Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Saturday, May 8, 2021

V 11 N. 24 Tokyo 2021 and Antwerp 1920, A Comparison


Charlie Paddock leaps over the line to take the 100M at Antwerp

In looking back 101 years to the Antwerp Olympics in Belgium, I wondered if there were similarities in how the 1920 Games were organized to deal with the  Spanish flu that had ravaged the world to a much greater extent ( 12-20 million deaths) compared to today's Covid 19 pandemic (1 million + deaths world wide).  Medically speaking today's world has been much better able to deal with a pandemic through the development of vaccines than the world of 100 years ago.  

After doing a little bit of reading on those games, it seems that Belgium took very few if any precautions to limit spread of disease.  In fact the Spanish flu by 1920 was fairly much a thing of the recent past.  

Instead the Games were seen more as an event with the specter of the recent world war hanging over it than the memories of the Spanish flu.  

That is not to say that Olympic athletes were not themselves victims of both the war and the Spanish flu.  In fact more former Olympians died from the Spanish flu (7) than from fighting in WWI, this according to historian Bill Mallon as reported in an AP story by James Ellingworth July 27, 2020 "Planning for Olympics in A Pandemic Has Echoes of 1920 Games".  

Mallon and others have identified 48 Covid 19 cases among Olympians with 19 deaths in the current pandemic.  

The most notable of the 1918-20 pandemic was Martin Sheridan, the Irish born New York City  policeman who won gold in the discus and shot put over multiple early Olympics.  Sheridan is also remembered for not dipping the US flag to the English King in the 1908 Games.

The 14-year old American diver Aileen Riggin (gold medallist in 3 meter springboard diving)  had  contracted the Spanish flu and after recovering took up swimming and diving.

Another anecdote of that Games was that the ship the US team travelled to Europe on had previously been a mortuary ship that had returned many bodies of American servicemen back to the States.  The team members made numerous complaints of the smell of formalin (embalming fluid) that still was present on the ship taking them to the Europe.

Still in most respects the Games were  epitomized by post war recovery than post pandemic restrictions.  

In modern times the postponement of the Games from 2020 to 2021 is about financial hardship for the Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee and what the restrictions on athletes and spectators will be when and if they do take place.

In an article in The Guardian today (May 8, 2021) by Kieran Pender a number of things are noted which will most likely play a role in the conduct of the 2021 Games.  

First it must be remembered that three quarters of the IOC's revenue comes from TV rights to the Summer and Winter Games.  How can they not allow the Games to go on even in a diminished capacity?  It would seem that only the Japanese will be able to stop the Games from taking place.  And the Japanese have $20-40 billion invested.  Will they be able to swallow that pill and cancel a second time?   

Some of the rules for athletes and media being considered to allow the Games to go on will be:

Two times tested before departure to Japan.

Media quarantine for three days after arrival.

Daily testing.

No cheering for teammates.

No contact with athletes from other nations.

International spectators banned.

Maybe even Japanese spectators banned.

Athletes can only arrive 5 days in advance and must leave 48 hours after competition.

Australia is taking additional precautions.  

Athletes will all be provided with daily meals pre-packaged in Australia.  Kangaroo burgers and Foster's?  You're not an Aussie if you don't throw up on your shoes at pre-flight check in.

Athletes when returning to down under will be quarantined 14 days in hotels at home.

So, with time swiftly rolling forward, where would you be as an athlete?  Where would you be as the parent of a 14-year old gymnast if you could not accompany them?  Where would you be as an aging athlete who knows this will be your last shot at making the team?   If the Games go on, we as spectators watching from our living rooms will be isolated from making those decisions.  The TV wonks will be doing everything to make us live in a dream world thinking that this is the real deal.  To me seeing those cardboard faces in the stands and the canned cheering just reeks of 21st century illusion.  Still I will watch.

George Brose

Wonder if The Suits will have a full complement of a broadcasting team or just a skeleton crew like Swangard and Bolden and no one else for what is now being called by some ‘The Genocide Olympics’ ....and that, in truth, its’ coverage might not be usurped without warning or subsequent mea culpas at unscheduled times by the quarter finals in Bumpkin, ID of the NW regional Corn Hole championship?  Richard Mach

Saturday, May 1, 2021

V 11 N. 24 Coach John Tansley R.I.P.


