during your next educational stint at San Fernando Valley State where you were a one woman track team you finally met someone who took advantage of your talent and desire with increased training. What was the impact of having Laszlo Tabori, a sub-4:00 Hungarian miler from neighboring LA Valley College, as your coach?
JHTalk about being in the right place at the right time. It was just luck. I’m not kidding. I was running around Cal State-Northridge as I was the only woman to sign up for the Track and Field Class which was taught by a basketball coach. She said, ‘I see you running around so there is one meet at UCLA. Just report to me and be there and I’ll give you a grade.’ That was our deal. I was an English major and wasn’t good at anything athletically, but I loved to run. I was running around with a guy named Jon Sutherland who trained under Laszlo Tabori. Not running around in that sense of the word (laughing), but running around the school loop through orchards. One day when I was running with Jon we bumped into a girl named Judy Graham and she told me she was the only girl training with Laszlo and asked me to join her for the next workout. I had no idea who this man was or how great he was or I might have been intimidated. Jon loves to tell the story to this day of how we did a two and a half mile warm up, stretching and 15 times 100 yard shakeups that were ten easy and five hard. We all walked over to our bags and I mentioned that it was time to wrap up and go home because that was more than I had ever run at one time. And Laszlo said, ‘No, we are going to put on our spikes now to do the workout. That was just the warm up.’ I knew I was in trouble. But you don’t talk back to this man. You don’t leave and you don’t go home as he was a little intimidating with his Hungarian discipline and army background. It was just like it was for the guys who trained under Migaly Igloi as he was an Igloi protégé. I’ve known him now for 40 years and he does have soft spots though there are only two excuses for missing workouts – one, if you are in a body cast in the hospital and two if you are in the morgue with a toe tag!
GCR:While most collegiate runners are focused on the track, you caught the marathon bug. Describe how watching the 1971 Culver City Marathon inspired you to become a marathon runner.
JHI had been training with Laszlo as a middle distance runner and could qualify for nationals in the 1,500 meters or mile but I didn’t make a big splash. I was always behind Judy Graham. But when we ran 3,000 meters and an occasional 5,000 meters I raced well. The further I went, the better I got. Cheryl Bridges was on our team and she didn’t train with us though she did run in the meets. She told us she was going to run this marathon in Culver City. Laszlo lived on the course and Judy and I told Cheryl we would come out and cheer for her. I thought that anyone crazy enough to run that far needs some support. I watched and caught the bug. I was a little cocky as I thought, ‘That doesn’t look fast. I bet I can do that.’ I could beat Cheryl in the 3,000 meters and sometimes in cross country so I figured maybe I could run a marathon. I was fascinated by it and made a secret vow to myself to come back and run the race a year later.
GCR:The following year you won the Culver City Marathon in your first attempt at the distance in 3:15:33, finishing three minutes ahead of Eileen Waters and five minutes in front of Donna Gookin. What do you remember from that race as far as competition and how it felt to step up in distance?
JHI didn’t do anything in training and didn’t even remember about the marathon until cross country season was over and the marathon was coming up two weeks later. I think I was eighth at nationals in cross country and figured I was in my best shape ever so maybe I should run that marathon. My long runs were done in the summer when we had two weeks of active rest. I ran with Monty Montgomery who is an icon out here with his training group that ran from the Balboa Dam. I decided to run with their group because they were always telling stories when they ran, having fun and then they would have few beers afterward. I also wanted to run some on pavement since Judy and I did all of our running on grassy loops. Judy told me that Laszlo would find out but I disagreed though she noted that he always found out about everything. I did one 10 miler and one 14-miler in the summer and I was hooked on long distance. But those were the only long runs I did as I went back to cross country training for the fall. When I showed up for the marathon, Eileen and Donna said, ‘Now the speedsters are coming to run marathons. It’s all over for us.’ Their thought process was that they were ultra marathon runners who were coming down to the marathon but that the speedy runners would change the marathon forevermore. I don’t remember them being near me in the race at all. I was feeling fine until between 18 and 20 miles and then I wanted to die. We had to run past the finish line which was a cruel, cruel thing and then we did another loop. I wanted to quit right there. I was going so slowly toward the end that my friends who were biking along had to get off of their bikes and walk them. I remember crossing the finish line and thinking, ‘Never again.’ Until they gave me the winner’s medal and then I was hooked.
GCR:What was your weekly mileage before your first marathon?
JHI never added up the miles then. I didn’t do that until I was a road runner. It’s hard to know as I didn’t keep stats back then. We did do lots of intervals that added up to miles and miles though I don’t know exactly how much. But Joe Henderson did write up one example in his book, ‘How They Trained,’ where he recorded my last interval workout before my 2:38 performance. It was 17 miles of intervals.
GCR:Your next step was to prepare for the 1973 Boston Marathon. Why did you decide to go to Boston, what did you do differently in training and, looking back now, was anything important missing from your marathon training?
JHI had a teammate, Pat Miller, who had run for Yale. He was from a neighboring high school as I went to Granada Hills and he went to Monroe. We lived in the same neighborhood and he also was coached by Laszlo. He told me that I really should run in Boston. I didn’t know what he was talking about as I had never heard of the Boston Marathon. So he told me and said they had just started having a women’s division earlier that year. He was going to be running in it and I said, ‘Sounds great!’ I started saving money for the trip and Laszlo doubled my interval workouts. I told him I needed to start doing some running on the roads as he never let us run on the roads. So I did one long run a week in addition to the increased intervals. Only decades later did I figure out that the missing component was steady state runs or tempo runs. But whatever we did we were figuring it out at the same time.
GCR:The Boston Marathon was basically a two-woman race as Nina Kuscsik was 30 seconds behind you with no one else within ten minutes. What were some of the key moves and how were the Newton Hills on a fairly hot day?
JHI didn’t know Nina though I did know her name. I’m not even sure when I figured out that I was leading. It was somewhere after Heartbreak Hill which I didn’t think was such a big hill – it just came at a bad time in the race. I think I wasn’t always out front but I don’t remember. This is common in many of my races as I just have a knack for focusing on my running. Even though sports psychology didn’t exist then we found out later that I was doing many of the right things instinctively. For me it was almost like meditating. Maybe I was leading the whole way, but I’ve never read any accounts. I did do many dumb things so it’s a wonder I survived. I got into running also because I was a camp counselor for backpacking camp, mountain camp and high Sierras camp. So I wore two pairs of heavy wool socks to prevent blisters and my heaviest training shoes for the long haul. I was treating it like a backpacking experience. It was a hot day of about 77 degrees and I didn’t drink anything because Laszlo didn’t let us drink during workouts. Going up Heartbreak Hill some guy dumped cool water on runners and it ran down my body soaking my shorts. I had chosen blue and white checkered terrycloth shorts, since it was Patriots’ Day, and a red, white and blue stars and stripes shirt. They soaked up water like a towel and my socks did the same so I was squish-squashing. I was not very bright.
