August 20, 2021. People die every day; each year we learn of runners who have passed away. But how can we lose three such vital runners in a single month, July 2021? And each one before their time. The loss of Matt Lalumia, Nancy Thomas, and Fred Zalokar would be heart-wrenching at any time. It is triply so this time.
Matt Lalumia Clifton Road Runners 81 Clifton, NJ. Lalumia was killed, on July 11th, by a speeding motor vehicle while on a run, a tragedy of epic proportion. The driver faces charges of vehicular manslaughter.
Long-time friends noted Lalumia's positive outlook on life, his booming laugh and the child-like glint in his eyes...'
|Matt Lalumia in action Both photos from the Clifton Road Runners-single project|
He was described as a 'perpetual volunteer.' From the pictures we can see that he was drawn to people and loved making connections.
Lalumia was a co-founder of the Clifton Road Runners, one of the most active clubs, not only in New Jersey, but nationally. When I started running on the Masters National Grand Prix circuit, the Clifton Road Runners were already active, and Lalumia was not only a guiding light for the Club, he was an important runner on their M70+ team. In 2014, when I was a ‘wet behind the ears’ M65 runner, Lalumia was already taking a Silver Medal in the M75 division at Club Cross on the Lehigh course in Bethlehem, PA. He helped Clifton’s M70+ team to a Team Bronze Medal finish that year. He also regularly led the team into competition at the Masters 10 km Road Championships, hosted by the James Joyce Ramble in Dedham MA, and at the Masters 5 km Road Championships, hosted by the Syracuse Festival of Races in Syracuse NY. In 2016 he captured the M75 Bronze Medal at both of those events, helping Clifton’s M70+ team to 4th at Dedham and 6th at Syracuse. But Lalumia’s gift was his enthusiasm for running and for his teammates and Clubmates. Outside of competing for Clifton, Lalumia ran in over 30 Marathons. A member of the US Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962, Lalumia was perhaps proudest of his M70 1st place at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010. A longer list of Lalumia’s running exploits, covering the years from 1994 to 2008 can be found at the Clifton Road Runners remembrance of Lalumia’s roles with the Club See reference below. While working packet pickup for USATF at the 2017 8 km Championships, hosted by the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, I observed firsthand how warmly he greeted and was greeted, by anyone associated with Clifton or indeed with any runner he knew. He was slated to run with Clifton’s M80+ team at the USATF Masters 12 Km Championships. He would be happy to know that the M80+ team will compete at that race in his honor.
|Matt Lalumia, doing what he loved best Photo Credit: Facebook post|
Here is a list showing Lalumia’s participation in USATF Masters LDR Championships from 2014 through 2018:
2014 USATF Masters 10 km Championships at James Joyce Ramble Dedham MA
Individual: 55:31-----17th in M70
Team: #3 runner on 4th place M70+ team
2014 USATF Club XC Championships at Lehigh University 8 km, Bethlehem PA
Individual: 58:34 --- Silver Medal M75
Team: #3 runner on Bronze Medal M70+ team
2015 USATF Masters 5 km Championships, organized by USATF-Adirondack at the Saratoga Spa State
Park, Saratoga Springs, NY
Individual: 27:17 --- 4th place M75
Team: # 3 runner on Bronze Medal M70+ team
2015 USATF Masters 5 km Championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races, Syracuse NY
Individual: 26:50 --- 4th place M75
Team: #3 runner on 4th place M70+ team
2016 USATF Masters 10 km Championships at James Joyce Ramble, Dedham MA
Individual: 55:05 ---Bronze Medal M75
Team: #4 runner on 4th place M70+ team
2016 USATF Masters 5 km Championships at the Syracuse Festival of Races, Syracuse NY
Individual: 27:38 --- Bronze Medal M75
Team: #3 runner on 6th place M70+ team
2017 USATF Masters 8 km Championships at the Shamrock Marathon Weekend’s Towne Bank 8K,
Virginia Beach, VA
Individual: 47:28 --- 6th place M75
Team: #3 runner on 4th place M70+ team
2018 USATF Masters 8 km Championships at the Shamrock Marathon Weekend’s Towne Bank 8K,
