Bellin Run Legend Profile: John Klika
March 4, 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’ll be sharing profiles and memories of our Legends on our Bellin Run blog and via social media, starting with John Klika!
John Klika is our youngest Legend; he was 14 years old in 1977 when the first Bellin (Heartwarming) Run was held. The event played an important role in his life, but no year was more special than 1992. Read on to find out why …
What was your favorite memory or year?
I would get in trouble if I didn't say 1992, when I proposed to (my wife) Valerie (wife) at the 6-mile mark. I was more nervous about losing the engagement ring than the actual proposal. We married the week before the Bellin Run in 1993.
Another favorite memory is how in 1977 I happened across the first Bellin Run while playing in the neighborhood with my childhood friend Lee Rowan. To this day, Lee still messages me occasionally every June to me that he was part of my first year. It was the very first day I ever “ran” to actually run.
What year was toughest and why?
The year I ran it with a broken leg and a cast. I believe it was around 2010.
What were some sacrifices you made to keep your streak going?
No real sacrifices. My family knows to keep the day open. I’ve reminded our kids that it would be wise to stay away from Bellin weekend when they get married. I wouldn’t want to have to make a decision between their wedding and the Bellin Run.
Were there family or friends who inspired you to keep going and in what ways did they support you?
It's been wonderful to see 11 of 13 of my siblings do the Bellin Run over the years. I admire their efforts knowing that it doesn’t often come naturally to most of them. To this day, I still admire those who running doesn’t come naturally. What they accomplish, to me, is more of a feat than those who have God-given talent to run fast.
How did participating in the Bellin Run positively impact your overall health?
Immensely. I’m a type 1 diabetic. It’s helped increase the quality of life and likely lifespan. Running has carried on through my life. I’ve continued to run/race through high school, college and beyond.
Any other info you would like to share?
The last two virtual Bellin Runs have been tough. To make last year, 2021, more tolerable, my good friends from work at Marquette University got together to run Bellin at one of the group’s house in Belgium, Wis. There were about 20 of us. To make it as close as possible to a Bellin experience, one person produced large photos of Joan Samuelson and Jared Ward.
Another great memory was having Ron Dauplaise start the race every year. Traditionally, I always made a point to say hello before every start. I went to high school with his son, Mike. It was great to see that connection.
For this year, my running group from Marquette University is planning to make the trip to the Bellin Run in person. As a special focus, one member of our group is Marquette University President Mike Lovell. We hope is able to join us!
Frankly, as much as I’m happy to have done the Bellin Run every year, I find the experiences with family and friends to be the lasting legacy. Most every fond memory has been around memories of friends and family.
Bellin Hospital is a founding member of making a healthy lifestyle in the Green Bay market. The Bellin Run and the leadership have been instrumental in getting tens of thousands of people to get out and move. It’s a sincere commitment.