GCR:How were the crowds as you approached the finish line and were leading?
JHWe had screaming girls at Wellesley College earlier in the race and then coming down Commonwealth Avenue everyone was getting very excited and yelling, ‘You’re number one!’ I had goose bumps the whole last stretch. It was just so exciting for me.
GCR:What do you remember feeling as you crossed the finish line and of the awards ceremony?
JHIt was euphoric. I didn’t conk out like at Culver City and this time I felt great. Sports writer, Bud Collins wrote something poetic about me looking like Florence Nightingale coming across the battle field of fallen soldiers who were collapsed and on stretchers. I connected up right afterward with my teammate, Pat, and then I put my feet into a fountain to cool off as they were burning.
GCR:How did becoming Boston Marathon champion impact your life as far as recognition and opening doors?
JHWinning the Boston Marathon literally changed my whole life. I was now a marathoner runner and not a mediocre middle distance runner. I had definitely found my event and I loved it. It got me my first all-expense paid trip to another race as I was immediately invited down to Charleston, West Virginia for their 15-miler. That was when I had to give up back packing. I had told Laszlo we were going backpacking for four weeks in the Olympia Mountains; I would have my running shoes with me and that when we made base camp I would be training at altitude and that I would be in great shape. Laszlo said, ‘you can backpack when you are 84, but who will pay to watch you run?’ So I stayed home and trained and did not go backpacking.
GCR:Speaking of the Charleston Distance Run, what was it like hanging out with Steve Prefontaine, Dave Wottle, Neil Cusack, Tom Fleming, Jeff Galloway and Jesse Owens, some who competed and some who were invited guests?
JHWe had so much fun as I ran that race on two occasions. One year a day or two before the race we were on a training run and there was a tornado warning. A Sheriff stopped us and told us we needed to head for cover. They treated us so royally and were very hospitable. It was a tough course as it was hot and humid and it had one long, tough hill. I met Jesse Owens and was very impressed with him. It was awesome to be around all of these runners. Jesse Owens was such a gentleman and wise like a sage. It’s hard to describe what it was like to be hanging around with an icon. I was just awestruck.
GCR:In 1974 you had great international success, first finishing fifth at the Women’s International Marathon in Waldniel, Germany in a PR of 2:56:25 and a week later winning a 15k road race in Florence, Italy in a World Best 52:15. What was responsible for your big improvement of over ten minutes in the marathon since you won at Boston and how was it racing the best in the World?
JHI sort of got invited to the race though I wasn’t part of the U.S. team because I didn’t run at the U.S. Marathon Championships as it conflicted with my cross country season. I wore a plain shirt though they counted me on the U.S. team anyway. Bruce Dern, the actor, sponsored me and he was very nice to send me to the race. He was my husband’s training partner and best friend. He thought it was unfair that I had won the Boston Marathon and wasn’t on the U.S. team. Dr. Ernst van Aaken, who directed the race, also wanted me to participate. We hit it off as he was very hospitable and was one of the biggest advocates for women’s distance running. He advocated the 800 meters and then the 1,500 meters being added to the Olympic program and now was holding this marathon at his own expense. He was responsible for advancing our sport. So my being the first American and breaking three hours for the first time made me ecstatic. I was just euphoric. I suspect that all of Laszlo’s training helped me to hold my peak and to put good races back-to-back. We learned about training for marathons together. It was a learning experience and we got better at it as we went along. It was an accidental 15k that I stumbled upon as we were heading to Tunisia to meet Mohammed Gammoudi. We got tired and stayed overnight in Florence and found this race. I didn’t know where we were going and I was chasing my husband who was chasing the lead group. He turned around one time and said, ‘what are you doing up here?’ I responded, ‘I don’t know where we are going.’ I was running a little over my head but I handled it and I was ecstatic to run so fast as it was great. If Boston was the turning point to change my life then these races gave me the confidence that I could run with the best in the World. I don’t mean to sound conceited, but I finally realized I could step out of my neighborhood. These other runners were just names. As Laszlo used to say, ‘they put their shorts on over their feet the same way that you do so don’t be afraid of them.’
GCR:How did you schedule this meeting with Tunisia’s Mohammed Gammoudi, multiple Olympic medalist and national hero?
JHIt was a fortunate connection. There was a Runners World interview done by Pam Hadjeri who was married to Hiro Hadjeri. He was Tunisian and ran for the Santa Monica Track Club with my husband, Tom. Hiro said that since we were going to be in Europe and they were going to be in Tunisia that we should come down for a visit. And so I was able to run with Mohammed Gammoudi. He is huge in Tunisia and is still a national hero. What a fine man, what an interesting experience and what a beautiful country to visit. No one could really design a better first trip to Europe.
GCR:Later that year you again had a monstrous marathon improvement when you won in Culver City again in a World Record 2:43:54. Was it increased training, getting accustomed to the marathon or a combination that led to your first World Record?
JHI think I was figuring out the long runs and how to race longer more efficiently. Also Laszlo was fine-tuning my speed. I still had a final cross country season and he was refining my speed. Bruce was warming up with me that day and everyone was yacking in my ear about going for the World Record and it was scaring me. Bruce just said, ‘Don’t listen to them. Just run your race and do what you do best.’ He was so proud of me when I raced well in Germany and even more when I did this. There was a point in the race where my husband was standing on the course and he sort of ran along with me for a few steps and was yelling encouragement. I told him to stop because it was ruining my concentration. He said later that he knew right then that if I had the energy to get mad that I was going to finish fine. He realized he wasn’t helping. I think I was learning about sport psychology again before that field existed. Honestly and frankly, the marathon was easier than running Laszlo’s workouts. It was almost like a day off form the hard interval workouts.
GCR:Christa Vahlensieck lowered the World Record to 2:40:15, but then you reclaimed it with your all-time personal best of 2:38:10 at the 1975 Nike-OTC Marathon. Was there sort of an unofficial competition going on back and forth across the ocean?
JHYes there was a competition. Christa was from West Germany and was one of Ernst van Aaken’s runners, though her hands-on coach was Manfred Steffny. They were both van Aaken protégés. Christa and I are the best of friends and, along with Chantal Langlace, the best of rivals all at the same time if that makes sense. We respected each other. I made sure she could race in Brazil when it was the first year they had a women’s field in the Sao Silvestre run. I picked the field and did too well as I got beat!