Virginia Beach, VA
Individual: 47:07 --- 6th place M75
Team: #4 runner on 5th place M70+ team
Nancy Thomas Impala Racing Team 50 San Francisco CA succumbed to Ovarian Cancer after a long, courageous battle with the disease. I knew of Thomas long before I met her. I started chronicling Masters National Championships in 2014. Pretty soon I began seeing her name frequently and prominently in National Championship results. Whenever the Impala Racing competed in a W40+ championship, Thomas would be one of the key runners on the team. She would also, typically, be among the top 10 individuals. I met Thomas briefly after the post-Club Cross-Masters National Grand Prix Awards Ceremony in Bethlehem PA in 2019. We just exchanged a few pleasantries but I assumed we would meet many times in years to come as she seemed very committed to her team and was clearly a nationally competitive runner. I was not surprised to see that she won the W50 Gold Medal at the 2020 USATF Cross Country Championships a month later and was the #2 runner on the W40+ Impala team that finished just off the podium.
|Nancy Thomas flying toward the finish and her W50 Gold Medal at the 2020 USATF Cross Country Championships at Mission Bay, San Diego CA Photo by Michael Scott|
Two months later, in late March, though, things changed dramatically. She posted that, on February 22nd, she had sought out advice from a running acquaintance who was a doctor and, on that advice had seen health professionals; a CT scan turned up a mass on one of her ovaries. With that post in March, she started an online journal chronicling her journey with ovarian cancer on the Caring Bridge site at: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/impalanancy/journal
The Impala Racing Team honored her as the Impala of the Month for March both for her National Championship in San Diego and for publicly sharing a log of her bout with ovarian cancer. You can read about it here.
|Nancy Thomas celebrating after the race Photo posted at Caring Bridge|
It was a journey she did not want, but Thomas was committed to overcoming the disease, and to not let the disease win. Her indomitable spirit, as well as her sense of humor, comes through to anyone who reads her account. In February of this year, she posted an entry, titled ‘Cancerversary’ that began, “Feb 22 is my cancerversary i.e. 1 year from my diagnosis. Of course, no one wants to have a cancerversary but once you have cancer you want to have as many as possible. In fact, after writing it three times I will happily go a year without saying it again.” After a few more posts with a mix of unhappy news but keeping our chins up entries, the heart-breaking news came on July 30th, that she died at home, as comfortably as possible, in the company of a few souls who loved her dearly.
To my surprise I learned that Thomas was an accomplished equestrian as well as a nationally competitive runner. Among other things, a note from the Sonoma Horse Park noted, “𝐴𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑎𝑙 ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑠𝑒𝑤𝑜𝑚𝑎𝑛, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 ℎ𝑜𝑟𝑠𝑒 𝑠ℎ𝑒 𝑟𝑜𝑑𝑒, 𝑠ℎ𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑠 𝑙𝑒𝑓𝑡 𝑎𝑛 𝑖𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑙𝑖𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑘 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑒𝑞𝑢𝑒𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑖𝑎𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑚𝑢𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑐𝑜𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑐𝑜𝑎𝑠𝑡.” On August 15, 2021 the Sonoma Horse Park Seasonal Finale Horse Show included a hunter derby as its last event of the day, the Nancy Thomas Memorial Derby, to raise funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. Although it is too late to attend the Derby, it is not too late to donate to the OCRA in Thomas’s honor.
There will be a Memorial service at some time in the future, when indoor events are again advisable, given covid precautions in San Francisco. I understand the Impala Racing team is developing a Nancy Thomas tribute page for their new website.
