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Jack Townshend left his mark on Fairbanks running community

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Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:40 am | Updated: 10:37 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Serendipity and Jack Townshend go hand in hand.

Townshend, an icon in the Fairbanks running community, was known for his upbeat attitude throughout the Fairbanks running community as he encouraged everyone to be the best they could be.

“He just had that serendipitous attitude in everything he did,” said Fairbanks runner Corky Hebard, who has known Townshend since the early ’80s.

Townshend, 85, died of cancer at his home Monday evening.

“He just had that upbeat attitude,” Hebard said. “For many years, we drove to the Tok Trot together so we got to know each other well. I really enjoyed his personality.”

Hebard said Townshend definitely knew how to make things happen.

“He knew the right people to get things done, and he knew how to motivate them to get those things done,” Hebard said. “He was a motivational-type person and that carried over to the running community.”

Even though he was terminally ill, Townshend sang the national anthem before the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Midnight Sun Run in June. He completed the 10-kilometer race in a wheelchair pushed by several members of Running Club North and proudly wearing big No. 1 on his chest, fulfilling two of his last wishes before he died.

He didn’t begin seriously running until he was 60 years old. He completed the Equinox Marathon 18 times between age 60 and 80.

Townshend believed in serendipity, which he described as, “discovering and letting important and beautiful experiences happen along the journey of life, often times when least expected to happen,” in a News-Miner article before the Midnight Sun Run.

Hebard said Townshend was instrumental in two major events in the running community.

He helped turn Running Club North from a once-per-year meeting organization into the organization it is today.

“We had a meeting at his house because we needed to change our organization in order to get insurance,” Hebard recalled. “Some of us, myself included, wanted to keep things the old way, but he convinced us by the end of the night we needed to change things.”

Another thing Townshend helped push was getting permanent trail markers along the Equinox Marathon trail.

“Someone got the bright idea of putting up permanent trail markers,” Hebard said. “It was evident after a number of lunches at the Cookie Jar his management skills were working on a couple of young guys to get the job done.

“He was the driving force behind the project and managed us well enough that we accomplished getting it done.”

Townshend wasn’t just active in the running community.

He was an avid fan of the Alaska Nanooks hockey team. He often traveled to Nanooks road games, especially if they played at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. He also attended the Nanooks only appearance in the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2010.

He often sang the national anthem at Nanooks’ games and usually sang a song at the Nanooks’ final press conference of each season.

He already had purchased season tickets for the 2012-13 season.

Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7581.

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