Griffith Joyner running on crowded track

April 28, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

In between designing uniforms for the Indiana Pacers, writing children's books, taking acting lessons, making speaking engagements and serving as co-chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Florence Griffith Joyner is preparing to run the marathon in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

For the wonder woman of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, who set world records in winning gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters, anything appears possible.

"I always had a love for distance running, and it's been a dream of mine to compete in the Olympic marathon," said Griffith Joyner, who was the principal speaker at the annual Coppin State sports banquet last night.

"I never really stopped running. I've always stayed fit. The problem is finding the time to train properly between all my activities and constant travel," she said. "I'm up to running 75 miles a week. But I'm striving for consistency -- at least 80 miles a week."

Her husband and coach, Al Joyner, a gold medalist in the 1984 triple jump, says she can accomplish her goal.

"She's a remarkable lady," he said. "Her real mystique is that she is not just an amazing athlete, but also a designer, writer, speaker, wife and a mother.

"We started our Olympic careers with Jackie [his sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the heptathlon champion], in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. And it's our goal to finish our track careers together in Atlanta in 1996.

"I think Florence can compete successfully in any of the distance races, from 800 meters up. But she is determined to do the marathon simply because people believe sprinters are basically lazy. When someone says she can't do something, she'll always try to prove them wrong."

As a sprinter, Griffith Joyner combined her blinding speed with flashy fashions, sometimes running in spandex unitards that were color coordinated with her nail polish. She became an advertising magnet, earning more than $4 million in endorsements in Japan, Europe and the United States.

At 34, she has lost none of her pizazz. Her distinctive, two-inch nails last night were painted fuchsia, lime and yellow.

"Kids tell me they're like Froot Loops," she said.

One of Joyner's present pupils is President Clinton, with whom she jogged along the Potomac last February.

"I gave him a few tips, but he runs better than a lot of people believe," she said. "He always sprints the last 200 yards to the White House."

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