GCR:You have mentioned that sometimes you don’t remember much from some of your races. What do recall from your second World Record?
JHEvery single step and at the same time none of it. The race was over almost before it began. This sounds crazy – it was like when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and it was more the anesthesia than the procedure and then I woke up and it was over. I felt like I could run the marathon again as I felt that well. But I also remember every water bottle I took and every mile marker. I saw Janet Heinonen on the race route. I remember seeing Lily Ledbetter, whom I stayed with along the course. She was a good Oregon runner who had looked up to me and so she was the volunteer that hosted me. I remember them both on their bikes encouraging me. At the time I remembered all of my splits. When I heard my 20-mile split of about 2:01 I did the math in my head and thought I could get under 2:40 if I really worked at it. I ran an average of 6:02 per mile, my slowest was 6:08 and my final six miles averaged 5:55s. It was the best negative split race I ever ran. It was like an out-of-body experience. It was definitely what they call a peak performance and was one of only two races I ever had like that. If I could have just bottled that and patented it and pulled it out of my repertoire every race.
GCR:What was the mood like in Eugene, Oregon for the Nike-OTC Marathon since it was only months after the death of Steve Prefontaine?
JHThe whole town was in mourning. He had died in May and this race was in early October so it was just five months later. People would take me on group runs around town and I’d hear, ‘This is where Pre ran, this is where Pre lived, this is where Pre trained, this is where Pre crashed.’ Everything was in relation to where Pre was. He had such a bright future and was cut down way too early. I admired him even more so for his activism and how he was always fighting for athletes rights – whether it was for fresh air and doing away with field burnings near Eugene which polluted the air or fighting with the AAU for travel permits to run against the Finns. He raced like a fighter too and I liked that. The one year where he said he wasn’t going to run the AAU 3-mile because they moved it to be on television even though it was in the heat of the day and unsafe for the athletes was great. The television commentators were focused on Pre’s statements and, even though he showed up at the last minute, ran and won, he made his point. That reminded me of when Nina Kuscsik stood up for women when the New York City Marathon said women had to start 10 minutes earlier than the men and she refused and led a sit-down strike. And she still broke three hours even though she gave up ten minutes – I like that!
GCR:Despite such great success and fast times by many women, there was no women’s race longer than 1,500 meters at the 1976 Olympics. How disappointing and frustrating was it not to have distance races up to the marathon at the Games despite efforts to make this happen?
JHI was naïve enough to think that we could just do a letter writing campaign and petition to fix it. I had no idea how many years it would take to make it happen. At the time I felt like it was going to happen and that it wasn’t hopeless. I was also young and invincible so I thought if the marathon wasn’t added to the Olympic Games that I’d do it next time. Looking back I’m not saying I would have made the team or would have won a medal, but I should have had the chance to try and so should have a lot of other women. That year would have been my best shot. It’s particularly poignant when I think back to those years when I was number one in the world – that was my chance as I didn’t get any better than that.
GCR:You continued to win marathons at Honolulu in 1975, Avenue of the Giants inn 1976 and Culver City in 1977, but your times were all in the 2:49 to 2:50 range. Were you training less or was the attention to expanding women’s racing opportunities taking more of your focus and energy?
JHI was actually training more and racing more. I was running more on the roads and getting repeatedly injured. The wheels were beginning to come off. I was also becoming more of an activist and a lobbyist. I was letting my words do the talking instead of my feet. By 1979 Tom and I and Joe Henderson founded the International Runners Committee that was funded by Nike. More people were asking what it took to get the women’s distance events added to the Olympics so we got at least a dozen international runners, both women and men, who were already movers and shakers in the running community to join the effort. Jeff Darman, Phil Stewart, Nina Kuscsik , Sarolta Monspart from Hungary, Joan Ullyot, Joe Henderson and Ellie Mendoca of Brazil were some of the 13 or more of us in all. Also, my training focus was changing as I was also running longer and thinking about running the 50-miler.
GCR:You won the 1978 AAU National 50-mile Championship, running 200 laps on the track and setting many U.S. Records along the way. How tough was the training to prepare for this event?
JHI had watched the race for many years as my husband, Tom, was the race director. All of the running clubs would go to the local association meeting and each club would have to sponsor a championship. Tom was usually late, was assigned what was left over and it was usually the 50-miler. I worked the race each year and got fascinated with it in the same way I initially was fascinated with Cheryl Bridges running the marathon. I laughingly thought to myself, ‘At least if I run I’ll get to go home when I finish. I won’t have to stay for the last runner.’ I got obsessed with it. I started running 40 mile long runs. I would run to a marathon, run through the marathon and run afterward to get in my long runs with some company. So I basically took my marathon training and doubled it. I was already doing crazy things like the relay to Las Vegas and relays around Oahu. I was into adventurous races. My marathon times weren’t getting faster, but I was having fun. I thought I did all of the right things in training for the 50-miler. I knew that where ‘the wall’ was around 20 miles into a marathon that it occurred about 35 miles into a 50-miler. But it is a different kind of wall as you get very depressed. I’m not a scientist but it occurs somewhere around when you switch from burning carbs to fat and maybe some protein. There is a transition where I would watch runners go into a lull and then come out of it. Eileen Waters was the perfect example. She carried a higher body fat percentage than most runners and would start to run faster about that point of the race. She survived it better than the men. I thought that since I needed to work through that I should up my long runs to 40 miles. I wanted to conquer that.
GCR:What did you experience mentally, physically and emotionally through that arduous race?
JHOh, you have no idea (with pain in her voice). It is never the same in a race as in training and I bombed really badly. When I asked my lap counter after about 35 miles my split she gave me my time for the entire race at that point but I couldn’t do the math. I told her to break it down into minutes per mile. She came back and told me I was now running nine minute miles and I stopped. I did the math and figured I would be out there another two and a half hours and thought I just couldn’t do that. I didn’t need sympathy but needed a cheerleader. My two lap counters said, ‘do you want to stop, do you want to lie down, do you want a drink?’ I said yes to everything. Then Laszlo showed up and started shouting, ‘You can’t sit down. You have to get up and start moving.’ My doctor, who was a runner though he wasn’t running that day, said the same thing so I got going and probably continued at nine minutes a mile. But at least I finished though it was very hard. Since I set 11 World Records along the way I had to finish in order for the records to be official. I ran over seven hours and that was much slower than where I thought I’d be which was somewhere between six hours and 6:30. That was a death march.
GCR:You ran your final sub-2:50 marathon when you won the 1978 Cleveland Marathon in 2:46:59 by two minutes over a fierce competitor, Kim Merritt. Was it a battle between the two of you and what allowed you to triumph?
