When SOWI athlete Martha Hill was inducted into the Dennis H. Alldridge Hall of Fame during the Opening Ceremony of the 2017 State Summer Games on June 8, she was joining good company.
But she wasn’t just joining fellow 2017 inductee Deb Moore-Gruenloh and last year’s inductees, Cindy Bentley and Jerry Vite. Hill was also joining her running coach and longtime family friend Roy Pirrung as a Hall of Famer.
In 2016, Pirrung was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame after a long and illustrious running career that still continues today. Ultrarunning consists of running distances greater than the standard 26.2 marathon distance, which lots of people across the world do if you can believe it. Ultrarunning events include mind-boggling distances like 50-kilometer runs, 100-mile runs or even 24-hour runs where you see who can run the farthest in 24 hours.
Pirrung has run an astounding 203 ultramarathons and 350 races of marathon distance or longer. He holds several American records in ultrarunning and over 50 Masters age-group national records, according to Ultrarunning Magazine. The first record he set was the national record for a 24-hour road run when he ran more than 145 miles in the 1988 USA 24-hour Championship.
With a coach who has these rare bona fides, it might be safe to say that Hill has the best running coach of any runner in Special Olympics. Pirrung got involved with SOWI four years ago when Hill’s mother approached him to ask if he’d consider helping her with running, which she was interested in incorporating into her exercise routine.
Under Pirrung’s tutelage, Hill has since grown to become passionate about running. “I absolutely love running. It is so awesome. I really enjoy running every three-four times a week. It makes me feel really, really good inside,” Hill said. “When I come home, even though I’m tired I still feel really, really good. I really enjoy it cause I feel that when I run I feel free of all of my frustrations.”
Of course, it was much more than her running ability that earned Hill a place in Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Dennis H. Alldridge Hall of Fame. While she has displayed tremendous athleticism in a variety of sporting events in 23 years with Special Olympics Wisconsin, it has been her leadership efforts and accomplishments off the field that have really set her apart.
Hill has served on the International Law Enforcement Torch Run Executive Council and was one of three athletes to receive the inaugural International Executive Council Athlete Award, recognizing outstanding athletes who have contributed to the success of the Law Enforcement Torch Run on a local, state or national level.
Hill was also an International Global Messenger and attended several World and USA Games as well as Capitol Hill Day in Washington D.C. Through her leadership on a national and even international level, Hill has even become close with Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, who considers Hill his Smile Coach.
Hill and Pirrung have taken their Hall of Fame partnership beyond running as well, as they now work together on leadership initiatives within Special Olympics Wisconsin. Pirrung, who is also an accomplished public speaker and Toastmaster, has found himself as one half of a truly dynamic duo who is equally as comfortable presenting at SOWI’s new Athlete Health Leader Conference, where they hope to give athletes the tools to act as ambassadors for health and wellness, as they are pounding the pavement in road races.
This all jibes with Pirrung’s approach to life since he took up running in 1980. “I realized at an early stage in my running career that with success comes responsibility. The more I have received the more I have given. Giving back is the best sign of personal growth and I believe all of us have something to give,” Pirrung said.
Pirrung and Hill have both given so much back to Special Olympics Wisconsin and their communities. For that, and so much more, they have deservedly been acknowledged by their peers and communities with their recent Hall of Fame inductions.
“Being inducted into the American Ultrarunning Association’s Hall of Fame was an honor, as it was bestowed upon me by my peers. The people I have competed against and have worked with for many years choose one runner per year for this honor and knowing I was thought of in this degree is a culmination of years of effort and dedication, which made it very rewarding,” Pirrung said.
Like her coach, Hill was moved by her own Hall of Fame induction. “I am so honored and so humbled by this. I just cannot wait to share this with my family back home and my friends and tell everybody about this. This is awesome,” Hill said.
Special Olympics Wisconsin is excited to see what’s in store for this now-officially-recognized Hall of Fame duo as they continue to accomplish amazing things that will inspire the next generation of healthy, active leaders across Wisconsin and beyond.