Friday, May 6, 2016

V 6 N. 31 Robert Earl Johnson, Don't Know Him? Read This from Gary Corbitt

Gary Corbitt's Latest Posting brings us the history of this incredible runner, long forgotten.

Celebrating African American Running History
African Running History Project (1880 – 1979)
Robert Earl Johnson (1891 – 1965)
The First Great Amateur African American Distance Runner
Running History July 12, 1924:
In the cross-country Paris Olympics in 1924, Johnson finished third behind the great Finland duet of Paavo Nurmi and Willie Ritola. Along with receiving the bronze medal and he also led the U.S. cross-country team to a second place silver medal. Johnson also placed 8th out of field of 43 in the Olympic 10,000 meters in 1924; setting a personal best time of 32:17.
Earl Johnson was a two time Olympian (1920 & 1924). History records him as the first internationally ranked African American long distance runner. He competed from 1914 to 1926 from distances of one mile to twenty-three miles. At the time Earl was the only Negro athlete to have made the Olympic team in a distance running event.
Earl Johnson’s U.S. National Championship titles are as follows:
1921 6 Mile Cross-Country
1921 – 1923 5 Mile Track
1921 – 10 Mile Road (victory over Ritola)
1924 10 Mile Road in 54:29 (victory over U.S. marathon Olympians Albert Michelson and James Hennigan)
He finished second to Willie Ritola in the 1922 Berwick Marathon; a distance of nine and three-quarter miles. His time of 48:36 was just three seconds off the previous course record. The Berwick race has a tremendous history of bringing top college track athletes to race the top road runners. Most of the great runners over the eras starting in 1908 have raced in Berwick, PA on Thanksgiving Day.
Johnson was also a marathon winner. In 1921 and 1923, he was first in the Detroit Marathon, a 22 mile event whose inadequate distance prevented Johnson’s name from appearing in official marathon histories. His time in 1923 was 2:09 which was 8 minutes faster than in 1921. An illness in 1924 prevented him from running the Boston Marathon that year.
Earl Johnson was born in Woodstock, Virginia and graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore. He competed for the Edgar Thompson Steel Works AA team near Pittsburgh. He became a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier and managed an African American sandlot baseball team at Edgar Thomson Works.
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