Dempsey's Death Leaves Hole in Local Running Scene

By Nearman, Steve | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 28, 1998 | Go to article overview

Dempsey's Death Leaves Hole in Local Running Scene


Nearman, Steve, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The first time I had seen the name Jack Dempsey in area road race results in the early '80s, I was reminded of one of history's greatest boxers and I chuckled.

It seems I wasn't the only one.

"He got a real kick out of that," said Dick Jamborsky of the close friend he lost on June 15.

The Jack Dempsey Jr. we all knew, the runner from Reston who at one time was president of the National Capital Track Club (GNATS), died of complications associated with hepatitis.

He was 47.

But Dempsey was the type of runner that most of us are: dedicated, enthusiastic, yet far from world class. His best race, according to Jambrosky, was a 69-minute 20K time at the 1985 Bethesda Chase and his 2:38:32 at the Boston Marathon a month later.

Dempsey was such a loyal running fan that he attended several World Track & Field championships and every Summer Olympics since 1984, and he even had put down a deposit for a trip to the 2000 Games in Sydney, according to Jamborsky.

Jamborsky said he witnessed Dempsey shed tears as Joan Benoit Samuelson entered the L.A. Coliseum on route to winning the marathon gold medal in the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984. Dempsey, who ran track and cross country at the Naval Academy, had a unique appreciation for women athletes.

"I think the GNATS got the biggest kick of out this," said Jamborsky, who knew Dempsey almost from the time he moved to Reston from New London, Conn., in 1979. "Jack was training in New London while stationed on a nuclear sub with the same coach who was training Jan Merrill."

"At that time, Jan was competing with the Eastern Europeans. She was a gritty competitor and Jack said she would run him into the ground during their workouts. And in 1980, the U.S. Olympic Committee said that women couldn't run any further than 3,000 meters and that angered Jack to no end."

And at one point, Dempsey even tried coaching himself, and was quite successful. …

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