RIP John Tansley


   Track and Field has lost a GIANT. John Tansley, a tireless, multi-faceted, internationally respected coach, who could and did coach every event and who influenced hundreds of coaches, died on April 16, 2021, at age 85.  
  John’s early career traveled from Gunn, Bellflower, and Tustin high schools to Glendale College. It was in his 14 years at Glendale CC that John came into the sport’s spotlight. His curiosity and desire to learn became a B-12 shot to the sport as he was much more than just a coach for the college. His annual clinic, all comer meets, and decathlon brought hundreds of coaches and athletes to the campus. He became a popular clinic speaker, prolific writer for journals, and international lecturer in Latin America, Asia, and Europe. His fascination and success with the high jump led to his 1980 publication, “The Flop.” Dwight Stones, former world record holder, called the internationally reviewed book the best ever produced. Over 10,000 copies were sold. He served as the USA Olympic high jump coach at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
     During his Glendale CC tenure his track and field teams won 72 consecutive dual meets, eight consecutive conference titles and tied San Jose CC for the 1975 state title. Four state cross country titles were also under his watch including the 1974 dominant team coached by Mark Covert and led by the talented Bobby Thomas.
      Former Glendale CC athletes remember John bringing his truck onto the track for innovative TOW training to enhance speed. John’s mind was always curious about improvement with his athletes.
      At Glendale he befriended J. Walter Smith, Glendale CC Dean of Students, and the 1984 Olympic recall starter. They worked together to convert dozens of Southern California track facilities from yards to meters.
      Wanting a change, John took the Cal State Long Beach position where his cross country team won a PCAA title. Then, surprising most in the sport, he moved over to Cal State LA, a program that only had six athletes on the team prior to his hire. He proceeded to win four consecutive conference titles in track and field and his cross country teams won two consecutive NCAA D-II Regional titles.
      John was a contributing writer to the LA 84 Sports Foundation track and field manual and an annual speaker for their clinics.
      Upon retirement, John and wife Sharon moved to Arizona where he volunteered in track and field with several Tucson area high schools.
      Our condolences go out to Sharon and daughter Marta.  

-Larry Knuth, 1975-6 Glendale CC Asst. for John Tansley

I knew John briefly and recognized him as outstanding.  Did not realize that he was 85.


Another lost to the coaching community.


Joe Rogers

RIP, John.   Tom Pagani

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for sending this.  When Coach Tansley was coaching at Long Beach State, Ron Allice was probably the head coach.  When I was on the Long Beach City track team with Coach Allice, one of his assistants was WJim Richardson, who is in the picture in the article with Coach Tansley when he was at Long Beach State.
Barry Weaver

Monday, April 26, 2021

V11 N. 23 Arliene Pieper Stine, First Woman to Officially Run a Marathon R.I.P. Correction added to who was the first femail to run a marathon

 In 1959 eight years before Bobbi Gibb defeated Katherine Switzer at Boston in 1966, Arlene Piper Stine completed the Pikes Peak Marathon.  To take on your first marathon is a major physical challenge for most humans.  But to meet that challenge on a course that takes you up to 14,000 feet at the halfway point is sheer, utter madness.  My hat is off to anyone who can even get to the top before that 13.1 mile descent.    George Brose

This from Google:

 1926 - Londoner Violet Piercy becomes the first woman to run a marathon recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations, finishing in 3:40:22”   Harumph!   
Richard Mach

I suspect there may be more suspects on the other side of the Atlantic and will look into this most grievous of errors.   When we err we err big.   
With apologies,
George Brose

Dear George:

Don't feel too bad.  There are all kinds of firsts.  For example:

According to Runners World, Stamata Revilhi ran the marathon course in the first modern Olympics in 1896 a day after the men's only race on that same course.  No time given.

Take care,

Tom Coyne

George, I laughed out loud at "this most grievous of errors.  When we err, we err big."  Bill Blewett

Okay guys,  let's just say Arlene  was the first woman  up Pike's Peak under her own steam, unless Zebulon Pike had brought his wife out from St. Louis to clear the path.   George

To air, er, err is human.  To forgive is.....wait, it will come to me................what were we talking about?  Roy Mason

Enough Stigmata,  here is the article that stimulated this repartee.

The following article appeared in The Colorado Sun March 29, 2021 written by Jill Rothenberg

Pikes Peak Marathon legend Arlene Pieper Stine, the first woman to run a sanctioned marathon, has died

Eight years before Kathrine Switzer shocked the world by running the Boston Marathon, Arlene Pieper Stine did her 26 miles in the Pikes Peak Marathon, with a 9-year-old daughter in tow

Arlene Pieper Stine got into the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1959 as a stunt to market her Colorado Springs health club. When she finished, the 29-year-old mother of three was in the record books as the first woman to finish a sanctioned marathon. Unlike the Boston Marathon, the Pikes Peak race never had a prohibition on women participating. (Photo provided by Pikes Peak Marathon Inc.)

