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Local 90-year-old marathon runner takes on new race after losing home in fire

Most of Jerry Johncock's pictures, newspaper clippings and awards were safely removed from his house after the fire. Now, many of them sit in piles in his van. This photo of Jerry shows him competing in Walt Disney Marathon. Photo by Patrick Hagan/WWMT.

Jerry Johncock is no slouch. He said work is good for the soul, and he pumps that attitude into his passion: running.

The 90-year-old has spent most of his life in West Michigan, but he only spent half of it running. He competed in his first marathon at age 50, and since then, he has run in more than 110 marathons. Among a variety of awards, he holds the 80-84 year old American age-group record for the 30K, 50K and the marathon.

However in late July of this year, Johncock and his wife entered a new race against time as they try to start their lives over again. A fire ripped through their home, and now it's unsafe to live there.

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"Yeah, fire sure can make a mess out of something in a hurry," Johncock said. "We didn't have any gas in the house. Electricity was the only thing we had. That was enough you know."

Johncock said his wife, Dorlene, and their grandson were inside the home when the fire started. He arrived at the house and saw the flames. He was able to help the other two get out.

"I got the hose and I was squirting on that," said Johncock pointing toward his stove. "But, the fire was up in there so much I couldn't do anything. But, by that time the firetrucks came."

After the fire was out, Johncock said he was able to remove most of their belongings which includes his collection of awards, photos and newspaper clippings from his races. Many of those are now stacked in his van. Johncock hopes to own a home again, but there are many financial hurdles.

"I got no fire insurance," Johncock said. "You know I didn't have any fire in the house. I had an electric furnace but there's no fire to it."

Jerry's son, Bill Johncock, said his parents did not have homeowner's insurance either.

To try and help their parents jump start their lives, Johncock's children have started a GoFundMe fundraiser.

As for Jerry Johncock nothing can slow him down. Despite the disaster, he's continuing to train and has his eyes set on a few more races this season.

"Oh yeah I got up and ran three miles this morning. I ran from 8 until 9," Johncock said. "I'd rather run a marathon than this."

For more stories like this follow Jason Puhr on Facebook and Twitter.

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