JHWe were duking it out but I knew I had her because she had just changed her mind the day before the race from racing the 10k to running the marathon. I knew she wasn’t totally prepared mentally for the marathon and that she could be beaten. You just don’t do that – you have to plan. I was trained by a coach who could point a runner for one focused race after four years so I only ran two serious marathons per year. I finally broke her at about 22 miles – the hard part of a marathon.
GCR:Do you break the marathon into smaller segments that have a differing type of plan, strategy or focus?
JHI like to divide my races into four parts and I tell everybody I coach that you have to run the first part where you see the leader, but don’t be the leader. You get out fast enough so that you aren’t trapped. Part two is when you are on cruise control. You are comfortable with your pace but are reserving energy for later. During part three of a race you have to work very hard just to keep your pace. So that part is always crucial. Part four is kicking it home and leaving nothing. You just give it your all. That always applies to the mile but you can also apply it to the marathon which is four 10ks back-to-back. Mentally that is my game. You take it one step at a time – one part at a time.
GCR:You are in a group of women in the late 1960s and early 1970s that are referred to as ‘Pioneers of Women’s Distance Running.’ Was there a camaraderie among you and could you feel that this group of women was setting the stage for the next wave of female distance runners?
JHFor women runners at that time there was a sense of camaraderie as we were in this thing together. Without verbalizing it we were all being discriminated against at the same time. There was camaraderie in general amongst all runners of that era. People who are historians of that time period say that there was a tremendous camaraderie with the men and women runners of the 1970s. We were kind of a small club and we all knew each other by first name. We were probably paving the way for the next generation of women runners, but we weren’t really conscious of the next wave – it just happened.
GCR:The marathon scene changed drastically in late 1978 and it started with Grete Waitz winning the New York City Marathon and setting the stage for Patti Catalano, Joan Benoit, herself and others to break records and run sub-2:30 times. The 1978 NYC Marathon was ‘supposed’ to be a battle between you and Christa Vahlensieck, but what transpired?
JHChrista and I both ended up dropping out of the race. I didn’t think about it until recently, but I had done that 50-miler which must have weakened my foot and then when I hit the steel grating on the bridge before I came into Central Park my foot just broke. I tried to drop out but it was so crowded with spectators. I peeled off the road, took my shoe off and was holding my foot which hurt like crazy. Somebody put her arm around me and it was Christa with a similar injury and so we walked toward the finish line together. We had to throw away our numbers because spectators kept trying to get us back on the course as if we were lost. She was wearing number one and I was wearing number two. She had told me on the bus ride out to the start that she had her eye on Grete. I asked her if she was kidding as I knew Grete as a 3,000 meter runner. But Christa told me that Grete often trained 10 miles twice a day and had done a 16 kilometer cross country race in under an hour two weeks earlier. So that got my attention. So while Christa and I were sitting we heard Toni Reavis announcing the race, ‘There’s no sign of Hansen and no sign of Christa. We don’t know who is leading the race because she has a large number and was a late entrant. ’ Christa and I looked at each other and said, ‘Grete.’ It was kind of sad as it was Christa’s World Record Grete broke that day and she got a tear in her eye. I said something to Christa that Chantal had said to me when my record was broken, ‘You are a great runner and you will be a great runner again.’
GCR:Over the next few years you won the Catalina Marathon three times as you became much more involved with the International Runners Committee in getting women’s distance races at 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the marathon added to the Olympic schedule and you had a child. Did the transition to mom and advocate of women’s racing make it easier to change your primary focus from being a top competitive racer?
JHDefinitely – I have no regrets. Of course, you never know when it’s over and I always thought I would run faster than 2:38. It just didn’t happen. I had improved five or ten minutes in each of my first five marathons which was great. I just didn’t realize that would end. Winning 12 of 15 marathons and then doing adventure runs and having a child was a nice progression. The way I put it is I was a child of the 1960s, a feminist of the 1970s and a soccer mom of the 1980s. The transitions were natural and not planned.
GCR:Even though you were past your peak racing years you were able to overcome injury to qualify for the 1984 Olympic Trials at the Boston Marathon. How tough was it to qualify and how exciting was it to participate in the first Women’s Trials?
JHIn November of 1983 I had hamstring surgery as I couldn’t finish anything longer than a 10k. I could win a 10k one day, barely make it through a 15k and a marathon was out of the question. I wanted to qualify for that first Olympic Trials Marathon because I didn’t work for ten years to get the marathon into the Olympics for nothing. I was going to be there. We found out I had compartment syndrome of the hamstring so I have the biggest scar on my body from the easiest surgery ever. I walked away and didn’t need therapy. I tried to qualify two or three times and missed the time repeatedly. Otherwise I would never run that many marathons in one season. Normally my coach wouldn’t let me, but this time it was that important to get a qualifying time. So the Boston Marathon was the last day to qualify, the last possible race. It was freezing cold with hail and I’m a California girl who is a good warm weather runner and not so good in the cold. But what do you have to lose? My roommate was from Florida and she had the same attitude and the same tan. So we had to try. There was kind of a club at the starting line of all of the women who were trying to qualify. They gave us a special spot on the starting line so we wouldn’t get trampled and get a good start. We ran together and helped each other. I remember before the race that some runners including Lorraine Moller and I were trying to figure out what we could share to stay warm. We were sharing long sleeved shirts and hats and mittens. Lorraine came up with some tear away sleeves she could wear and take off if she got warm and that worked for her didn’t it? I wore a long sleeved shirt under my jersey, tights and a hat. It was cold and the hail felt like little icicles penetrating your thighs. It was like someone was throwing pins and needles at me. I was COLD!
GCR:Other than the cold what do you recall of the race as you tried desperately to qualify for the Olympic Trials?
JHI do recall seeing digital clocks along the way at 5k points rather than in the old days when we just got times in each town that were an odd distance. I was running on time all of the way through Wellesley and over the hills until mile number 25. I still don’t know whether I imagined this – maybe I was hallucinating – but I thought I saw a digital clock that had my overall place and my projected finish time. I saw that I was in tenth place and on 2:44 pace. And I thought, ‘I’ve got this.’ But then I got tunnel vision and felt like I was fighting falling forward into the street. I thought, ‘this isn’t fair as I only have a mile to go.’ The only thing that saved me was that I got very angry in my head and was telling myself I deserve to finish. It was the only thing that kept me going. I don’t remember much except that approaching the finish line there was Bruce Palmer of Nike asking me if I was okay. I started shaking my head ‘no’ and then evidently I blacked out. Bruce said he caught me before I hit the pavement. I recently found a picture taken of me at the end of the race and I look like I was going to pass out, which I did. I have that glazed look like I was about to pitch forward.
