Jack Johnstone (left) and triathlon friend Bill Phllips. Credit: www.triathlonhistory.com
Jack Johnstone (left) and triathlon friend Bill Phllips. Credit: www.triathlonhistory.com

Jack Johnstone, one of the fathers of triathlon, has passed away at the age of 80 according to his wife, Betty Johnstone. He had lived with Alzheimer’s since 2013.

Johnstone was an American collegiate swimmer who turned to running at age 35 to get back in shape. He progressed and was able to eventually run a 2:50 marathon, but joined a track club to get faster at shorter distances. It was through the San Diego track club that he met fellow runner, Don Shanahan. He and Shanahan are the two men responsible for organizing the first triathlon event in Mission Bay, San Diego.

Before collaborating, they both had separate dreams of creating a race that combined sports. Jackstone had thought up the idea of a run-swim biathlon before speaking with Shanahan. Their original Mission Bay Triathlon followed the order run, bike, swim, run, swim, run. The second and third runs of the race would be in bare feet coming out of the water. Their first race had 46 men and women participating.

Don Shanahan directing one of the first triathlons. Credit: www.triathlonhistory.com
Don Shanahan directing one of the first triathlons. Credit: www.triathlonhistory.com

John Collins, one of the original participants, is a founder of Ironman. When he took the sport to this next level, it took off.

Jackstone was proud of his accomplishments and especially excited when triathlon became an Olympic sport. On his website, he said, “In this small way, I changed the world; the course of athletic history.”

 

 

 

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