Originally scheduled for December 2020, the USATF Club Cross Country Championships in San Francisco, was the race that Thomas was training for while she could still run. Covid forced the postponement of that event to December 2022. Perhaps the Impala Racing Team can work with the Pacific Association, the USATF Cross Country Council, and the USATF Masters LDR Committee to have a remembrance in Thomas’s honor at that event.
As noted, Thomas was a decorated runner, earning at least two individual National Championships, and several Silver and Bronze individual medals at National Championships. She was happiest competing for her Impala Racing club and was a proud an indispensable member of the teams that took home three team National Championships.
|Nancy Thomas impishly proposing a root beer as the Impala Beer of the Year Photo posted at Caring Bridge|
One of her Impala teammates referred to her as ‘..the Cross Country Queen of our team.’ Her USATF MLDR achievements, primarily at Cross Country Championships, from 2013 through 2020 are detailed here:
Nancy Thomas’s running achievements on the National Stage—2013 - 2020
2 Individual Gold Medals 3 Individual Silver Medals 2 Individual Bronze Medals
3 Team Gold Medals 2 Team Silver Medals 2 Team Bronze Medals
Masters National Grand Prix Circuit Honors:
5th place W45 in 2018
2nd place W45 in 2019
Member of 2nd place W40+ team in 2018
Member of 1st Place W40+ team in 2019
USATF Masters National Championships:
2013 USATF Club XC Championships in Bend OR
Individual: 27:23---27th place W40 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on 6th place W40+ team
2014 USATF Club XC Championships in Bethlehem PA Lehigh U
Individual: 23:23---19th place W40 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on 6th place W40+ team
2015 USATF Club XC Championships in San Francisco CA Golden Gate Park
Individual: 23:57---7th place W45 6 km
Team: # 4 runner on Bronze Medal W 40+ team
2016 USATF Club XC Championships in Tallahassee FL
Individual: 23:07---2nd place W45 6 km
Team: # 1 runner on 5th place W40+ team
2017 USATF Club XC Championships in Lexington KY
Individual: 23:48---5th place W45 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on Silver Medal W40+ team
2018 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL
Individual: 24:03---3rd place W45 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on Gold Medal W40+ team
2018 USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta GA Atlanta’s Finest 5K
Individual: 20:37---6th place W45
Team: # 3 runner on Bronze Medal W 40+ team
2018 USATF Club XC Championships in Spokane WA
Individual: 24:01---2nd place- W45 6 km
Team: # 1 runner for 6th place W40+ team
5th place in 2018 Masters National Grand Prix-Individual—W45
2nd place in 2018 Masters National Grand Prix-Club--W40+
|Nancy Thomas running with her pooch in better days Photo posted at Caring Bridge|
2019 USATF Cross Country Championships in Tallahassee FL
Individual: 24:40---1st place W45 6 km
Team: # 1 runner for Gold Medal W40+ team
2019 USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta GA Atlanta’s Finest 5K
Individual: 19:11---2nd place W45
Team: # 2 runner for Silver Medal W40+ team
2nd Place in 2019 Masters National Grand Prix-Individual---W45
1st Place in 2019 Masters National Grand Prix-Club--W40+
2019 USATF Club XC Championships in Bethlehem PA Lehigh U
Individual: 24:28---3rd place- W50 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on Gold Medal W50+ team
2020 USATF XC Championships in San Diego CA Mission Bay
Individual: 26:09---1st place—W50 6 km
Team: # 2 runner on 4th place W40+ team
Leader in 2019-2021 Masters National Grand Prix-Individual standings—W50
2nd Place in 2019 Masters National Grand Prix- Club--W40+
2nd Place in 2019 Masters National Grand Prix- Club—W50+
Photos from caringbridge.org
Fred Zalokar 61 Reno NV was not associated with a team in the way that Lalumia and Thomas were. The phrase ‘rugged individualist’ comes to mind. Zalokar drove himself to achieve big goals, primarily on his own. Initially an accomplished ultra-marathoner, he also found time to develop a reputation as an intrepid mountain climber. According to an article in IRunFar, Zalokar scaled 185 mountains between 1990 and 2020, including reaching the summits of the highest mountain in each of 5 different continents. He aimed to reach all 7 continents but was not able to accomplish that. He attempted Mt. Everest once but was not able to make it to the summit. That was one of the very few of his stated goals that he did not fully achieve. Take the title in the Rock n Roll Half Marathon series in three consecutive years-done! Take your Age Division title in each of the six Abbott World Major Marathons-done!
