Walnut High educator Jerry Knox breaks 3 world records in 2017
WALNUT, CA—To say that Walnut High teacher and alumnus Jerry Knox is passionate about running might be an understatement.
He laces up his running shoes five days a week, clocking five-to-eight miles a day, and 15 miles every Saturday.
Knox usually runs a marathon each month, and in the past 11 years has crossed the finish line over 80 times.
Every medal is displayed in his classroom and the AP geography and cross country coach has been known to wear the event t-shirt to school on Mondays following a race.
In 2009, the 22-year veteran educator decided to up the ante and go for a world record “just to make it interesting.”
Knox said he had always liked the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid.
When his son Alex was 8, he announced “Dad, you can beat that” after reading that someone held the world record for dribbling a basketball during a marathon.
And he did. Knox won his first world record in 3 hours, 42 minutes, 20 seconds. That record was beat in 2011.
Before going for another world record, Knox decided to focus on running a marathon in under three hours.
He accomplished that goal in 2015 at the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach with a time of 2:59:20.
That same year, he won back the basketball marathon title with a time of 3:11:16, which was bested in 2016 by a runner from Estonia.
“It’s about the running, the basketballs are just a gimmick,” Knox said.
He also learned in order to be included in the actual Guinness Book, not just the website, he had to participate in the London marathon with official representatives.
In April 2015, he crossed the Atlantic and became the fastest man to dribble not one, but TWO basketballs while running the 26.2-mile course.
He captured that title in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 44 seconds.
“It was hard keeping the concentration, especially at the end of the race,” he said.
Cobblestone roads, 38,000 racers, drums, disc jockeys, a dark tunnel, coupled with fatigue quelled the distance runner during the last miles.
“I thought, is this thing going to end?” Knox commented.
“It was like an obstacle course!”
Some of the London racers cheered as he attempted the challenging world record, while others were irritated with the noisy bouncing basketballs.
“They’d trained hard and you’ve got this guy next to them passing them with a clank-clank!”
Knox has broken three additional world records in 2017: running the fastest marathon while jumping rope with a time of 4:20:31 on February 19 and the fastest marathon wearing German lederhosen at the Los Angeles Marathon on March 19.
“I thought it would be funny and an excuse to buy some!” he said about going for the quirky record.
Most recently, he crossed the finish line wearing a graduation cap and gown during the OC Marathon on May 8.
For the first time in history, Guinness sent a team to Los Angeles to verify world records.
No need for witnesses, photos, videos, or coordinating with the race director, Knox said.
“It’s so much easier. You say you’re going to do it, they watch you, and you’re done.”
The athlete is currently prepping for his sixth 100-mile race which will take about 22 hours to complete.
Next fall he’d like to break the record for skipping during a marathon.
“I think it would be a hard one to beat, you use different muscles.”
Knox doesn’t actively recruit students to join his healthy lifestyle, he prefers to quietly lead by example.
Snacks of fresh fruit and vegetables and a “Want to get fit? Join cross country – no experience necessary” recruiting flyer can be seen near his desk.
“Sometimes it’s best not to be a nag and I know it’s expensive to run marathons,” he said.
The coach also joins the cross-country team for their daily training runs.
“It’s better when he’s out on the course with us,” said sophomore Jason Yen.
“And he understands our pain.”
Knox didn’t begin running marathons until he was 36 years old, thinking distance running was only for “Olympians.”
It all began when fellow teacher So Hee Tan mentioned that she had just completed one.
“If she can do it, so can I,” he said.
The first step was joining a running club and beginning training, but the first marathons didn’t go as he had hoped.
Knox walked the final four miles during his first two attempts.
On his third try, he was able to jog the entire way and was “hooked.”
Last year, his wife Carolyn Campbell, a Vejar Elementary transitional kindergarten teacher, joined him on the course, completing her first marathon in November.
In recent years, he has also transitioned to eating more organic food.
“Every year I seemed to click off something different,” he said about first giving up ground beef, then fast food, fried food, and soda. He recently went vegan.
“So, I’ll comment to my students on that and some of my failures. I still really miss pizza!”
Yen says his marathon-running teacher is a setting a good example for fellow students.
“He has a goal and achieves it by practicing and not giving up.”