The Indiana optometrist has run three dozen Rock ’n’ Roll Series races since picking up the sport four years ago.
Wanting to cross a half marathon off his bucket list, Lawrence Hicks, then 65, lined up at the 2011 Nashville Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon, covered the 13.1-mile distance, then, in a virtual Forrest Gump impersonation, just kept on jogging.
So enamored was Hicks with the bands, the vibe and the running camaraderie at Nashville, his Rock ‘n’ Roll series half marathon finishes now number 36. Or almost one a month since his maiden voyage.
Nashville, Seattle, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Phoenix, St. Petersburg, New Orleans, Portland, Providence, Virginia Beach, Savannah, Dublin, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas and San Francisco. Hicks, who lives in Valparaiso, Ind., has squeezed his way into starting corrals at each stop, some multiple times.
Understandably, given his passion for pounding the pavement and travel, Hicks, now 69, still works four days a week as an optometrist.
“Most of my classmates are retired,” jokes Hicks. “I can’t afford to.”
Unlike Tom Hanks’ running Gump, Hicks hasn’t grown his hair long and scraggly, nor sported an unkempt beard during his jogging odyssey.
He has, though, allowed his signature goatee to tumble south, decorating the look come race day with 10 clip-on Pandora beads.
Hicks met an African-American girl who wore similar beads in her hair and decided, “I need to do that for my mustache.”
He also dons a Union Jack ‘do rag for every Rock ‘n’ Roll event.
“Yeah,” says Luci Hicks, Lawrence’s wife of 45 years, “I’d say he’s a little quirky.”
Counters Hicks, “I’m having fun with life.”
The man is distinct. He dabbled in painting and traditional weaving, plus studied under a master Navajo weaver in Arizona.
“He seems to be all over the map,” says Luci. “But when he gets into one of these challenges, he sees it to the finish. He never stops halfway through. He has an interesting focus for an old man. I can’t help but admire him.”
Even the back story to Hicks’ first half marathon is far from the norm. Hicks’ daughter, Crystal Siewin, is a multiple Boston Marathon finisher. Hicks wanted to run the Nashville half the same day Crystal ran the event’s marathon. Only he didn’t want Crystal, who only lives about 10 minutes away, to know he was doing the race.
Not wanting to be spotted training by his daughter, the stealth Hicks jogged strictly indoors, on a treadmill.
Lawrence and Luci drove with Crystal to Nashville, then, at the expo, Lawrence picked up his bib and timing chip, wandered over to his daughter and said, “Look what I’m going to do!”
Adds Hicks, “She was shocked.”
Explaining his fascination with the Rock ‘n’ Roll brand, Hicks comes off sounding like a combination PR exec/marketing manager/goodwill global ambassador for the series.
“It’s nice having the bands on the course, the get-together meetings for the runners, the people,” he says. “My gosh, I’m getting to know everybody.
“The announcers rattle off our names and we’re nobodies. Here comes Lawrence Hicks with his 30th Rock ‘n’ Roll finish. It’s just a good environment. I love it, just love it.”
Hicks says his favorite RnR race is Dublin.
“The new course this year was so pretty,” he says. “It started out downtown by the river, across a bridge, through the city. We ran through old church yards, into a park. The whole thing was a visual experience.”
His half marathon PR is 2 hours, 45 minutes. He typically finishes in the 2:50 to 3:15 range.
“It depends on where I’m running and how many times I stop to take pictures,” he says.
Passing out $1 bills to kids who slap him high-fives also slows down Hicks a bit.
Next on his Rock ‘n’ Roll calendar: the Montreal half on Sept. 28. He wants to run every half marathon in the series. As for training, he runs almost daily, 2-3 miles.
“Then I just go out and jog the 13.1,” he quips.
Hicks did knock off one marathon. Last October at the Chicago Marathon, three family generations toured the Windy City. Crystal, the speed demon, finished in 3:34. Crystal’s daughter and Hicks’ granddaughter, Taylor, who was 16 at the time, clocked a 6:23. Hicks finished in 6:40.
Hicks and Taylor ran together the first 20 miles before Hicks told Taylor, “C’mon, take off!”
Adds Hicks, “She gave me a kiss and whoosh, she was gone.”
“When I crossed the finish line I started crying for myself,” says Taylor. “When he crossed the finish line, I cried for him. It was very emotional.”
Hicks is not done addressing his bucket list. He wants to play the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, considered golf’s birthplace. He’d like to fish at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. He’d also like to run the New York, Boston and London Marathons.
“He’s a working man,” Taylor says of her grandfather. “He loves always doing something, always improving. I definitely look up to him. He’s a very positive figure in my life.”
About The Author:
Don Norcross is a San Diego-based sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @Don_Norcross.