|Fred Zalokar, far right, in the thick of things at the 2017 USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Syracuse NY Photo by Amir Findling|
According to a report in IRunFar, on Saturday, July 17, 2021 Zalokar registered, with the Yosemite National Park Service, a solo day hike from Bunnel Point in Yosemite Valley to Mt. Clark using an off-trail route. When Zalokar did not return before nightfall, a search was initiated. On Tuesday, July 20th, the NPS reported that Zalokar’s body had been found. Four days later the Reno Gazette reported that the Mariposa County Sherriff’s Office had ruled that the death was accidental. It was a tragic end to an adventurous life. We can all take some solace in the fact that he was doing what he loved, right up until the end.
Consider Zalokar’s achievements as a runner, over 34 years.
|Fred Zalokar, left, clad for an unseasonably frigid day in Tulsa, charges toward the finish line at the 2017 USATF Masters 15 km Championships Photo by barnezydc.smugmug.com|
The first race Athlinks has listed for Zalokar is the 1987 edition of the Jed Smith Ultra Classic, a 50-Miler; he was 26 at the time and finished 3rd out of 34 men and 1st of two in the 20-29 age division. He went back a year later, dropping his time from 8:15:25 to 6:58:53. Nonetheless, as often happened in those early days, the race grew faster as Zalokar did, and he finished 13th overall out of 63 men and 3rd in Men 20-29 out of 9. In those early years he focused on one ultra a year, whether Western States, Dipsea, or the Wasatch 100. At the age of 37, the first ‘short’ race is recorded, the Reno Air 15K; he finished mid-pack in 57:30. Zalokar would run faster 15K’s 20 years later. As he entered his 40’s, Zalokar added more short races and got faster, winning the 5K of the Valley of the Sun Marathon in Mesa AZ in 16:57. In 2002, at the age of 42, Zalokar found the National Club Cross Championship, held in Rocklin CA. He finished 81st in 39:25 in the 10 km race, and helped his team, the Silver State Striders, to a 12th place M40+ finish. Between then and 2015 he ran plenty of fast races, Half Marathons especially, racking up points in the Rock N Roll Half Marathon series. He won the Rock n Roll Half Marathon series in three consecutive years, 2013-2015. He hatched a plan as he approached his 55th birthday to attempt to win his Age Division at each of the Abbot World Major Marathons, New York, Chicago, and Boston in the US, along with Berlin, London and Tokyo. He would be the first ever to achieve that. Between 2010 and 2012, he had taken Age Division titles at Berlin, Boston and Chicago but had run into trouble at the 2011 NYC Marathon and did not have that one. He apparently also missed the victory on his first London Marathon attempt, as recorded on his website.
Berlin Marathon Sep 26 2010 2:37:03 1st M50
Boston Marathon Apr 18 2011 2:34:46 1st M50
BOA Chicago Oct 7 2012 2:35:10 1st M50
On November 1, 2015, he made another attempt at winning his age division at the NYC Marathon. He ran 2:43:10 to finish 1st M55. Then there were just two missing. Just over 6 months later he knocked off the London Marathon on April 14, 2016, with a 2:39:50 effort. Ten months later he achieved his goal, running 2:45:14 in the Tokyo Marathon on Feb 19, 2017 to take the M55 1st place.
