Wednesday, October 12, 2016

V 6 N. 76 1964 Yonkers Marathon A Conference Call

The 1964 Olympic Marathon Trials
Yonkers, NY
Conference Call with Some of the Participants
Buddy Edelen after the Yonkers Race  (AP photo)

     On June 8, 2016 I was privileged to listen in on a conference call organized by Gary Corbitt, son of the late Ted Corbitt, with several of the runners who ran in the first of two Olympic Trials Marathons in 1964.   The date of the race was May 24, 1964.  It was 93 degrees Fahrenheit and humid.  The race went off at midday.  The winner of that race would automatically be selected for  the US team that would travel to Tokyo in the Fall.   The winner that day was Buddy Edelen in 2 hrs. 24 min.  For the losers, a second chance would be theirs for the remaining two places in a race on the West Coast at Culver City, CA.    

            The participants in the phone call were Abe Assa, Jim Green, Hal Higdon, Dick Weis, John Galth, and Gary Corbitt.      The following text is written from notes that I took while listening to the conversation of these men.   You may see there is not 100% agreement on what went on that day, especially with regards to water distribution.  But then how well do you remember any  of your races from 52 years ago?  In those days it was not common for race organizers to provide water to marathon runners, and also start times were not necessarily made with much understanding of the effects of heat and dehydration.  David Costill's depletion studies were still several years away.   I in no way can vouch for 100% accuracy as to what was said and how it was said in this conversation. There was much more said, and I missed writing down some stories for example about the very colorful Jim McDonagh, an Irish transplant and iconic figure on the East Coast in those times.   Gary is in the process of putting the actual conversation as recorded on his website   tedcorbitt.com .  He didn’t think anyone would be upset if I did this piece without their permission, but if they are, I can be reached for correction or response to their libel filings at  irathermediate@gmail.com
George Brose
Ted Corbitt in London to Brighton race

Garry Corbitt   I  saw so many runners ahead of Dad that day.   He passed 5 miles at about 36  minutes and finished in 3 hours 20 min. 32 sec.  He carried a sponge all the way and walked the last mile.  Wanted to quit at 3 miles.  Working in air conditioning may have hurt him.

Abe Assa  It was brutally hot.  Everyone in this phone call DNF’d.  I went down to the river a couple of times (to cool off).  ed. This statement may not be accurate, but it's the way I heard it. 

George,
 
To answer the question, at about 8 miles a stream ran under the road and I went down and gave it up at that  point. I can't remember how I got to the start/finish but am sure it wasn't an official vehicle. It would have been a retrace of the route to that point. Probably hitched  (no closed off roads in those days).  
If you want another humorus story of a drop out: in the 67 Boston, I dropped out somewhere around 16. In those days you could get on the subway with your number. On the train into town a woman across from me after eying me suspiciously for a while, points her finger at me and says "You better not get out and run across the finish line. " 
And, yes I still got out though pretty slow.   I especially look forward to runs with my Marblehead buddy Jim Green
All the best 
Abe 

 Went back to the finish and watched Edelen come in at 2:24.   Twenty minutes later  Adolph Gruber then Kelley came in .  Only five runners were under 3 hours.    Thirty-seven were under 4 hours.  It was the Olympic Trials and National Championships.  Everyone clumped around the leaders was running to win.  When they saw that wouldn’t happen with the way Edelen was going, they dropped out and decided to try again at Culver City.    Everyone in those days would run Boston (five weeks earlier) then the trials at Yonkers.   If that didn’t work, then Culver City, and if successful Tokyo.  So that would be 4 marathons in a relatively short time frame.   

            We more or less personally knew all the East Coast runners, and with ‘Long Distance Log’ we knew all the rest of the runners in the country- about 1,000.  Everyone was a racer, no joggers.

            People who influenced me were my training partners.  Tom McCarthy, I met almost everyday.  We didn’t make our training runs into races.  I ran a bit with Jimmy O’Connell in 1965 after McCarthy went home to Ireland.  We met at Aqueduct Loop in Van Cortlandt  Park .  We never thought running would grow the way it has.  Amazing how Track and Field has not grown as a spectator sport.  Three meets in Madison Square Garden each year packed in 18,000 people.  Now 5,000 is really something indoors.  Boston was 175 runners with a $2.00 entry fee.

