Cross country coach set to run 100th marathon this weekend - - Columbia, South Carolina

Cross country coach set to run 100th marathon this weekend


To 65-year-old Jerry Stokes of Lugoff, it's just another step, just another race.

But to the rest of us who know the mental discipline and physical endurance required to run a marathon, what Jerry is about to do is quite the feat .... On feet.

"It's just another number," Stokes said. "It's a round number, an even number and I would like to get there."

Once Jerry crosses the finish line in the Myrtle Beach marathon on Saturday, he officially will have completed 100.

That's quite an accomplishment for someone who did not run his first marathon until he was 40. And his plan at that time was to - run one and be done.

"I didn't intend to run anymore, but it's one of those deals where you kind of get hooked on it," Stokes said. "I kept running and I wanted to get to 20. Then I wanted to get to 30, then 40, then 50. And after 50, I just wanted to see how many I could get. I never thought about 100."

Counting miles comes easily for Jerry. He's an accountant and owns his own practice. His bride of 43 years has always been supportive - traveling with Jerry to some of the fun race destinations.

In fact, it's the breathtaking beauty of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina that makes that marathon Jerry's very favorite. He's run it 14 times. And that's some difficult elevation.

"To be able to run 40 years and run as many marathons as I have been fortunate to do, I am blessed, and I realize I am blessed," Stokes said. "And I am very appreciative."

Jerry also coaches the Boys' Cross Country team at Camden High School. Perhaps, without even realizing it, his students are learning lessons that go far beyond physical.

Many runners compare life, itself, to marathons.

"In every marathon something bad is going to happen, you don't know what it's going to be, but something bad is going to happen at some point and time and the question is how do you deal with adversity?" Stokes said. "And that's a part of life. What will you do when adversity sets in? And it will surely come. There will always be pain, there will always be difficulty, and it will surely come. The question is how will you deal with adversity?"

I know what you're asking now. Will there be marathon number 101?

Jerry said he doesn't know.

Like every race, he'll face that down the road.

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