Craig Virgin as 2019 Koala Health and Wellness Houston Half Marathon & 10K Grand Marshal
The Koala Health and Wellness Houston Half Marathon & 10K is excited to announce the selection of Craig Virgin as the Grand Marshal for the 13th annual Houston Half Marathon & 10K. Craig Virgin, 3-time Olympian, 2-time World Champion, and one of the most celebrated distance runners in U.S. history, will lead the way for over 7,000 participants on Sunday, October 27, 2019, starting and finishing in historical Sam Houston Park in Downtown Houston.
Craig will also be the speaker and special guest to meet and greet at the Fleet Feet Houston Half Marathon & 10K Expo on October 25-26 at the Fonde Center, Downtown Houston. The Expo is open to the public and everyone is invited to come down to meet Craig both before and after his multi-media presentation at 2:30 PM on October 26. He will also be selling autographed and personalized copies of his new authorized biography book, “Virgin Territory” in his booth.
Quoted from Craig’s Biography:
Craig Virgin is one of those rare distance runners who was a phenom in high school, went on to even more success in college, and then had an outstanding national & international racing career after that. He is arguably one of the Top 10 distance runners in American athletic history.
Virgin won 5 Illinois State High School Individual Championships in both Cross Country and Track despite hailing from the small town of Lebanon, IL (pop. 4400) and during a point in time where there was only a single class of high school competition among all school sizes. He came from very modest beginnings with limited resources. In fact, Lebanon H. S. (pop. 412) did not even have a track or weight room when he was a student-athlete there! Still, Craig managed to run 4:05 for the mile, and later broke the late Steve Prefontaine’s National H.S. 2-mile record with a time of 8:40. He qualified for two U.S. Junior Track Teams in high school as, two months after graduation, Virgin won his final race as a high school runner by beating the top Soviet athletes at Odessa, Ukraine with a time of 13:58 in the 5000 m. event. Just a month earlier, Virgin had run 13:36 for 3-miles in the U.S. Junior T & F Champs to qualify. Also, his state meet records in the 3-mile cross country (13:50.6) and in the 2-mile track event (8:42.6) still stand today!
While attending the University of Illinois, Craig Virgin was a 9-time Big Ten Individual Champion in both Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track. He was also a 9-time All American. He won an unprecedented 4 Big Ten Cross Country Championship individual titles. Going against many over age foreign athletes at the time, Craig was the top American finisher in 8 different NCAA National Championship events and won the 1975 NCAA National Cross Country crown as a Junior. He set an American collegiate record of 27:59 in the 10,000 m. while finishing 2nd and qualifying for his 1st of 3 U.S. Olympic Teams in 1976.
After college, Virgin broke another of Prefontaine’s American records in 1979 by running the 10,000 m. race in 27:39.4 which lasted for 25 years. Craig qualified for two more Olympics in the 10,000 m. event in 1980 and 1984. In 1980, he won and set an Olympic Trials record for the 10,000 m. event in a time of 27:45.6 which lasted for 24 years. Craig placed 2nd at the 1984 Olympic Trials 10,000 m. race with a time of 28:02.3 in a more tactical race. He also won the USATF National Championships 10,000 m. event in 1978, 1979, and 1982. His 10,000 m. personal best of 27:29.2 was also a U.S. National Record, set just 2.5 weeks before the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow opened. He also ran a PR of 13:19.1 for 5000 m. that same week.
Craig Virgin ran and won some of America’s most prominent non-marathon road races to include the Trevira Twosome 10-miler in Central Park, the Falmouth Road 7.5 mile road race on Cape Cod, the Peachtree 10K Road Race in Atlanta, the Crescent City Classic 10K in New Orleans, and the Bay to Breakers Road Race in San Francisco. He also ran the marathon four times even though he did not train specifically for it. Craig set an American debut record with a time of 2:14.40 at the Mission Bay Marathon and later ran his PR 2:10.26 to place 2nd at the 1981 Boston Marathon. He was the first public race spokesperson for his home state’s Chicago Marathon in 1982 which was the 1st year of its national sponsorship and truly world class competitive fields.
Perhaps Craig Virgin’s finest running accomplishments were set in the sport of cross country. Craig qualified for a record 10 U.S. Teams to attend the World Cross Country Championships. He finished 6th place as a rookie at Glasgow. He became the first American man ever to win the World Championships Cross Country Individual title in 1980 in Paris and again in 1981 at Madrid. Three times Virgin finished in the Top 6 and 6 times he finished in the Top 20. His U.S. Men’s Teams finished in the 2nd place at the World Champs five times and 3rd place two times. He still lists cross country as his favorite running competitive sport.
Craig Virgin retired from top level international running in 1992 but did go on to have a brief master’s division career that was shortened by a terrible car wreck in 1997. Virgin has been elected to a total of 5 Halls of Fame in running to include the USATF National T & F Hall of Fame and the US National Distance Running Hall of Fame. He never won an Olympic medal but did have the fastest time in the world of 27:29.2 in 1980 but was denied the chance to compete at the 1980 Moscow Olympics by the U.S. led boycott to protest the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan late in 1979. His 23-year top level running career was mostly at the World Class level. Virgin has survived 2 serious motor vehicle accidents and can only jog/walk shorter distances nowadays but also does cross training on the bike, elliptical, and in the swimming pool to maintain his “healthy fitness” these days.
Upon selection to be the grand marshal for the 2019 Houston Half Marathon & 10K, Craig Virgin said, “ I’m honored and excited about coming back to Houston to help celebrate one of the most successful half marathons in America. It’s been a very long time since I raced there last. The Houston Half & 10K is still growing in participant size at a time when other races have either lost numbers or gone flat. I am anxious to see what the excitement is all about and get to know as many of the Houston area runners as possible. I will give two different speeches with two different topics, but both will try to relate some of the lessons learned during my long world class career to what challenges the “average Houston runner” faces at a much slower pace. Our sport of running is very inclusive and welcomes both the elite and the middle or back of the pack to participate in the same event with the same enthusiasm. Our sport is unique that way. I look forward to touring the expo before my speech and enjoying the post-race party in Sam Houston Park. I hope to have a lot of fun and make some new friends!”
To learn more, visit: www.craigvirgin.com
Fast, Flat and Philanthropic : the Houston Half Marathon & 10K is presented by the Houston Striders, an all volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on community wellness and charitable outreach. We are a metro-wide running club with over 350 active members and have been running Houston since 1985!
In years past, we’ve given over $650K to Houston-area organizations & entities. Recipients include the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Memorial Park Conservancy, the Heritage Society of Sam Houston Park, Houston Wellness Project and Katy Students Run to name a few.
To learn more, visit: www.houstonhalf.com