GCR:How was it to have a dual focus that day of trying to make the Olympic Trials and having the lawsuit regarding women’s distance events in the Olympics being decided in court?
JHMy court case happened to be on that day so my lawyer was in court and I was running the Boston Marathon. I had two ABC news crews following me around due to our lawsuit to add the 5,000 and 10,000 meters to the Olympic Games. I hadn’t realized that we were just pawns in the IAAF’s game and so the ACLU represented us and there was this big lawsuit. One ABC crew was Ted Koppel’s from Nightline and the other was the general ABC news crew. Ted’s story was following the storyline of ‘former Boston Marathon winner returns after 11 years and can she win?’ That was the human interest story and the other was about the lawsuit. So these guys were following me around. They wanted me to wear a microphone during the race and stop during the race for an interview in Wellesley and I refused both requests. They were scrambling around trying to find a picture of my fall at the finish line to air and were unsuccessful. My husband said I looked like a drowned rat on Nightline that night with hollow cheeks, sunken eyes and wet hair. I must have looked really bad. I’d love to find the footage as I never saw it.
GCR:What was the effect on your health from that supreme effort in Boston and what are your memories of that first U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon?
JHI got sick after Boston as that was the most dramatic day of my running career – bar none. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials but losing the lawsuit that day made it a high and low day. I had hypothermia and my body temperature was below 93. They kept me there for observation and then when I went home my personal physician was watching for everything including renal failure as he thought I was going to die. The Trials was only three weeks later and my race didn’t turn out very well. But it was the most thrilling thing to be part of the first women’s Olympic Trials marathon and they treated us like queens for a day. It was the most spectacular day and the camaraderie was something remarkable as we were a club. Afterward I got pneumonia and was in bed for a month. It was all the stress of the lobbying and the lawsuit and all of the marathons I ran that spring. It was all too much. I was down for the count that summer except I rallied to go to Joanie’s wedding.
GCR:Your close friend, Joan Benoit, stayed at your home during the 1984 Olympics. What are some of your fondest memories of her winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the marathon and any personal notes during her stay with you?
JHMy Olympic experience that I never had as a runner was actually when Joanie stayed with me in Santa Monica during the 1984 Olympic Games. There was satisfaction of having her thanks and her gratefulness because she is such a gracious lady. At least I got to hold her medal and it was in my house, right?! That was my thanks right there.
GCR:As you got older you did some limited masters racing. How much fun was it to get back on the track and how much more difficult when compared to your younger years?
JHWhen I turned 40 I went back to middle distance racing which is my favorite. I love the 1500 meters which is my favorite race distance. There is no feeling like having a race strategy and it works and you win 1,500 meters. There is nothing like it on earth. So I went to Melbourne, Australia in 1987 and won the 1,500 meters in a heat wave and a lot of wind. It was crazy weather and I had Tom go back to our hotel for my sunglasses because it was so dusty. It was the best feeling ever to have a race plan. I controlled the race, had it come together and I won. I laughed my entire victory lap as I was giggling hysterically. It felt so much better than after a marathon and was fun. Then two days later we had freezing cold weather as the winds that brought the heat circled down to Antarctica and brought very cold weather. There was freezing rain and streets were flooded. They cancelled all of the events except for the distance runs. I had been getting sick but got the doctor’s permission to race the 5,000 meters. I wasn’t sure I would race so I did the warm up and shakeups to see how I felt. I figured I’d do the first half of the race and see if I could continue. That made me go out cautiously and not too fast which was a good race strategy. It was one of those races where you take it step by step and end up saving it for the finish and running negative splits. When I got to halfway I noticed the other women were breathing harder than me even though I had a cold. I decided to surge and test them and they didn’t go with me. So I kept going and won. It was a great feeling – just the best. But I went back to defend my title in 1991 in Turku, Finland and my knees started to give out right there on the track. That ended up being my last competitive race. I finished out of the medals with a bum knee, had surgery and I’ve never really been the same.
GCR:When you look back, what do you feel is more significant – your Boston Marathon victory and two World Records in the marathon or your part with the International Runners Committee in having women’s distance events added to the Olympic program?
JHIt has to be my activism. Many of us could have been running in the 2:30s. It shouldn’t have been just me. In a Running Times article in the mid-1970s I said we should all be running in the 2:30s and before long in the 2:20s. Then Grete Waitz came along and she did. I didn’t feel like I was uniquely talented but I was always fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. If I had to do it all over I would do it the same way because I feel that I got to live part of history. I really feel like my political contributions were more significant because they left the world a little better place than I found it.
GCR:Since we are looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in training that may have helped you to be more successful as a racer?
JHI would have done tempo runs and steady state runs which I learned from my three years living in Portland, Oregon from 1980 to 1983 right after my son was born. I trained under Tom Heinonen which was the only coaching I received other than from Laszlo Tabori. I was ‘on loan’ as I lived in Portland for those years and it was fine with both men. My husband, Tom, was working with Nike and I learned a lot of the Bowerman system of training including steady state runs. I also learned to lower my mileage and to make it count.
GCR:Are there any other marathons, shorter road races or track events that stand out for reasons such as a particularly hard effort or tough competition?
JHOne race stands out as my other peak performance even though I didn’t win. Charlotte Lettis won. It was a women’s 10k in Central Park and after four miles there were still two dozen women clumped together. Then the two of us just emerged from the group like it was effortless. That is the main component of a peak performance, just like my marathon in Eugene, it was effortless. It wasn’t like the two of us were competing or battling. We were pulling each other along like it was a joint effort. I remember thinking at six miles, ‘Hey, wake up. One of us has got to make a move.’ We just couldn’t hold hands and cross the finish line together. So I made the move and she reacted and went by me like I was standing still. I had no idea how fast she was and she had much better leg speed than I. Never in my life had I broken 61 seconds for a quarter mile and she had. She won and I am really happy it turned out that way. We became good friends and both talked about how awesome it would have been if we had tied. But she has a documentary film of her life, ‘Run like a Girl.’ She grew up in New England, was part of the Boston crowd and experienced Jock Semple pushing her out of races. Though she wasn’t a household name, she was a good runner and a great person. In the documentary she talks about her hero, Doris Brown Heritage, and as the film goes along you realize that her peak moment was winning that day. I’m so glad she had her moment as I had other moments.
GCR:Who were some of your favorite competitors whether they were teammates, inspirations or women you admired for their achievements?
