The First Marathon on China's Great Wall



Screen Writers Synopsis of our Story



A true story

By: Ed Salven

Malibu, CA 90265


This is the amazing, inspiring story of Dick and Jan Molen, both public school teachers who met on the beach in Carmel, California and now reside in Idaho. More than twenty years ago at age 45, Dick was diagnosed with terminal lymph cancer, 'Hodgkin's Disease'. He was given six months to live. In a cruel irony, this was the same disease Jan's first husband died of two short years prior to meeting Dick. Jan was then 47. However this is not a cancer story. Rather it's a story of indomitable human spirit, sheer will power, strong love, and a voracious celebration of life.

Dick Molen was not about to die, regardless of the dismal diagnoses. At the time he was a high school football coach in Carmel Valley north of the beautiful Big Sur coast. [He once played pro football with the San Diego Chargers.] Dick was an avid athlete who weight-trained six days a week. Throughout his whole arduous battle with his cancer he never stopped his training. Never feeling like he had his doctor's full attention, Dick researched his disease and designed his own nutritional regimen which helped him deal with the chemotherapy and ravaging radiation treatments.

Obviously the battle was long and tough for both Dick and Jan. His normal workouts degenerated to bench-pressing an empty bar with no plates, once or maybe twice. Or simply walking a few yards around a muddy football field in winter, often stumbling and falling as Jan waited in the car, watching him get back to his feet. But he never quit. They never quit. And ultimately he beat it - they beat it!

Shortly after the news of Dick's cancer going into remission the Molens took a victory trip to Europe to celebrate. In Florence, Italy, Dick had an epiphany. Michelangelo's fourteen-foot tall marble statue of 'David', the quintessential athlete inspired him to validate his own hard-won health. It was then and there he resolved to run a marathon. He'd never run one in his life. And he wanted Boston. But Boston rules required him to run a qualifying marathon first. So after training for less than a year after his cancer battle, he ran in the Las Vegas marathon, finishing 'second' in his age group with an amazing 2:59:18.

The following year Dick ran in the Boston Marathon, finishing 8th of 2000 runners in his age group with a 2:51:50. As an aside, his 'finishing time' was the title for a screenplay of his life story and amazing accomplishment which ultimately fell out of production. But that past chapter has been greatly overshadowed by the numerous achievements and accolades racked up by both Dick and Jan Molen worldwide over the years to follow.

Jan was a middle school teacher of mostly Mexican kids over in Salinas, and African-American kids in nearby Seaside, California. She was soon inspired by her husband's achievements and goals, and joined him in his running beginning with lesser, local events like the 10 K, 'Bay-to-Breakers' run. Then in their 50's, Dick & Jan both decided to run the original marathon course from Athens to Marathon in Greece, which they did in 1984. International newspapers and magazines covered their story.

Dick & Jan decided next to finance a trip to China to run a marathon on top of the 'Great Wall'. They did so in 1985. The Molen's were the first people on Earth to have done this. They received a letter of congratulations from President Reagan. They also hold the distinction of being the subject of a question on the TV show, 'Jeopardy' concerning what Dick & Jan Molen actually did on top of China's Great Wall?

From Marathon courses which were the toughest on Earth to ones they actually invented, the Molens turned their attention to conquering the seven highest mountain peaks on the seven continents. In 1986 they both climbed Africa's Kilimanjaro. It was on this trip that Jan, now nearing 60, was given the affectionate name, 'Strong Mama' by their African climbers because she was first to reach the summit on that expedition.

Later that same year they climbed Australia's Mount Kosciusko. Again, Jan was the only female on the expedition, in 1987, they both conquered Europe's Mount Elbrus. And in 1991 they both climbed South America's Mount Aconcagua.

In 1994 When Dick was 61 years old and Jan was 63, they climbed Mount Everest, the zenith conquest in anyone's book. In a touching ceremony, Dick and Jan placed a young boy's belt buckle at the highest point of their climb. This was at the request of a father, {a stranger to the Molens] who had lost his only son, Danny True to cancer, Hodgkin's. Danny's father had read about Dick's story, about the Molen's conquests. And he asked them to place the treasured keepsake high up in the snows of Everest for all time. Danny's buckle rests there to this day.

Not done by a long shot, in 1995 They climbed North America's, Mount Mc Kinley; and later in '95 Dick and Jan climbed Antarctica's, Mount Vinson.

Another screenplay was proposed. The scripts could never keep up with their real time story - their amazing lives and indomitable spirit. Hollywood screen legend, Kim Novak signed on to play Jan at one point. That phase in itself could be another script. As independent producers and promoters bickered over rights, over who was going to play whom - who owned what, budgets and locations. And in a darkly humorous irony, Dick's life was once threatened over who owned the rights to his own story. But the Molen's focus was always elsewhere - always on new conquests and new adventures.

Now in their 70's, Dick holds the distinction of being the oldest person to reach the highest point on Mount Everest without making the summit The walls of their Idaho home are papered with accolades and articles from around the world. Dick has contracted and beaten other forms of cancers subsequently over the years, of course never letting the obstacles detour his goals. And their story, their life, seems to always go on, always becoming just one more impressive chapter. Thousands of people monthly visit their web site. They give lectures of inspiration to universities, corporations, and other groups regularly. A recent TV interview went out to eight States nationwide.

Dick and Jan Molen's life story is truly a fantastic story of American spirit that needs to be told and enjoyed by young and old alike nationwide, worldwide... And soon.