Bike rider runs in the Chicago Marathon in memory of father and niece who were killed while riding their bikes.
Brad Gaunt never thought he’d be a marathon runner.
Bicycles were his thing. He began riding in college and became an avid rider.
The Lee’s Summit man needed to keep active to cope with life.
“I’ve been involved in sports all my life,” he said. “Being active is a stress reliever.”
Gaunt said he and his father, Larry Gaunt, would cycle more than 2,000 miles a year. They were both very involved in races and cycling just for fun.
They didn’t belong to any bicycle clubs. They would go to the Kansas City Bicycle Shack to get what they needed.
Larry Gaunt also wanted to get his granddaughter involved in cycling.
Larry, 52, rode with his 14-year-old granddaughter, Sierra Gaunt, Brad’s niece, on Aug. 6 of last year to begin their training for her first MS 150 Bicycle Tour.
“They were riding their bikes on a marked bicycle route on Raytown Road,” Brad Gaunt said.
William Johnson, 49, was driving his 12-year-old son to football practice along the same road, authorities said.
Johnson struck Larry and Sierra Gaunt with his 1985 Chevrolet pickup truck. The collision threw them both to the pavement.
“In an instant, our family’s lives changed forever,” Brad said.
Both Larry and Sierra were killed.
Court documents suggest Johnson was speeding and that Johnson saw the Gaunts 12 seconds before he hit them on a four-lane road with wide shoulders.
“Careful drivers simply don’t plow someone over,” Dr. Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle Federation said. “When that happens, something has gone seriously wrong.”
Johnson was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, authorities said. But a jury found Johnson not guilty.
Shannon Gaunt, father of Sierra, now has to cope with the loss of his daughter, with no punishment for the motorist.
“He deals with it by pouring his love on his other children,” Brad Gaunt said.
A year later, the Gaunt family is still coping with their tragic loss.
Brad is coping through running.
He couldn’t continue to cycle after that. Brad’s mother, wife and children didn’t want him to cycle anymore either, he said.
“I had to hang the bike up and do something else,” he said. “So I turned to running.”
Gaunt has been running steady for about a year.
And this month, at age 40, he decided to run a marathon with his youngest brother, Timothy.
Timothy, 33 of Florida, has run two marathons prior to the Chicago Marathon.
“He said for my first one that I need to do something memorable,” Brad Gaunt said.
Page 2 of 3 - The Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12 was Brad Gaunt’s first marathon.
“I was in pretty good shape from cycling,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how hard running was. Cycling is a great endurance sport. But let’s face it, when you get tired you can take a couple strokes off the pedal.”
A neighbor convinced Gaunt to run a half marathon several months ago.
“I finished in one hour and 57 minutes,” he said. “I felt on top of the world.”
It was after that race Gaunt decided to run a full marathon with his brother, Timothy. They dedicated the run in to their father and niece.
“I finally decided I had to do it for dad,” he said. “I think he’d be proud of me on a number of levels. If I thought this was something he wouldn’t want me to do, I wouldn’t do it.”
Gaunt is also running the race to represent the need for better safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
“I can use this as a segue for the need for better protection,” he said. “It’s about keeping the roads safe for everyone who has the right to use them. How many more people is it gonna take to die before something is done?”
Programs have been started in Missouri to educate bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists on road safety, Hugh said.
“The Kansas City Share the Road Safety Task has done a series of campaigns each year for bicycle safety in the spring and pedestrian safety in the fall,” Hugh said. “They have an educational component with literature and information. Then an enforcement side, where area law enforcement agencies work to do a concentrated enforcement effort directed toward bicycle and pedestrian issues during a certain period.”
The Missouri Bicycle Federation is working to keep more cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists safe.
“I don’t want another family to go through the turmoil we went through this past year,” Gaunt said.
Brad felt very anxious and nervous before the race. He hurt his knee in July and lost six weeks of training time, he said.
With a finishing time of 4 hours, 41 minutes and 32 seconds, he said he felt pretty good.
“I’m a little sore,” he said a few days after the race. “My legs are more sore now than they were yesterday.”
Timothy Gaunt finished before Brad did.
“I looked better than my brother did though,” he said.
Brad Gaunt placed 15,187 out of 31,401 finishers and 45,000 people who started the race.
“It’s different running with that many people,” he said. “You don’t have any room to move.”
Brad Gaunt finished about 40 minutes slower than he anticipated. The heat and his injury were contributing factors.
Page 3 of 3 - “At 8 a.m. it was already 70 something degrees at the start of the race,” he said. “It was a really hot day.”
Brad had a really good first half, he said. The pain started to set in after that.
“I had a really fast last half a mile,” he said. “I flew by several hundred people.”
You just grit your teeth and hope to get done with it, he said.
“I feel really privileged and happy to be able to do this to represent my family,” he said. “I’m running because my dad and my niece can’t.”