Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, November 13, 2016
DEAN SHONTS CELEBRATES TURNING 70 WITH A 15K RUN
This is 2016 and there are many runners out there who can say that they have been running all of their life. But when you are celebrating your 70th birthday that is saying something.
Dean Shonts, formerly of Morris Township and more recently of Belmar, was running before the first running boom that was fueled by the Jim Fixx The Complete Book of Running in the late 1970’s.
Shonts was a sophomore in high school in 1962 when he won the first race he entered and set the course record. That got him on the track and cross country team, but he really liked playing basketball more than running. Not that the training was all that hard. Back then the coaches didn’t require much from their runners.
“We ran maybe 8 or 9 miles a week,” recalls Shonts.
At Trenton State College Shonts was coached by renowned coach Rick McCorkle who had his runners doing more than a few miles a week.
“He was a very, very good coach,” said Shonts, who ran on both the cross country team and longer distance events on the track; half mile, the mile and the two mile that was most common during that time.
For the next several years Shonts coached: Cinnaminson high school, Trenton State as assistance coach, William Patterson and Bergen County Community College.
In 1978 Shonts turned a part time operation selling New Balance running shoes from the trunk of his car into a full fledge sporting goods store in partnership with another entrepreneur. In 1981 Shonts bought out his partner and became the sole proprietor. Initially the Sneaker Factory store in Millburn sold soccer cleats, volleyball clothing, and a hodge podge of sports equipment. Back then there really weren’t enough shoes to have just a running store.
“There were no women’s running shoes at the time,” said Shonts. “As time went on they started having women’s shoes, racing shoes. Things just started to develop.”
Shonts was able to drop those other lines and stay with running shoes and clothes.
During that time Shonts organized a running team, and was the head of the long distance running program with AAU, which became TAC (the Athletics Congress) later renamed USATF where he was tasked with organizing races. He never thought to keep a list of all the races he has organized, but those that stand out to this day include the President’s Cup Race in June, the Newark Corporate 5K that takes place at noon in the city, and of course, the Great Swamp Devil 15K, and 5K, in Basking Ridge taking place this year on Sunday, November 20th.
Over the years Shonts had been hampered by a bad knee that kept him as just a fitness runner. Two years ago he underwent knee replacement surgery and it has allowed him to get back into more running. This year with his seventieth birthday looming he decided to set a goal of running in the 15K that he started years ago. He’s done three training runs of over seven miles and feels he can finish the race.
“I needed a goal,” he said. “I haven’t had a goal in years. You need a goal to get a little bit better. I figured for my seventieth birthday I would try it.”
“It’s a flat course,” said Shonts. “I don’t think I could run any hills and since I started the race I thought it would be a good time.”
Shonts couldn’t recall when the race was started but I was able to find the 1993 results on the old CompuScore website. A 24 year old Tom Metz from Lake Hiawatha won the race in 47:50 that year, and Lisa Mudrick, then 33, of Mendham won the women’s race in 58:01.
In the most recent edition the race was won in 2015 by Atilla Sabahoglu of Somerset in 51:36 while Ingrid Wells of Upper Saddle River was the women’s winner in 54:19.
Shonts turned the race over to the Amazing Feet Running club a few years back and most recently Tom Miller of Chatham has served as the race director. Miller is expecting a large turnout that will be there to support Shonts as he runs in celebration of his seventieth milestone. The 5K race will start at 11:00 a.m. and the 15K at noon.
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at www.usatfnj.org or at www.raceforum.com for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at email@example.com.