Hal Higdon Thinks Boston entry fee was only $1.00.  Jock Semple asked him if he thought doubling the entry fee would be too much.
Hal Higdon


John Galth  There was no water on the Yonkers course. 

Hal Higdon  Lots of water in the first ten miles, not much in the 2nd half.   Buddy was hydrating very well.  Fred Wilt was handing it out to him. Edelen trained in double sweats thinking it would be  hot in Yonkers.

     At Culver City there was only one person handing out water at the water station.
It was in 1968 that David Costill (Ball State University Human Performance Lab) did a hydration study with Amby Burfoot and Higdon.  They ran 20 miles  3 times on a treadmill.  Once without water, once with water, once with Gatorade.
Some runners today show up in ice vests.  Wonder how people run with water bottles and ice vests.  At Yonkers Buddy wore a handkerchief tied on his head.  Abe and Jim both ran Culver City.  Hal ran there but had a bad last five miles.

Jim Green     I was a teacher.  Trained alone for the most part. It was rare to see somebody running while I was running.  From 1958-1971 I trained along the Charles River in Boston.  It was truly the 'Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner'. (popular book by Alan Sillitoe, later film with Tom Courtenay, the actor). Probably ran all out every other day.  Ran 6 days a week.  Created discipline.   Buddy’s race was phenomenal.  I had some blistering.  Asked a few bystanders if there was a pharmacy where I could go in and get some Vaseline.  In the 1958 Boston Marathon at about 18 miles I went into a gas station got some  axle grease and finished 11th
About 1960 or 63 some runners got DQ’d prior to the race (probably failed the pre-race physical check.   ed.)  They ran anyway and got 6th , 7th , and 9th

     In 1958 Ted Corbitt, John Lafferty, and Jim Green were asked by Jock Semple to do a training run with Franjo Mihalic, Yugoslavia,  (Silver medallist at Melbourne in 1956)  ,  from the 10th to 22nd mile marks.  They hit the street and took off.  Near a cemetery,  Franjo said in Russian, “This is the end.”  Mihalic would win Boston that year.

      During races we never communicated with other runners.  A code of silence existed.  My proudest running accomplishment was 2 hr 23 min in 1960, and Olympic Trials in Culver City.  Badly blistered at 16 miles going head to head with Joe Tyler sixteen years after racing each other in the 2 miles at Compton.  In those days the college runners didn’t have the mileage to do well on the roads.

John Galth   The 12:00 noon start at Yonkers made it a killer.  Culver City started at 8:00AM.  Boston in 1961 was light snow at start of the race.  In ’62 a little rain at the end.  Gaps in races were much bigger ie. margin of victory.  Foreigners often came over a month before Boston to  train.  Local guys all had jobs.  Dr. Warren Geil hosted Bikila and Wolde at his home before the race.  They ate everthing in the house , finished 4th and 11th.

Hal Higdon  In 1964 my mindset was to go to Boston to win.  Olympic Trials at Yonkers were not on my horizon due to Edelen coming and  only one person going on from there to Tokyo.  Buddy was there to beat us up.  (ed. Buddy had been living in England, teaching school, and training for several years. See link below.)  I stayed at the hotel with Buddy and Fred Wilt who was coaching us both by mail.  Buddy less so.  Buddy ran very conservatively the first 10 miles.  I got out of the pack and dropped about 50 yards. Then came back up.  I didn’t take any  water,  although Fred was driving along handing it out.  Buddy took off at 10 miles.  I stayed in sight for 4-6 miles running with Norm Higgins.  Higgins took off after Buddy.  Johnny Kelley had ringing in his ears at 16  miles -slowed – ringing started again.  He got off the course at 17 miles.  Higgins ran well until 23 miles.  Course went left, Hig went straight into a wall.  Ended up in the hospital.  I thought maybe Buddy went too hard and took off too soon.  Should have taken it easier and that  may have ruined the rest of his career.
Norm Higgins winning first NYC Marathon in 1971.  Only 127 runners started and
the race was entirely in Central Park.

