You Have to Get Back Up to Finish

As every runner toes the start line, within them resides the story that carried them there. Those stories are made up of moments that culminate in milestones.

The history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is made of moments and milestones created by runners just like you. In honor of our 20th anniversary celebration, we invite runners to share their most memorable running moments with us.

This is the story of John W. from Phoenix, AZ.


You Have to Get Back Up to Finish

No doubt a faint scar will form inches above John Wilkie’s left eyebrow. There will probably be discoloration on his left elbow and left knee as well, battle scars courtesy of the tumble the 73-year-old Wilkie took at Sunday’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon.

Wilkie tripped over a spectator’s stroller just shy of the 13-mile mark. Immediately to his rescue came Nathanael Dillard and Colin Jackson. Dillard was running race, Jackson was spectating.

“I didn’t know if he had a concussion or cracked his skull,” said Dillard. “There was blood everywhere.”

Recalled Jackson, “Nathanael said, ‘You got him?’ I said, ‘Yep.’ Then we aided him to the finish line.”

Dillard and Jackson hooked their arms under Wilkie’s armpits and walked with him across the finish line. The fall was so violent Wilkie broke his sunglasses and one of his contact lenses. Wilkie recalls the event:

“I was pretty stunned when I hit the ground. Fortunately, those two fellows were there in nothing flat to pick me up. I guess the good Lord was looking out for me. Those two angels came out of nowhere.”

Wilkie was observed in the medical tent after the race and told he’d need stitches to close the gash above his left eye. He went to an emergency room and required five stitches.

As for coming to Wilkie’s aid, Dillard said, “That could have been me.” Dillard is 38, lives in Spring, Texas, and recently left the Navy as a chief petty officer. “If that had been me,” he said, “I hope somebody would help me out and get me to safety.” Dillard has run 24 half marathons, four marathons.

Said Jackson, who lives in San Diego and turns 35 on Thursday, “My parents always taught me to just do the right thing.” Jackson began racing three years ago. His motivation was his health. At 6-2, he weighed 286 pounds. “My doctor said if I wanted to see my next birthday, I needed to make a change,” he said. His first race was a marathon. He’s run six Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events. Today, he weighs 177. He’s training for his first triathlon, an Ironman in November.

For the 5-foot-6, 145-pound Wilkie, Arizona represented his eighth half marathon. He hasn’t raced 26.2 miles.

“Hell no, that’s a little out of my class,” he joked. “My legs are too short to run a marathon.”

Wilkie is blessed with 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Brushing himself off and finishing the race served as a life metaphor.

You Have to Get Back Up to Finish

“Life isn’t perfect,” he said. “You get knocked down more than once in a while. You’ve got to get back up and finish what you’re doing.”

Every runner has a story. Share your favorite moments or memories from running with Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.