When his shoes are ready, Diers is ready. He will begin the St. Jude
Run in Memphis on July 30 and finish up in Peoria on Aug. 2.
Whether jogging down city streets with his trademark headband, or
pumping his bicycle through the town, Jon has been a fixture using
foot power throughout the city's streets for over a decade.
Hot days don't deter Jon from getting in his running. Rain, cold
or snow rarely stop Diers from taking off on foot or on wheels to
keep himself ready for the rigors of long-distance running, "within
reason," Jon cares to point out.
It is obvious in a day of high gas prices and individual refusal
to leave one's car or truck in the driveway that Diers doesn't
follow that rule. If the destination is anywhere within the city and
sometimes farther yet, foot or bicycle power is good enough for Jon.
With pride he mentions that in five years he has posted only 3,000
miles on his pickup. "Sometimes I have to go out of town," he
Jon has made a cart/rickshaw-type contraption that can easily be
bolted onto the back of his bicycle to help when he goes grocery
shopping or to buy other goods that aren't easily held while riding
a bike. Pointing at the homemade cart, he boasts, "It can hold a
hundred pounds of groceries, easy."
Getting into "Ironman" shape has served Diers well as he has
branched out into competing in long-distance running. He has run,
and finished, two Chicago marathons as well as several
half-marathons in the last few years. Normally these remarkable
feats would stand on their own merits. In Jon's case, being 66 years
old, they demand even more respect.
Diers, a retired carpenter, isn't what one would call a health
fanatic. He enjoys good food and beverage. His recent life as a
runner has more to do with staying in shape and being healthy than
it does with trying to break a world record.
As a young man, he played football and baseball in high school,
not track. When he and Jane, his wife of 35 years, became involved
in the raising of their five children, there wasn't much time for
running distances. He exchanged that sport for running after five
children who all had their own shoes to break in. He only ran
occasionally during the '70s to stay in shape.
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When their daughter Neely became a track star at the high school,
Jon decided to get back into running. He smiled with a father's
pride as he admitted he never did beat his daughter in a race.
With the children all on their own, Jon decided to begin finding
his potential as a runner. It has been this active motivation to use
his own power rather than horsepower that has him being admired by
peers, who can't fathom doing what Jon does.
Diers' weekly regimen includes runs of three to five miles, three
times a week, and a run of six to 12 miles, once a week. The bike
comes in whenever he has something he needs to bring back and he
needs a break from the rigors of running.
Yes, not too many 66-year-olds would consider bicycle riding a
break from physical exertion, but Jon does.
Asked what his goals are as a runner, Jon said, "This isn't about
competition. This is more a Don Quixote sort of thing. I can never
win one of these marathons, but the fact that I can do this and
finish these races is a win in itself."
Diers made the Memphis to Peoria Run sound as if it was not that
exhausting, explaining that he and his team members would only run
two three-mile segments every eight hours, then they would be off
eight hours before running another six miles, until on the fourth
day the caravan would end up in Peoria.
This will be the 12th year Jon has been involved with a St. Jude
Run, and he takes pride in his help of the Peoria center, which aids
sick children at no cost to their families. "I believe it is one of
the best causes there is," he said. "I'm glad to help and be a part
For everyone in their 60s who can only imagine doing what Jon
does, finishing first isn't what makes him a winner. Finishing at
Runners are sponsored by individuals, and any amount is
encouraged. Jon wanted to let everyone know that if they want to
contribute to this year's St. Jude's runners, they can contact him
[By MIKE FAK]