by Kristen Hislop
Husbands and wives, sisters, brothers, and friends are the necessary built in support system for endurance athletes – and how much better when you can do it together. Training for a marathon or Ironman takes an incredible commitment from the athlete, but also from their family and friends. Couples often do it best and one great example is the Gleasons. Chris and Jennyfer married in 2002 and then got started in an active lifestyle. Right from the start Chris had a goal to get Jennyfer on the black diamond runs at Gore, and this season she’s getting closer.
Ages: Jennyfer, 39, and Christopher, 40
Residence: Clifton Park
Sports: Running, Triathlon, Tennis, Soccer, Alpine Skiing
Family: Ashley and Matthew
Jennyfer played soccer in high school. When she first hit the field she was last running laps before practice, but quickly she moved to the front. She kept running after college and fulfilled her competitive drive with 5Ks. She started running longer after their kids, Ashley and Matthew, were born. Jenny said, “I realized that, if I could run faster, I could run further in the same amount of time so as not to have the kids out in the stroller longer.” That training plan for her daily five-mile run paid off with quicker race times. Jennyfer fully supported Chris in his training for the 2007 Ironman Lake Placid, and then when he signed up for 2008, she decided to get a marathon on the calendar.
The plan was to run with her sister, but her sister’s pregnancy changed the training schedule so instead of traveling to a race she decided to do the 2008 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, with Team Gleason cheering her on. The competitive spirit surfaced again as she had set a goal to qualify for Boston in her first marathon. A little quick out of the gate, she held a strong pace until in the last eight miles when a woman she had been gaining on went down. Jennyfer stopped to aid her with water and waited until help came. Putting aside her own goals, she still finished in an admirable 3:51:00.
Jennyfer decided to once again try to qualify for Boston 2012. Aging up to the 40-44 age group for 2012 didn’t offer much wiggle room. The plan was Quebec City Marathon in August so as to get in on the Boston Marathon sign ups in September. Unfortunately, her IT band had other ideas. After a painful training run and a long walk home she knew Quebec City was not in the cards. The focus would be supporting Chris at Ironman Lake Placid and rehabbing.
Chris’s training regimen for the 2007 Ironman Lake Placid involved six- and eight-hour weekend sessions. For the 2008 Ironman Lake Placid he changed up his plan to free up family time. Working with Endurance Nation the focus was intensity versus duration. That meant that Chris could make sure, as he always did, that Jennyfer got her weekend runs in. It also meant he could spend precious time with the kids at their events. He continued to train with Endurance Nation improving each year. He decided on his third Ironman Lake Placid in 2011.
Chris was an athlete from a young age playing tennis and skiing competitively. At the age of 33 his sister encouraged him to enter a marathon and that began his endurance career. In 2011 he came within a couple of places of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, with a time of 10:11:04 – tenth in his age group!
Rising to the top of the triathlon world exemplifies how Chris did everything. A doting and supportive husband, loving and encouraging father, grateful son, true friend to all, and a top lawyer – undefeated in his career.
With everything going for him, the Gleasons were dealt a devastating blow on Sunday, November 20, 2011. Just a quarter-mile from the finish of the Philadelphia Marathon Chris collapsed and later died at the hospital. Jennyfer can only say that “God needed Chris for a higher calling.” He was the picture of health and doing what he loved with his loved ones watching on. Many athletes in the area know Chris or at least had a great conversation with him, but his reach was impressive. The outpouring on Facebook was incredible – friends from near and far posted about how Chris had changed and enriched their lives.
There are so many incredible tributes to Chris on the Slowtwitch forum (forum.slowtwitch.com, Search “Gleason,” and go to page 1). Read a few to get a flavor of his legacy.
Jennyfer, Ashley and Matthew’s lives drastically changed on November 20, but one thing remains a constant – taking care of themselves through eating well and exercise. Jennyfer says that as a mother she has always needed to make time for herself and get her workout in. There is no excuse – she ran with two kids in a jogger and says anyone can carve out a little time. Ashley and Matthew often say, “We need to get our exercise.” And they do – skiing, soccer, running with the kids’ Pacers at the Southern Saratoga Y, swimming, dance, baseball, and more keep them busy. As their Mom says the kids had a “great example in their father.” They will participate and race because they love it and probably as they get older to honor their father.
Ashley and Matthew have already competed in the Y’s Kids’ Can ‘Tri’ Too Mini-Triathlon in Clifton Park for a few years. This year they will compete again in the event, now in their father’s name. These kids have infinite potential. You can help them by donating to their Education Fund. Donations can be made out to The G. Christopher Gleason Education Fund and mailed to the Gordon Emerick Funeral Home, 1550 Route 9, Clifton Park, NY 12065. Come participate in the Y’s Anyone Can ‘Tri’ Triathlon on May 6, cheer the kids on in the mini-tri, and feel good about everyone’s future.
The multisport community is also commemorating Chris at the American Zofingen Duathlon in New Paltz on May 20. This year the middle distance race – which Chris raced last year – is renamed the G. Christopher Gleason Memorial Duathlon. The race is already closed out – another testament to him.
Chris’ Endurance Nation coach has set up a ten-percent-off discount on Road ID bracelets (code: pcEndurance). Road ID will be donating profits to the Education Fund for Ashley and Matthew.
Jennyfer is still looking to qualify for Boston and this coach wants to help her make it happen. The Gleasons are one of the most positive families out there – think you can’t keep your New Year’s resolutions? Think about the Gleason family. They are moving ahead, getting better and stronger, just as Chris would have wanted. Now get out there and be your best!
Kristen Hislop (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Clifton Park is a USA Triathlon coach, Team LUNA Chix member, Leukemia & Lymphoma Team in Training coach, and personal trainer whose passion, next to family, is the sport of triathlon.