If FRANCES MCKISSICK is the Queen of Dallas road racing, then JAN RICHARDS has to be its First Lady. And now it’s official. Local runner JAN RICHARDS has been inducted into Texas’ Running Hall of Fame.
Richards, 79, who has not been able to run lately due to a bout of shingles that reached her eyes, has set many national age group records. Richards began running while working as receiving clerk for K-Mart, at age 55. She was dating a runner, and waiting for him at the finish line when she thought to herself, “I can beat these other women.” Sure enough, she did, and began setting records five years later, “but no one was sending them in.” It wasn’t for another five years, when she was 65 that people began to take notice.
Born Aug 17, 1927 in Murray City, OH, she was running 40-50 miles per week, she says, “Never less than 6 miles, ever. I liked to race three races per weekend. That was my speed work.” She still wears racing flats all the time for all her runs, just like she did then. She’s done The Pikes Peak Marathon many times, as well. “The last 5-6 years, I have been top in my age group for the whole country.”
Not limited to just running, she’s also done a fair share of triathlons, starting in 1984, when she was a young 57. When Richards was 13, she was a competitive swimmer living in Ohio, but her run is still the strongest part of a triathlon. “It cost a dime to get in,” Richards remembers of her first time to the pool. “I didn’t have a bathing cap. They wouldn’t let me in.” She spent five years on the team. “I didn’t take it seriously.” She was offered a spot on a better team outside Arkron, but didn’t take the opportunity. “I didn’t want to have to tell my mom or dad.” Then, she says, she started working and never had the chance again.
Local running writer, HARRY HALL did a write-up on her in Inside Texas Running. “She has completed more than 50 marathons, and once ran a 5:09.36 50k at the Jackson 5-0, then good enough for the women’s 65 and up a/g record. She held two national a/g records at the 15k, 1:14.23 in 1992 and 1:14.02 in ‘93 as well as the 5k (22:37) and the half-marathon in 1:42.15. She also once held both ascent and descent records at the Pikes’ Peak Marathon. She was the first Texas woman over the age of 60 to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and set the national age group record, in the process.
“In 1989, I really wanted to be the first women over the age of 60 from Texas to qualify for Boston.” Richards remembers, “My kids came up to see me. It was the only reason I finished. I was just ready to quit because of the heat. I didn’t go to the awards because I didn’t think I won anything. They must have thought, ‘She wasn’t even there.’ They sent me a great, big, silver pop corn bowl. That’s what I use it for.” Her time was 4:11:31. “Not the greatest, but…”
Now, Richards says she is “lucky to do 25 miles a week” due to foot problems. Her long run is a loop of White Rock Lake.
When photographing her for this story, she refused to want pictures of her just standing or sitting. “That’s not the way to take a picture of a runner,” she pointed out.
According to McKissick, she was taken under Richards’ wing, helping McKissick run her first loop around famed White Rock Lake. “Since I had never been around it before she told me to stick with her and she ran the entire way with me. I was elated! I had finally done my first loop and my running moved to a new level.” McKissick has done a loop every Sunday, since then. Despite McKissick’s success, “Jan is still very supportive of me and we are good friends. Her candid ‘Tell it like it is’ style is very unique and very refreshing!”
A total of seven were inducted in to the Hall of Fame. Other locals include RICHARD WIDENER, DR. ROBERT VAUGHAN, and TERRY JESSUP.