JHWhen I first joined the L.A. Track Club and trained under Laszlo, my hero was Chi Cheng. She had just returned from a European tour and had a fabulous slide show and awards. She was winning sprints and hurdles and jumps and was absolutely my heroine. She used to tell me to run like a tiger and never look back and I used to think about that a lot when I ran. We stayed in touch for many years and I took a marathon group to Taiwan and visited with her. She was a great, great lady. Then I was really impressed with Irena Szewinska who was so fast in the 200 and 400 meters and was so good for so many years. She was an incredible athlete. Doris Brown Heritage was a heroine of mine but we were almost contemporaries as I was right behind her. She helped bring me along and shared advice with me.
GCR:Let’s get your opinion on a number of training elements based on your personal knowledge as an athlete and from coaching others. First, what range of weekly mileage is typically appropriate for different levels of runners when building base endurance?
JHThis will be from my experience and is my opinion. The fact that I went up to 120 mile weeks seems like a lot unless you talk to Gerry Lindgren. I went to Eugene, Oregon and passed up the 1975 U.S. Marathon Championship as I didn’t feel like I had put in enough of those 100 mile weeks. I thought, ‘Here is this other flat, fast course, probably with cool temperatures. It’s an accurate course as it’s a dress rehearsal for the 1976 Men’s Olympic Trials Marathon. I’m going for that one.’ My mileage had only been up to 85 miles a week. I broke the World Record and felt so good that I realized that’s what it felt like to run fresh. So for me maybe 85 miles was my optimum miles per week right there. Maybe I didn’t need 100-mile weeks and I didn’t run that many miles again until I trained for the 50-miler. I do think that everyone does need to find what is right for them. They also need to determine how much are quality miles or junk miles. I was originally influenced by the English who were dominating when I was running so we were imitating Ron Hill and running mega-miles. Things change and the pendulum swings back and forth. Maybe runners today are emulating the Kenyans. There are lots of high school runners that coaches burn out because they aren’t trying to develop the runners – they are just trying to win meets and they run too much. High school coaches need to have the idea that they are developing runners and passing them on to the next level. We have to think about what is best for a runner and not just scoring more points. College coaches don’t care how many races you won in high school.
GCR:What do you think about the club system of coaching and running which is more common in England and former Commonwealth countries and how important is it to have coaching consistency?
JHAn advantage of the English system is that the kids ran for a club, developed from shorter to longer distances and stayed with that club. This developed them in an organized way with the same coach and more consistency which is an advantage we don’t have in the U.S. It was happenstance with me that I was coached by Laszlo. I actually paralleled the English system a bit by accident as I could only run 440 yards in high school, then the half mile in college and finally the mile so I was stepping up in distance to what was allowed. My husband was a runners’ agent and he said that so often runners would come to him saying they needed a new coach. Sometimes they would ask my advice and I would tell them to stick with the coach who got them to where they were. Sometimes they would go back and wise up after they failed in their new attempts with their new coach. I tell the kids I coach that the only key to success is consistency. Your coach’s method may not be the only way in the world that is the right method, but if you believe in the system, are consistent with it and do your homework, it will pay off.
GCR:How important is running on soft surfaces and what mix of soft surface running and road running should be implemented for high school and college track and cross country runners and adults training for road races?
JHMost runners should be doing less running on pavement than they are doing. I don’t have a scientific formula, but the majority should be on dirt and grass that is level that has good footing. Pavement, sidewalks and even hard-packed sandy beaches don’t absorb much shock and it all goes to your legs. Laszlo had us do the majority of our workouts on the grass inside the track except for the timed portions of the workouts which were on a dirt track. So he even differentiated between running on grass and dirt. We did no running on pavement. I never had an injury until I became a road runner. I have had 14 surgeries, but only 13 comebacks! Now I’m pool running.
GCR:Many marathon runners tend to focus their intense days on endurance sessions such as lengthy tempo runs and long repeats on the track. What is their relative importance versus shorter intervals of 400 meters or less to maintain leg turnover?
JHYes I do think short intervals are key. We did a lot of intervals – more than most runners and maybe more than were needed. But I think it was the key for muscle motor memory and leg turnover. That was reinforced when I started swimming after I had knee surgeries.
GCR:What are your thoughts on both uphill and downhill training, especially to prepare for races which have both like the Boston Marathon?
JHBoth are very important. Laszlo taught us how to run uphill, how to run downhill and how to turn corners when they are banked while going up or down a hill. We learned this for cross country and indoor track with its banked curves. We learned how to move our shoulders and have proper form on hilly turns where form is everything.
GCR:How important is the mental part of training and racing and developing the ability to endure increasing levels of discomfort?
JHIt is huge. The physical training has to be there. But once the physical training and base are there and your body is trained for the performance level you wish to attain, then the rest is mental. The mental aspect can break you or make you – absolutely.
GCR:What have been the positive effects of the discipline and tenacity learned from running on other aspects of your life? Or do you think we have that discipline in us already and it contributes to us being a runner?
JHThat’s an interesting thought as before you worded it that way I might have said that I learned all of my discipline by meeting Laszlo and training for something as I had never worked that hard in my life for anything. I was also juggling school and a job with running through college. I felt I learned discipline right there. But Laszlo also said I was the most stubborn runner he knew. He also used the word ‘determined.’ Maybe it was in me but I always felt the running brought it out in me.
GCR:You have coached others and helped them to strive toward reaching their athletic potential. How rewarding is it to help others succeed compared to your own personal accomplishments? How much more difficult is it to instill in others the necessary discipline, focus and mental toughness?
JHYou just can’t coach heart – runners have to have that. It’s wonderful to have someone who is committed and dedicated. When they have that quality it is great. When they succeed you feel wonderful. Then it is terrible to have the most talented athlete who is just lazy or doesn’t care that much. It is hard to motivate someone who doesn’t want it as much as you want it for them. Those are tough to coach so you just lead by example and do the best you can. I’m lucky that I’m working with a group of high school runners now who are self-motivated and it is a real pleasure.
GCR:How important is rest and recovery in one’s improvement?
JHThe physiologists tell us that we can only build when we are at rest. When we are working we are tearing down. So we have to rest and recuperate in order to build to the next level. We tell athletes that rest and recovery are as important as the workout. You can’t have a good workout if you are always running tired or fatigued – especially high school kids that are still growing.
GCR:What was it like to be part of the big 100th Boston Marathon celebration in 1996 and to actually run a substantial part of the race?