            Harold Harris,  U. of Chicago Track Club, started very, very conservatively and kept moving up but not passing anyone (ed. Due to dropouts), and finished 4th  (in 2hr. 55 min.  I went to Mt. Holyoke a year later and did a Harold Harris, kept moving up place wise but not passing anyone due to drop outs.

Yonkers was a very difficult course.  Boston was the last hold out to provide water and did it in 1978 thanks to complaints of Jerome Drayton (Canada)  who won in 1977.
Buddy’s last mile or so was pretty slow at Yonkers.   Ron Daws was hospitalized after Yonkers.  Canadians all crashed and burned at Yonkers after doing so well in Boston that year.

Gary Corbitt Was Norm Higgins doing windsprints before Yonkers?  At Culver City, Higgins was taking a long warmup.  This may have been the Igloi effect.

Dick Weis,  Gaelic AC  I remember the heat of Yonkers.  I asked Adolph Gruber, “Are you going to warm up, Adolph”?      “Nein, Nein, these people are stupid”.
“When will you warm up”?     “The first ten kilometers”.  
Adolph Gruber
He finished second in 2hr. 44 min.  That was 44 seconds per mile slower than Buddy. ( See Adolph Gruber website  below.)

     There was nothing out there on how to train until Wilt’s book.  If you were on the road, it’s cause you couldn’t win on the track.     I don’t remember any water on the course..     Weis coached Bob Fitts before he went to Cortland State.  (ed. At Cortland State,  Dave Costill was Fitts’ coach.  That was before Dave became the famous exercise physiologist.)

     Gaelic AC lasted about 4-5 years.  Buddy liked Guinness.  He got a case of Guinness sent to Tokyo.  US officials confiscated it then let him have one each evening.

     What Should History Books Say About This Era?
Browning Ross getting Road Runners Club of America Started.
No official timers at some races.  The leader would carry the stopwatch and hand it off if someone passed him.  The winner would stay at the finish line calling off times of the next incoming runners.
Jock Semple and John A. Kelley

     Buddy Edelen was the shoulders on which Frank Shorter stood .  Yonkers, 1964 he was at his best.  Bob Campbell, Fred Brown, Jock Semple kept the sport alive in the 1950s.
Ted Corbitt and Bob Campbell

At this point I stopped note taking.  I either ran out of ink, wrist , or Gary terminated the conversation.

The results of both Marathon Trials in 1964 were as follows:
Yonkers May 24                                                                  Culver City July26
1.     Buddy Edelen                      2:24:25.6                 1. Peter McArdle     2:27:01
2.     Adolph Gruber (AUT)        2:44:11.4                  2. Billy Mills              2:27:29
3.     John A. Kelley                     2:44:46.4                 3. Jim Green            2:30:58
4.     Harold Harris                    2:58:28                     4. Wayne Van Dellen  2:31:39
5.     Anthony Sapienza              2:59:03                     5. Joe Tyler               2:32:58
6.     Abraham Forbes (PUR)    3:01:42                     6. Nick Kitt                2:36:06

      Edelen had set a World’s Best in England at 2:14:28 the year before.  Culver City was won by Pete McArdle with Billy Mills second completing the US team for Tokyo.  Edelen would finish 6th behind a new WB by Bikila 2:12:11.2  Mills after winning the 10,000 was 14th and McArdle was 23rd.*
*Data from Richard Hymans “History of   US Olympic Trials – Track and Field”


The website Sports Reference reports on the Tokyo race as follows:
Athletics at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games:
Men's Marathon

