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On Island Profile: Wallace Williams

July 29, 2007 — Wallace Williams is big into his three Rs — running, reading, and remembering.
Anyone who has done any serious or even recreational running on St. Croix in the last 30 years has had to run into Wallace.
He founded the Virgin Islands Pace Runners in 1978 and began organizing road races, about 20 a year ranging from a mile to marathon in distance, soon afterward. He started Women Race for The Women's Coalition in 1985. Williams took a gamble in the beginning with 100 people showing up for the first race, in this year’s race there were almost 500 participants. He is still at just about every race — helping the timekeepers and organizing just about every aspect of the race.
He said in a recent e-mail that he runs "nowhere near as much as I should be doing!"
But his history is strong and his thought about how much he should be running is probably way beyond the goals of the average runner. Wallace started training for marathons on St. Croix in 1977.
He ran the marathon in the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan and CAC Championships Marathon in Havana, Cuba in 1982.
He adds, "My race of all races is the Seoul Olympics Marathon in 1988. I can still feel each mile as if it were yesterday. There is no feeling like running the final lap in an Olympic stadium and crossing the finish line at the end of the Olympic marathon."
Reading has also played a part in his everyday life. He retired from the V.I. library system recently after working there 30 years. But books were more than a job. If you ran into him downtown Christiansted at the Luncheria during his lunch break, he was likely to tell you about this great book he was reading.
He says his greatest reward from working at the library was "seeing the impact that the library had on library users over the years, particularly youngsters who have now finished college and have come back to the community to lead productive lives."
Williams recalls the projects he initiated and participated in over the years, and the documentation of them in text and photos. He was glad to see the comeback of the libraries after hurricanes, in particular Hugo, where he spent all 13 hours of the hurricane inside the library.
He has also taught library skills at the University of the Virgin Islands once a week for a few years, and has taught coping skills in the Adult Education Program of the Department of Education a couple of years.
Williams represented the Virgin Islands in the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon and other international races, including the World Cross-Country Championships.
He became secretary of the V.I. Track and Field Federation, the governing body for the sport in the Virgin Islands and the affiliate of the International Association of Athletic Federations and the V.I. Olympic Committee. Williams was the course coordinator for the America’s Paradise Triathlon the first year, and the race operations director in the subsequent two years. Williams was also a founding member of the V.I. Triathlon Federation and founder of the Society of Olympic Marathon Runners.
Williams was born in Kentucky and spent his first 19 years there before joining the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He spent four years in Texas in the USAF, seven in the Chicago area, which consisted of the first 30 years of his life and as of last week the remaining 30 years have been spent on St. Croix.
When asked about childhood memories, Williams mentions learning how to work as a child with his grandparents who raised him. His grandfather was a sharecropper and a railroad construction laborer. Since his grandfather worked for the railroad they rode the train free every summer for their vacation. He enjoyed spending time outdoors in Kentucky, playing basketball and baseball. Bicycles were his means of transportation. He learned discipline from being an alter boy in church. Also memorable was his first airplane ride. While growing up, Williams was influenced by his grandparents, with their discipline and culture. His multi-talented aunts and uncles were role models. His father was a great mechanic, Williams says "That is most likely why I became a successful jet mechanic in the USAF."
There were a number of talented athletes around him as he grew up, who were just a few years older than him who became famous pros. He looked up to them even as peers.
Following the Air Force, Williams attended Northeastern Illinois University earning a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Political Science, graduating in 1973. He went on to Rosary College (now Dominican University) River Forest, Ill. to get his Master of Arts in Library and Information Science in 1975.
Williams started running track and cross-country his senior year in high school and freshman year of college. He jogged to prepare for the basketball season after the Air Force. In 1973-74 he started running races with the Evanston Running Club at Northwestern University along the lakefront. Just before moving to St. Croix, Williams ran a couple of long distance races.
Of course, Williams’ main interests are running and reading biographies, but he also volunteers for numerous organizations besides running affiliated groups.
He has been a past secretary of the Rotary Club of St. Croix, past president of the St. Croix Library Association, past co-president of the V.I. Library Association and past coordinator of youth activities for Camp Arawak. He has helped various community organizations with fundraising efforts such as Crucian Pathways and Friends of the Library. He has helped, with the Junior Solar Sprint, organized by the V.I. Energy Office, for the past 12 years.
When asked about what he likes about the Island of St. Croix, Williams said he likes the mix of people, the different dialects, and the natural environment.
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