JHI came out of retirement from running to prepare for that race as I had been only swimming for a few years. I did pool running two days a week and ran one day a week on land to prepare for the run. I took glucosamine and chondroitin to help my knees. The festivities in Boston was like a reunion every day as there was a Breakfast of Champions, a luncheon, press conferences and so on. It was totally fabulous. Boston does everything in a classy way. They gave us numbers that had our championship year on them. We received jackets and pins. They had a memorial at Copley Plaza. They thought of everything. It was an amazing, amazing event. One event was for the Champions only and we signed autographs and books. I took a bunch of pictures including with Jon Anderson since we won together in 1973. I didn’t even mind dropping out because I was so happy to go through Wellesley in 1:30. I was on a three hour pace, but you know how it’s all downhill after Heartbreak Hill – that trashed my knees. I was walking the down hills and running the up hills and decided to pack it in and save my knees for another day. I had all the fun I could stand, got on a bus and rode in and it was the happiest DNF I ever had. They are such a class act and put on such a show. I’m hoping to go back in 2013 for my 40th anniversary. They couldn’t do it in 2008 when they had the Women’s Olympic Trials as they were very busy with that event.
GCR:You have received many honors, been inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame and received the Southern California USATF Lifetime Achievement Award. How does it feel to be so honored for what you have done and does one award stand out?
JHIt’s always fun to be recognized. It isn’t why you do it, but it is nice. It is always a great reunion as my friends show up and it’s an excuse to get my sisters to come and see me. If I had to choose one award it might be the ACLU Leadership Award for my lobbying efforts. At that same time I received the Woman of the year Award from the Women’s Long Distance Running Committee of The Athletics Congress and I still wear the necklace around my neck to this day. It’s a little runner with a ponytail and my birthstone is on her feet. It is on right now and I never take it off. Those awards were the culmination of my efforts to get the marathon and later the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters added to the Olympic Games so they are very special.
GCR:Your husband, Tom Sturak, was a runner and running advocate who was at your side for over three decades before his passing early last year. What was and is the influence of this man on your life?
JHOh – to tell the complete story we need another interview! I not only married a liberated male, but I don’t believe I would have been the activist I was without his support and encouragement. He not only supported me, but there were things that were his idea, where he pushed me, where he endorsed what I was doing and where he was there for me. He would say simply, ‘Let’s get this done.’ Maybe part of that was that he thought he could advance my career, but it didn’t matter that it didn’t happen in my time as he was always an advocate of runners’ rights. He was more than a runner as he was a race director, promotions director at Nike, agent and a man who wore a lot of hats. Ruth Wysocki was who he called his ‘dollar on the wall’ as she was the first top athlete he represented. His athletes still call to check on me. We had the Memorial service for Tom at the LA84 Foundation where I worked for 12 years and where he and I had done a lot of our research about the women’s’ issues in that library. People spoke for four hours about Tom. It went on and on. It was great. It was the first time I actually felt better as Tom had been sick for seven years. It was the first time I remembered the good times. It is how a tribute or celebration of a life should be.
GCR:What is your current health and fitness regimen?
JHI walk every day as much as I can. On a work day it might be a half hour in the morning, at noon or after work. I’ve got some of my colleagues, including my boss, walking with me now. We have great areas to walk from my office. On a good day after work I’ll go to the gym or the pool on campus. I don’t have any excuses why I shouldn’t exercise. I am busy, but I try to always make time for daily exercise.
GCR:What dreams inspire you and goals drive you with respect to your health, personal life and professional career as you with your accumulated wisdom of experience and years?
JHMaybe the reason I’m reminiscing more, doing more speaking engagements and writing some articles is because I’m entering the so-called golden years. Janet Henenen and I are working on a book that we’ve been talking about for a decade. I don’t know, but it just may be that I want to get it all down on paper while I can. I’m not sure where I want to go from here but I am teaching Health Education to teachers. I am kind of advocating on a grass roots level that teachers can teach kids about health and fitness. Especially given the current climate with increases in childhood obesity and diabetes I am really glad that Michelle Obama has chosen that as her theme as First lady I kind of feel like I am shining in my little corner of the world. That is the area where I am shifting my focus. I did get reactivated as a feminist recently as the U.S. Women’s’ ski jumping team used our distance runners’ lawsuit as a model to eliminate inequities in their sport so that was fun. However, it was depressing to realize that the IOC was still discriminating after all of these years.
GCR:There is an area where I would really like to get your opinion since you have been such an activist for equal opportunities for women. What I’ve noticed in recent years as the percentage of women attending colleges has increased and schools have added every possible women’s sport, they are cutting men’s’ sports to keep the percentages in line. Over 200 hundred colleges have cut sports such as wrestling, golf, track, swimming and cross country. What are your thoughts on these consequences of implementing Title IX?
JHThat was never the intent of Title IX for this to happen. There was no intention to diminish men’s sports in any way. Some athletic directors may be taking an easy way out in these tough economic times by using Title IX as a handy excuse to cut men’s programs and meet their budgets. I am currently sitting on an ad hoc committee to advance athletics at Cal-State Northridge so maybe I can speak my mind there.
GCR:Are there any major lessons you have learned during your life from growing up when athletic opportunities were limited for women, the discipline of running and sharing your knowledge, your professional life and adversity you have encountered that you would like to share with my readers?
JHMy two favorite quotations to live by are on my Facebook page. The first is ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does,’ which is by Margaret Mead The second is to have ‘the certain knowledge that at the end of your days you will be able to look back and say that once in your life you gave everything you had for justice.’ That is by Jill Ruckelshaus of the National Women's Political Caucus. When I talk to younger women at sports luncheons I tell them not to take anything for granted and to always be appreciative of those who went before them to make it possible. Do not waste your talent. Do not waste opportunities. Always be grateful. Always be appreciative.
