Some of his records are gone, but Clary’s legacy will live forever

May 18, 2016

Don ClaryDon Clary of Anchorage hasn’t been a competitive runner since the turn of the century, but people still recognize him.

Going to the Olympics can make you a celebrity.

Clary is arguably Alaska’s greatest runner and was the first Alaska runner to qualify for the Olympics when he competed at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

“In my career as a banker, people will see my name and ask, ‘Are you the runner? Well, yeah. I was the runner,’” he told me. “Those are folks that grew up here in the 60s, 70s, 80s, that’s when my career was in its heyday. A lot of my records have been erased and not around anymore.”

His legacy, however, will live forever.

The 58-year-old will be inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame with the Class of 2016.

“I think I probably anticipated at one point that I would be selected, but you’ve got a lot of athletes and individuals that have accomplished a lot of things here in the state, so it’s a matter of when your time comes,” Clary said.

“It’s been quite a few years since I competed, so it’s kind of been an interesting experience. It’s caused me to reflect back on a few things in my career I don’t think about that a whole lot. I don’t run anymore because I’ve had hip surgery, so I’ve been out of those circles for quite some time.”

From East Anchorage High School to the University of Oregon to the Olympics and beyond, Clary was always ahead of the pack.

Don Clary QualAt the 1984 Olympics he advanced to the semifinals in the 5,000 meters, a moment that is nominated for Alaska Sports Hall of Fame consideration. He qualified by finishing third at the Olympic Trials. Four years earlier he was fifth.

Clary also ran in the 1983 Pan American Games and placed fifth in the 5K race.

In 1986, Clary beat former Boston Marathon winner Alberto Salazar to win the Alaska 10K Classic. The next year he set the course record of 28 minutes, 35 seconds – a mark that still stands today.

In college, Clary was a four-time NCAA All-American for the Ducks and member of Oregon’s 1977 cross country team that captured the national championship. He was also a Pac-10 champion.

At East, he won two state cross country titles and set an Alaska prep record in the two-mile run [9:04.04] that has stood for nearly 40 years.

“When I was a senior I was selected to be on the World Junior Cross Country Team and we went over to Morocco and placed fifth,” Clary said. “That was quite a highlight for me and really opened doors for me from a college standpoint.”

That performance put him on the map.

“When you’re from Alaska, especially back in the 70s, nobody is really sure that the times you are posting are really accurate,” he said. “You’re just so far removed from the rest of the country and it’s not a sport that you would anticipate somebody from Alaska excelling in.”

MEET & GREET: The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will host a 10-year celebration on the night of July 28 at the Alaska Airlines Center. Clary will be among the Alaska sports legends on hand, joining others in attendence like Tommy Moe, Kikkan Randall, Scott Gomez, Janay DeLoach, Don Clary, Dallas Seavey, Allie Ostrander, Mark Schlereth, Reggie Joule and Vern Tejas.