Jerry Knox: From one marathon to the next and all of the life lessons in between
Social science teacher and cross country coach Jerry Knox is more than the seven Guinness World Records that he holds or the coach that has run 100 marathons and seven ultra marathons. He is also a father that lost his son and a mentor to many students on campus. With each day that passes, he continually mentors those around him and learns new life lessons everyday.
On October 24, 2019 he found out that son, Alex Knox, had died in a car accident. Alex was Jerry Knox’s only son. To Knox, Alex was more than a son, he was always supportive, caring and kind to everyone around him. This event sparked a change in Knox. One that would help guide him on a path through the third and final part of his life. The part of his life without his son.
“I think every parent would say, you know, it’s sad that some people get cancer, some people lose some people, their spouse leaves, or their child passes away and it’s just about as bad as it gets. And I would not disagree,” Knox said. “The way I kind of look at it, is that I have three lives. I kind of had a life before my kid. And then I had my life with my kids. And so I had my son, and then I had 21 years with my son and now I have to live the rest of my life without him.”
Family is an important part of Knox’s life. Following the passing of his son, Knox made it his priority to support his wife, Carolyn Campbell, who teaches at Vejar Elementary School in the Walnut Valley Unified School District and daughter Camille Knox who graduated from Walnut High School in 2018 as they went through the newest chapter of their lives.
“It’s devastating, I cry a ton and it does get better over time but sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and can not fall back asleep. There are all kinds of signs. My wife and I talk about it all the time and we do not like to listen to music or love songs because of how much it relates to how much you love your child,” Knox said. “In so many ways it has changed my life. I have been very fortunate and a very lucky human being. I was able to go to college, travel the world, buy a house, get married and have kids. Life is good and even though I do miss my son, from time to time, I know it will get better. He was a good kid, my wife and I did a good job of raising him. He was just a boy and a nice kid. And to have a person like that leave the world is a shame.”
Knox is always moving and taking care of himself. He continues to support his family and makes himself available to friends that go through similar situations. Even with the tragic event, he still moves forward to live his best life and share that happiness with those around him.
“I really see [running] as meditation. Some people like to sit, cross legged and meditate every day and I think that’s great. I am always trying to stay active at home, from always cleaning the house and doing the dishes rather than sitting down,” Knox said. “So I’m a kind of a guy that likes to move around. [During my runs] no one can contact me and I have an hour every single day, seven days a week. And I just like to see it as my meditation. And so it’s my, it’s my time for me to stay healthy for myself.”
Exercising is more than an activity to keep himself active, Knox views running as a way to destress and relax from the world. Running serves as a method for Knox to move forward with his life and not dwell on the past. He uses it to keep himself happy and finds his own joy in exercising day after day.
“I think we all need to have time every day for ourselves instead of giving to everyone else. You could call it selfish, but we need to take care of our own physical and mental health and I’m fortunate to be able to do that seven days a week,” Knox said. “For some it might be to play video games, or whatever else they may enjoy. But at the end, people have to find something to give them you know, relaxation from the stress of life. I found one that does [help me destress]. And the great thing about it is it actually does help you.”
Lessons from Knox
As a teacher and a coach, he utilizes his classroom to share with students the many life lessons that he has learned after losing Alex. From teaching geography that is constantly changing to teaching students life lessons that he hopes they will keep with them for the rest of their life.
“Growing up, I had some cool teachers and some great coaches so I wanted to be like them,” Knox said. “I have learned a lot about the world and I would like to share that. You know what better way to do that, than to teach. And then I also like to say that I’m not super materialistic. I think a teacher’s income is more than adequate. And I don’t think you can buy happiness. and I love my job.”
Through his experiences he has learned many new lessons. Some of the lessons that he has learned is being consistently shared with the students in his classroom and sports teams.
“What I have learned as I got older is that silence is golden. I have more of a filter these days. When I was younger, I would tell people what I would think and sometimes that hurt people’s feelings. I would think to myself, ‘Why did you even need to say any new lessons. Some of the lessons that he has learned is being consistently shared with the students in his classroom and sports teams.
“What I have learned as I got older is that silence is golden. I have more of a filter these days. When I was younger, I would tell people what I would think and sometimes that hurt people’s feelings. I would think to myself, ‘Why did you even need to say that to the person and hurt their feelings?’” Knox said.
As a teacher and an athletic coach, he continues to encourage students to pursue passions and goals that they may have. He actively seeks out to help others and form a connection with students that he comes across.
“Now I’ve learned to just try to be positive. I wish I’d learned that when I was younger. To be kind to others and know that you don’t need to fix other people’s problems. Sometimes they’re just complaining and they just need to vent to just listen. And instead of wanting to do this and wanting to do that I just wish I had learned that a little earlier. I think now that I’m older I want to just kind of listen.”
Throughout his life, things may never be the same but Knox does not change the way that students see him or the way that he treats others. He sees this as another part of his life. With everything, he will begin the third part of his life. The part of his life after his son.
“I do think teenagers have so much hope in the world, and they’re so positive, sometimes, adults are cynical and I have to bite my tongue. Some of these teenagers are idealistic, I don’t want to shatter their dreams and tell them that it’s not going to happen in the future. Being around these kids makes me so positive. I mean ‘how can I not be positive around that’? Being positive has helped me keep going,” Knox said. “I’m glad that being positive and me trying to teach them about the world can make a difference in their lives.” Ω
By Samuel Au, Feature editor
Photo courtesy of Jerry Knox