Top of Form
Events: 
Bottom of Form
Host City: Tokyo, Japan
Venue(s): National Stadium, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Date Started: October 21, 1964
Date Finished: October 21, 1964
Format: 42,195 metres (26 miles, 385 yards) out-and-back.
Gold:
Silver:
Bronze:
Summary
Defending champion [Abebe Bikila] was back and was considered the favorite, having lost only one marathon in his career to that point – the 1963 Boston race. But he had several strong contenders, among them the American [Buddy Edelen], who in 1963 had broken the world record with 2-14:28 in the Polytechnic race in Britain, and had also won the Košice marathon in Czechoslovakia in 2-15:09.6. Britain had two top marathoners in [Basil Heatley] and [Brian Kilby]. Japan was led by [Toru Terasawa], who had won the 1963 Fukuoka Marathon, and broken the world record early in 1963 at the Beppu Marathon.
But there was only Bikila. The race began at 1 PM, and was contested over a very flat straight out-and-back course. Bikila ran in the lead pack right from the start. By the turnaround point, this time running in shoes, he was leading by 15 seconds, and from there to the finish, he simply extended the lead, winning by over four minutes. Heatley finished second, but had been third entering the stadium. Third went to a native son, not Terasawa, but rather [Kokichi Tsuburaya]. Brian Kilby finished fourth, and Buddy Edelen, hampered by a sciatic nerve injury, placed sixth.
Tsuburaya was crushed that he had been passed on the track by Heatley in front of the Japanese crowd. He vowed to improve and pushed himself in training, but it resulted in multiple injuries. Finally, in early January 1968, he committed suicide by slashing his carotid artery with a razor blade. The note he left said simply, “Cannot run anymore.”
Final Standings

Rank
Athlete
Age
Team
NOC
Medal
T
1
32
Ethiopia
Gold
2-12:11.2
WB
2
30
Great Britain
Silver
2-16:19.2
3
24
Japan
Bronze
2-16:22.8
4
26
Great Britain
2-17:02.4
5
27
Hungary
2-17:55.8
6
27
United States
2-18:12.4
7
32
Belgium
2-18:42.6
8
23
Japan
2-19:49.0
9
27
Australia
2-20:26.8
10
27
Ethiopia
2-21:25.2
11
26
South Korea
2-22:02.8
12
33
Morocco
2-22:27.0
13
33
Finland
2-22:36.0
14
26
United States
2-22:55.4
15
29
Japan
2-23:09.0
16
29
South Korea
2-24:40.6
17
27
Italy
2-24:45.2
18
32
Czechoslovakia
2-24:46.8
19
26
Great Britain
2-25:34.4
20
32
Finland
2-26:00.6
21
32
Mexico
2-26:07.0
22
33
Soviet Union
2-26:07.4
23
35
United States
2-26:24.4
24
28
Germany
2-26:39.8
25
34
Czechoslovakia
2-26:47.2
26
30
Soviet Union
2-27:09.4
27
28
New Zealand
2-27:34.0
28
32
Finland
2-27:34.8
29
29
New Zealand
2-27:57.6
30
34
Chile
2-28:01.6
31
24
Australia
2-28:41.0
32
26
Switzerland
2-29:17.8
33
27
India
2-29:27.4
34
30
Luxembourg
2-29:52.6
35
34
Myanmar
2-30:35.8
36
35
Romania
2-30:42.6
37
27
Hungary
2-30:50.2
38
34
Germany
2-33:23.0
39
31
Germany
2-33:42.0
40
28
Italy
2-34:37.6
41
31
Switzerland
2-35:05.4
42
27
New Zealand
2-36:16.8
43
26
India
2-37:05.8
44
26
Portugal
2-38:02.2
45
Kenya
2-38:38.6
46
24
Zambia
2-39:28.4
47
21
Tanzania
2-40:06.0
48
26
Pakistan
2-40:46.0
49
19
Kenya
2-40:46.6
50
25
South Korea
2-41:08.2
51
22
Zimbabwe
2-41:09.0
52
28
Australia
2-42:03.6
53
22
Mexico
2-44:23.6
54
34
Zambia
2-45:08.6
55
25
Puerto Rico
2-46:22.6
56
23
Zimbabwe
2-49:30.8
57
21
Zambia
2-51:53.2
58
29
Thailand
2-59:25.6
AC
29
Soviet Union
DNF
AC
28
Nepal
DNF
AC
Tunisia
DNF
AC
Nepal
DNF
AC
26
Tunisia
DNF
AC
31
Ireland
DNF
AC
22
South Vietnam
DNF
AC
Kenya
DNF
AC
30
Argentina
DNF
AC
32
Ethiopia



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