There will be hundreds of unique people attending Races for All Paces 2017, but one person will stand out simply because of what he’s wearing. Coles County Sheriff Jimmy Rankin will lead this year’s race in uniform. A tradition he started years ago, Sheriff Rankin felt that running in uniform set a good example for other race attendees.
“It’s about community awareness of the importance of health and fitness, which is what Races for All Paces is all about,” Rankin said, “I teach the DARE program, and it occurred to me that running in uniform would be a great show of support for our kids. I want to show them that it can be done no matter who you are.”
Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Races for All Paces is set for Saturday, May 13, at EIU O’Brien Stadium.
Just five and a half years ago, Rankin didn’t know what a triathlon was. At lunch one day, a colleague was discussing her upcoming triathlon and explained the event that involves swimming, biking, and running. Rankin decided he was up for a challenge and would prepare for the event that was a mere four weeks away.
“I decided I wanted to give it a shot and the other people at the table started laughing,” Rankin said, “I didn’t have anything. No running shoes, no swim shorts, no bicycle, so I went to Walmart and purchased everything.”
Rankin completed that triathlon at Lake Mattoon and came in fifth in his division. He was hooked!
“Not only was I immediately addicted to the adrenaline rush from the physical activity, but I saw this as the perfect opportunity to bring awareness and support to important causes,” Rankin said.
Since that first event, Rankin has completed four half Iron Man events and one full Iron Man. His most rewarding accomplishment, though, was the Beaches to Battleships 140-mile race in North Carolina. The event raises money and awareness for Veterans research. As a veteran himself, it’s a cause that is close to the sheriff’s heart.
“I love to race for a good cause,” Rankin said, “It’s so important to me to support these organizations any time and any way I can.”
Running in the heat and mud in his polyester and rayon uniform is hard, but it’s not nearly as difficult as the battle Rankin would face in September of 2016. While he was training for the Iron Man in North Carolina, Rankin began feeling ill and feared that he was having a heart issue. A CT scan found a spot on his thyroid that was later determined to be cancer.
Rankin had his thyroid removed and was placed on medication, but thanks to early detection and his physical health, he faced no other treatments. Instead of the recommended three weeks of recovery, the sheriff returned to his desk after just two days. While he says the surgery temporarily affected his energy levels, the training and conditioning he had done prior to his diagnosis helped him rebound quickly. The diagnosis also motivated him to set new goals for his health.
“I’m definitely not one to sit around and feel sorry for myself,” Rankin said, “Becoming a cancer survivor was a scary process, but it’s one that made me stronger.”
Since his diagnosis and treatment, Rankin has completed three 5K races, four half marathons, and one triathlon, setting three personal records along the way. He has set a goal of completing 20 races this year.
“I want to prove that anyone can overcome illness and get back out there and get it done,” Rankin said.
To register for Races for All Paces, go to www.sarahbush.org. For more information, contact Laura Bollan at (217) 345-6828.