Fifty years ago, Larry Jespersen was crowned May Day King at Lillian Larsen Elementary School in San Miguel. They had a maypole dance and a parade. I doubt he or his schoolmates ever imagined he’d someday go to Antarctica to run a marathon. But he’ll do it next February.
A marathon is a 26.2-mile race. He’s already run marathons in Boston, Ireland, Kenya, China and Easter Island. Does that seem uncharacteristically adventurous for a 64-year-old man who has grown alfalfa all his life? No, it just proves we shouldn’t typecast people.
He grew up on his family’s alfalfa farm on River Road near San Miguel and graduated from Paso Robles High School. Then he graduated from Cal Poly.
His father moved the alfalfa operation to Oregon. Now, Larry Jespersen and others in his family operate a ranch near Klamath Falls with 5,500 irrigated acres growing mainly alfalfa.
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Larry and his wife, Maureen, have four children — daughters Jennifer, Cheri and Bethany and son Lauren — and five grandchildren. So how did this grandfather get started running international marathons?
He wasn’t always a runner. At Paso Robles High School, he lettered in three sports, but not track. It turns out his son, Lauren, got him started.
You see, Lauren started running early. In high school, he was a three-time All-American and won an athletic scholarship to Stanford, where one of his accomplishments was an under-4-minute mile.
So Larry Jespersen started running with Lauren. They ran for eight years in the annual 197-mile relay race from Mount Hood to the Pacific Coast.
He found he enjoyed running. He and two friends started running marathons. They ran in the 2003 Boston Marathon. That’s where he learned about the Seven Continents Club. To join it you must run marathons on all of the Earth’s seven continents.
In 2004, he and his family visited Ireland, where he ran in the Dublin Marathon. Suddenly, marathons on the five remaining continents seemed doable. In 2007, he ran a marathon on Easter Island, which counts as South America because Chile owns it.
Then he ran a marathon in China partly on the Great Wall. Next, he ran in Kenya with a plane and two helicopters overhead to scare away lions and other predators, while 120 armed rangers stood guard.
That leaves Antarctica next February and Australia in 2012. More than 230 runners so far have completed marathons on all seven continents. But Larry Jespersen will be the only one who was also Lillian Larsen Elementary School May Day King.
Contact Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.