 Inside Stuff
NicknamesOther than the obvious ‘Jacki,’ my other nickname is ‘J.Q.’ One of my two best friends in life is Leal-Ann Reinhart, 1977 national marathon champion, who was also coached by Laszlo. She could never get ‘Jacqueline’ to fit on the cross country tags so she put ‘J.Q.’ and it stuck
Hobbies/InterestsI am a horrible gardener. I am a voracious reader. My whole life I’ve been a bookworm, so it makes sense that I was an English major. I love to bake and everybody loves my cookies and cakes. I get that talent from my big sisters, Nancy and Elaine. Unfortunately Elaine passed away last month. I listen to NPR all of the time. I love Will Shortz’s Sunday puzzles – I don’t miss them and if I do I podcast them. I never thought I would cross the digital divide but I blog and tweet and have a account. I also teach online. My sister, Nancy, e-mails, but my sister, Elaine, would only type on her Selectric typewriter. My other best friend in life, Jeaney Garcia, gave me an accordion for my birthday so I need to refresh my lessons
Favorite moviesI was a big Bruce Dern fan. There is an off the wall film, ‘The King of Marvin Gardens,’ with him, Jack Nicholson and Ellen Burstyn that I watched 14 times. I also watched ‘Harold and Maude’ a bunch of times. I grew up with some of the best like ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’ and ‘Easy Rider’ – those are classics
Favorite TV showsI watch some PBS shows including ‘Masterpiece Theatre,’ but on DVDs. I really don’t watch much television. One of my friends got me started on that ‘Downton Abbey’ series so I went to the television and I had to reset everything because it hadn’t been on in years. I couldn’t figure out how to do the cable box or other details, it took me over half an hour and then I called my son to have him help me to figure it out. He said, ‘You don’t watch television, do you?!’ Growing up I liked ‘I Love Lucy’ and silly shows like ‘Batman’ and ‘Get Smart.’ We would have inside jokes the day after watching those shows. I gave up television in college as I didn’t have time
Favorite musiciansJoni Mitchell and Eric Clapton were my favorite artists. In general, was there ever a better time for music than the late 1960s and early 1970s? There has never been anything as good since then. I am lucky to have lived in that era and I saw many of them play live. I saw Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, and The Who – all kinds of artists. I have lots of autographs too and still have a whole bunch of vinyl
Favorite booksI love women’s biographies. When I was a little girl I was influenced by a series of women’s biographies on women like Madame Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale and so on. I also loved Nancy Drew mystery stories and still enjoy mysteries. I read the alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton for fun. My favorites now are the English historical novels and I love William Rutherford. I love Shakespeare plays and was influenced by an English teacher and took every class she taught. I was her Teacher’s Assistant and took her college level classes
First carsA 1958 Volkswagen bug that cost $400. It had the little taillights and wide back window. That was the way you could tell the year. Before I could have my driver’s license my father made me learn to drive a stick shift, change a tire, change a fan belt and change my oil. It had a simple enough engine that I could fix it if it broke down with anything I had on hand like a paper clip or bobby pin. Then I traded up for a 1965 Karmann Ghia which was my favorite all-time car. But I was leaving the Sunkist Indoor Track meet in downtown L.A. and got hit head on by a drunk driver who ran a red light and that car folded up like an accordion
Current carI’m driving a Prius – so I’m green after previously driving a classic 1988 Land Cruiser which I loved. I lent it to Jon Sutherland since his car broke down, but it is still my emergency car. I can’t let go of it as Iove it
First JobsI made a bundle of money in high school babysitting because I had a car and could do overnight jobs. My first outside job was scooping ice cream at Curry’s and I made mile high ice cream cones. That gave me carpal tunnel syndrome before I had even heard of it. Then I had a job at a department store called Ohrbach’s
FamilyMy son is Michael and he isn’t married yet
PetsI’ve always had dogs and then after I got married I had cats as Tom’s not so fond of dogs. I currently have three cats at home. I have two Maine coons that are over 20 pounds – I didn’t know they got to be big like raccoons. Their names are Jake and Annie. I rescued a dog; an Australian Shepherd named Dipper, and gave him to my sister, Elaine. I named him after Wilt Chamberlain because I rescued him the week of Wilt Chamberlain’s funeral. Wilt was the Big Dipper and my dog became the Little Dipper
Favorite breakfastSpeaking as a Health teacher it isn’t so balanced and since I’m not running I don’t eat as much as I used to. I like to have a Chai tea latte and a scone balanced out with some soft boiled eggs or yogurt
Favorite mealI love linguini with clams which was always my pre-race meal
Favorite beveragesIf I have glass of white wine I like Sauvignon Blanc
First running memoryI was a tomboy who made my own skate board by putting roller skate wheels on a board. I would go all over town, running and skating
Running heroesDoris Heritage Brown was World Cross Country Champion so she was my heroine
Greatest running momentsFirst, winning the Boston Marathon as it changed my life. Second, the 2:38:19 World Record at the Nike-OTC Marathon for being a peak performance as it was my best race ever. Finally, the Catalina Marathon, as it is the most scenic
Worst running momentThe 35-mile mark of that 50-mile race was a real low point. I don’t think it gets any worse than that, though the rest of the race was pretty good
Childhood dreamsAfter reading all of those women’s biographies I wanted to be first at something. I thought I wanted to be the first women’s astronaut to go to the moon but it didn’t happen. I’m not so good at Science and Math anyway
Embarrassing momentSoon after moving to Topanga, I went out for a brief morning run on my own. The run began with my usual four-mile out-and-back route from home, along Topanga Canyon Blvd to Paradise Lane for a ways, and back. At my usual turnaround point, curiosity got the better of me and I went on to the end of the lane where I found a back entrance to Topanga State Park. Figuring that all roads lead to the Rangers' Station, I knew I could get home in less than a mile from there, so I ran on. Well, 3 1/2 hours later, I finally emerged from the park to find myself in the neighboring town of Pacific Palisades, far, far from home. As I'd wandered around miles and miles of trails, circling back on myself sometimes, I got desperate and just started taking whatever trails went downhill and out of the park. My mistake had been that I was looking for ‘Rangers Station’ signs, and kept seeing ‘Tripett Ranch’ signs, which I circumvented because I thought that meant private property! What I did not know was that they were synonymous. I made my way down to Sunset Blvd near Pacific Coast Highway to, first, a fire station but no one was home, then to a gas station where I called Tom to come get me. His response was, ‘You're only six miles from home, why not run home?’
Lesson learnedThere's a race here in Topanga named after me, the ‘Jacqueline Hansen Tough Topanga 10K.’ I was the race director for a term of about a decade, and once the course record holder. After that embarrassing experience, I soon learned our trails like the back of my hand, but that was my first time venturing out. And besides, it was a foggy day and I had no sense of direction. Excuses, excuses, I know
Funny memoryI have a reputation because I once got lost, if you can imagine, in a race around the perimeter of Mile Square Park. Ha, ha, ha - yeah, it was aptly named. In my defense, I simply did not know which side to turn into for the finish line, which was in the middle of the square. The course monitors were screaming to me to ‘turn, turn, turn!’ I was leading and fortunately didn't lose the lead. Dumb, I know
Favorite places to travelParis and Hawaii. There was a time when I used to count the times I had visited places and Paris was my most often visited city even ahead of San Francisco or New York
Final comments from interviewerIt was an honor to spend over two hours chatting with a pioneer of American female distance running. Her exploits as a runner were possibly surpassed by her activism in championing the advancement of women's distance running and inclusion of the marathon, 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters in Olympic competition. This bright, humorous and candid lady has a well-deserved place of inclusion with the greats of U.S. distance running