Bellin Run Legend Profile: Casey John
March 18, 2022
As part of our push to gather participation stats for our new Bellin Run Faithful recognition program, we are highlighting our longest-running participants — our Bellin Run Legends! Legends are the 20 individuals who have participated in every single Bellin Run since the event’s inception in 1977 — that’s 45 years and counting. We will continue to share the profiles and memories of our Legends on our Bellin Run blog and via social media. Next on our list is Pittsville Cross Country Coach Casey John!
What started as a single race led to a lifestyle for Legend Casey John, who has coached high school cross country for the past 12 years and encouraged countless people to a path of fitness – making many friends and memories along the way! Read on to learn more about Casey…
What was your favorite memory/year?
When I heard Frank Shorter was coming to Green Bay for the inaugural Bellin Run, I was very excited as I had closely watched track & field in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. I thought maybe I would like to try and finish this race, although the longest I had ever previously run was two miles on the cinder track at Green Bay East High School (hey kids, how many of you know what a cinder track is?? I'm that old!). To prepare I went to visit Dick Lytie, whose kids I went to school with, and I knew he would give me much-needed advice. I bought a pair of shoes and received some great training tips. From that point on, Dick became my running mentor and had a tremendous influence on my future in the sport. Dick was truly a remarkable man, and I will be forever grateful for his encouragement and friendship. I was able to finish what I thought would be a one-time race. However, in the coming weeks, Dick invited me on training runs, and I participated in a few more races. By then, I was thinking this was something I wanted to keep on doing.
Other memorable races:
For me, both the 30th and 40th Anniversary runs stand out. I was able to celebrate those milestones with a tremendous turnout from my family, most of whom participated in the race.
What was the toughest year and why?
Two races stand out. We all remember 1981, more commonly known as "the hot year." By the time I reached the first mile, I began to ponder whether or not my shoes would melt. From that point on, I kept looking for the next sprinkler as people along the course were trying to help us. Another tough year for me was only a few years back. I had a bad calf injury, and I had to gut out the race the best I could. Most of the time, however, things have gone well for me.
Were there family or friends that inspired you to keep going & in what ways did they support you?
Around 1983, my wife, Renee, started running the Bellin too, and she hasn't missed one since. There is no question that without her support, I couldn't have kept doing this every year. Soon, we had kids of our own, and I am grateful to their grandparents who gave us a place to stay and also watched our kids. As the years rolled by, many family members joined in the race, and eventually, all four of our children had completed the race numerous times. The Bellin has become an important date on the calendar that everyone keeps clear, and we have a wonderful post-race celebration. The last two years have been tough, but we are so excited to get back at it this year!
How did participating in the Bellin impact your overall health?
Participating in the Bellin has led me for the last 45 years to run year-round. When I think about it, I think this lifestyle is something I need as a stress reliever. Staying fit enough to run six-plus miles has given me the needed energy to allow me to participate in any opportunity life throws my way.
Any other information you would like to share?
After a few years of participating, I was hooked enough to know that I was going to try to keep doing every Bellin for as long as I possibly could. We began to think about participating in the sport in other ways, such as helping organize our race in Pittsville, Wis., every July 3, with the coming year being our 36th annual race! Over the years, this has given us a deep appreciation for the organizers & volunteers that have done so much to keep the Bellin Run a successful event. It has also allowed Renee and me to coach High School Cross Country for 12 years. These events have given us tremendous memories, lots of friends, and the ability to encourage others to a path of fitness. All of this from deciding to participate in the Bellin Run when I was 19 years old.