Fifty years ago today, I was sitting in the TV room of Jefferson House on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. We were impatiently waiting the start of the 5000 meters in Tokyo during that splendid Olympics. Athletes in the far Midwest were still living in a dream world after a local runner Billy Mills' unexpected win in the 10,000 meters four days earlier. Now it was our turn again to hope for another gold, because the most dominating distance runner of 1964 was getting ready to go onto a cold, rain soaked track along with the other pretenders to the crown. We were unaccustomed to expect much from American Olympic distance runners in those days. Horace Ashenfelter's victory in the Steeplechase twelve years earlier was all but forgotten. But this man, Bob Schul from West Milton, Ohio, only 15 miles north of my hometown was getting ready to show the world what we could do. At the time, I never even considered the pressure Bob must have been under to have expectations so high and heavy on his shoulders. But he was in one of those rare zones where you can do pretty much whatever you think you can do on a field of human performance. The best of the great distance running regimes were stepping on the track that afternoon. Clarke from the Australian School, Baillie from the Lydiard School, Norpoth from the Gerschler/Van Aaken School, Jazy, from the French School, Keino, just opening the door to the Kenyan School, Dellinger from the Bowerman School, and Schul from the Igloi School. Has there ever been a more representative race covering all the schools of distance running theory? It was final exam day and all the cards, textbooks, slide rules, and form charts were put aside, and we were about to watch the final act.
If you are reading this passage, I don't have to remind you of the outcome. It is embedded in your aging brain, and it is not difficult to sort out through all the cobwebs of fifty years, the outcome of that race.
Congratulations Bob Schul. Thank you for the determination and sacrifices you made to get to that podium, thanks to your Mom and Dad who showed you the way, thank you to George Rider who gave you a place on the Miami University track team , thank you Max Truex who directed you toward Mihaly Igloi and Lazlo Tabori, and thank you Mihaly Igloi who inspired and ground the rough edges off and put you on that victory stand. We all chased higher goals after your victory.
Oct. 18, 2014