LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of runners from all over the country will soon take to the streets of Kentuckiana for the 50th annual Kentucky Derby Festival mini and full marathon.
Among the participants on Saturday, April 29 will be a man who is no stranger to the race. Dr. John Holland will humbly blend in unless you ask him to stand out.
If the old sayings are true when it comes to training for a race, slow and steady will win, and Holland shows consistency really is key.
"I know where I've been over the last 50 years the last Saturday in April," he said. "With all the changes in life and ups and downs in life and changes in general, I know where I've been that last Saturday."
The first ever miniMarathon was held in 1974. It was also Holland's first mini. He was one of 301 racers who participated, and he even skipped school to run.
Holland still has the letter to commemorate the first-ever running of the miniMarathon from then-mayor Harvey Sloane.
"I think I would have to be one of the youngest," Holland said, recalling the race. "Back then the runners were in running clubs and really into this kind of thing. Probably not too many young guys like me who pick up and say, 'Hey I'm gonna run the mini.'"
Out of the last 49 KDF miniMarathons, Holland has missed only one.
This year will make his 48th race, but getting there all those years was not always a walk in Iroquois Park.
In January 2014, Holland's doctors found an aneurysm on his aorta the size of an orange.
"I know it sounds crazy but two months later, I started feeling decent," Dr. Holland said. "I called my heart surgeon at Baptist East and said, 'I know this sounds crazy but this is the 40th mini, I've only missed one of these things. Do you care if I run? Would it be a big deal?' He goes, 'I don't care. You're not going to hurt anything I did. It's up to you. I said ok.'"
Through all life's twists and turns, hills and plateaus, Holland has run his own race.
A marriage, kids, new jobs, retirement, and coming out of retirement, Holland showed how with the right support, there's no reason why you can't show up for yourself.
"When they see me, I want them to see a very average guy," he said. "I want them to see, 'Hey, John can do it, John's kind of a big boy. If he does it then I can do it too.' Because at the end of the day, it's all about health. It's not for me, as I got older, the good times or trying to beat my time from the last year. It's all about health."
So if you see him preparing for race number 49, you can wish him good luck, but no matter when Holland finishes, he will always be a winner.
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