|Fred Zalokar, 2nd from right knit hat, dressed up for another cold day in Lexington KY at the 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships Photo by Michael Scott|
At the same time he was engaged in pursuing the Abbot World Major Marathons, he was also testing the waters in the USATF Masters LDR National Championships. From 2015 to 2017 he competed in 9 USATF Masters National Championships, taking Gold twice in the Half Marathon 2015 & 2016 and once in the 15 km Championships 2016. Given his focus on the Marathon it is not so surprising that Zalokar had less success at distances under 15K. Once he finished the last of the Abbot World Majors, he apparently decided to compete in most of the remaining 2017 Masters National Championships. Zalokar no doubt developed a new respect for the level of competition. He was able to take 2nd place at the Half Marathon Championships in Newport Beach CA. But his other results that year included: 3rd at the1 Mile in Flint MI; 11th at the 5 km in Atlanta GA; 5th at the 15K in Tulsa OK; and 8th at Club Cross in Lexington KY. I did not know Zalokar but I became aware of him in 2017 at Newport Beach when he took 2nd in the Half Marathon behind Kevin Broady. I had to leave early that day, so just claimed my Gold Medal and left before the Awards Ceremony. Otherwise I might have met him at that event. Later in the day if he was at the party hosted by the Cushing-Murray’s, I did not chance to talk with him. But he was definitely on my radar and I looked forward to meeting him at one of the Masters LDR Championships in the future.
|Fred Zalokar charges up the hill to the end of the 2nd loop at the 2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY Photo by Michael Scott|
And then he stopped participating. In 2018 his focus was on
the Paris Marathon where he ran 2:48:01, finishing 7th in the
Veteran 2 division, which may line up with 50-59. It is not definite, but it
appears he intended to return to the USATF Masters National Grand Prix circuit.His most impressive performance may well have been his first in San Diego when he led Hall of Famer, Brian Pilcher, and three other decorated Masters runners across the line taking the M55 title in 1:15:32. The 90.18% age-grade score indicated Zalokar's effort was a 'World Class' performance.
On his website, Zalokar wrote: “Now it’s time for a new goal. I am interested in running some shorter distances, with a high level of age group competition, particularly the USATF Master’s Championship races. I also think that if I continue to train smart, and stay focused & healthy, I may be able to set an American age group record.” That goal will, unfortunately, elude him; others will have to chase it for him.
Zalokar's USATF Masters National Championship Races
2015 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in San Diego CA Rock n Roll HM
1st Place M55---1:15:32
2016 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in San Diego CA Rock n Roll HM
1st Place M55---1:16:28
2016 USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Syracuse NY Syracuse Festival of Races
4th Place M55---17:15
2016 USATF Masters 15 km Championships in Tulsa OK Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run
1st Place M55---55:25
2017 USATF Masters Half Marathon Championships in Newport Beach CA OC Marathon & HM
2nd Place M55---1:20:25
2017 USATF Masters One Mile Championships in Flint MI HAP Crim Festival of Races
3rd Place M55---5:09
2017 USATF Masters 5 km Championships in Atlanta GA Atlanta's Finest 5K
12th Place M55---17:54
2017 USATF Masters 15 km Championships in Tulsa OK Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run
5th place M55---58:34
2017 USATF Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington KY
8th Place M55---37:56
There will be ample opportunity for our fastest Masters runners to assault the record books in the remainder of 2021 and 2022. This year and next Masters National Championships include the 12 km at the By Hook Or By Crook course on a flat spit of land sticking out from the northern end of the Jersey Shore. Next year features the Sactown 10, a relatively flat and fast 10 Mile race in Sacramento CA. The 1 Mile race at Rochester is on the same road course used for USA Cycling’s Criterium bike race; that should be at least as fast as the course in Flint MI. The Mile is still relatively young as a Masters National Championship event; it has been held only since 2013, so it would be reasonable to expect some records to fall. Nonetheless these are not soft records; it will take a mighty effort by a superbly fast runner to break one. Perhaps if one of our fastest Masters runners has a successful try for an American record this year or next, they would dedicate the record to Zalokar’s memory?