One of Colorado mountain running’s most beloved heroes used to climb up the ladder next to the sign draped across the town of Manitou Springs’s main drag — “Welcome, Pikes Peak Runners” — so that she could send off the hundreds of runners who had packed the narrow street to head off for the summit of the 14,115-foot mountain more than 13 miles and 7,800 of vertical gain in the distance. Then they would turn around for the return trip.

“Runners, ready,” she said into the microphone in the absolute still morning of sun, rain, or even snow of late August. “Go!” said Arlene Pieper Stine.  

Pieper Stine became the race’s folk hero in 2009 when race officials went looking for the former Colorado Springs resident and health club owner so that they could bring her back to her hometown with some news: Not only had she been the first woman to complete the Pikes Peak Marathon — the punishing switchbacks, rocky single-track, and finally, the last few miles above timberline at over 12,000 feet — but she was the first woman to complete any sanctioned marathon, eight years before Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1967. 

Fifty years after she finished the full “out and back,” as Peak marathon veterans refer to the course, with a time of 9 hours and 16 minutes, Pieper Stine was once again at the start line.  

Pieper Stine died Feb. 11, 2021, a month shy of her 91st birthday, as she was trying to build up her strength after battling COVID-19, her daughter Kathy Pieper said.

“She got cards and letters from runners and it meant so much to her,” Pieper said. “And I was able to go into her assisted living facility — all covered up — to see her. She ran such a good race.”

Pikes Peak sunrise October 26, 2017. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

She became a role model and inspiration for women runners who looked to her for her boldness and independent spirit — a wife, mother, business owner, and runner who hiked and ran on Pikes Peak with her family in the 1950s, dressed for the race in white sleeveless blouse, white shorts, white headwrap, and tennis shoes from Woolworths.

“We didn’t carry water or have aid stations in those days,” she said in a 2014 interview. “I still remember it like it was yesterday. You can be a wonderful wife and mother, but it showed me that if there’s something you really want to do, you should go for it.”

Year after year, Pieper Stine was as much a part of the race as the unpredictable weather, the friendliness and camaraderie of the runners whether elite or there for a bucket list challenge, or because life wouldn’t be the same without that weekend in late August that turned Manitou Springs into an excited, nervous, and glad-to-be alive running party.

“If I can do it, so can you,” she told the runners who thronged around her in Memorial Park at the Race Expo, at the pre-race spaghetti dinners, or on the streets of town. 

From the first time that she and Pieper returned to Manitou Springs in 2009 for the 50th anniversary celebration of the race that they had run together — Arlene at age 29 and Kathy at age 9 — Pieper Stine became living reminders of the beauty and challenge of running the Peak. 

 “‘It’s a beautiful day for a race,’ I remember her saying as we passed runners that day,” Pieper said of the race she did with her mother in 1959. “And she kept that same attitude every year. She never could believe that runners would come up to her and say ‘Can you just touch my hand for luck?’ or ‘It’s so good to see you again.’ She remembered everyone and had wanted to say something to them all. She could barely walk 10 paces down the sidewalk and people would say, ‘Can I get your picture? Can I get your autograph?’ It was just the thrill of her life when [race organizers] found her.”

A group of Colorado Springs runners in the She Moves Mountains run up Pikes Peak on Aug .17, 2019, dressed themselves in white shorts, sleeveless tops and hats to commemorate Arlene Pieper Stine’s 1959 run in the Pikes Peak Marathon. Stine was the first woman to complete a sanctioned U.S. marathon. (Photo provided by Pikes Peak Sports Inc.)

In 2019, to mark the 60th anniversary of Pieper Stine’s marathon step for woman runners everywhere, a group of women runners dressed in white sleeveless blouses, white shorts, and headscarves and hats gathered to run up Pikes Peak to mark the occasion. And like the rock star of the trail running world she was for women, Pieper Stine showed up for the celebration.

Four years earlier, in 2015, I had the opportunity to celebrate Pieper Stine myself. The night before the marathon, I joined the Peak Busters gathering at the Manitou Springs City Hall and was reassured by Arlene, as I had come to know her. I had come back from falls and injuries like everyone else on the peak, since my first marathon on the mountain, in 2004.

At that time, Arlene was using a wheelchair after hip surgery. It was my second out and back and I was eager but nervous. “Good luck,” she said. “You’ll have a great time!” I bent down and she took her hand in mine. “OK,” I said, feeling tears about to come, feeling a part of history of this mountain that had both tested me and rewarding my training — or had spit me out during a few memorable Ascents and my first marathon. But I could always count on feeling inspired by the women who had come before me, especially Arlene.

                                                                                                                       The next morning, she was at the start, shaking hands, giving hugs, and talking to racers through the speakers, to get ready and GO!

“Without pioneering efforts like Arlene’s, we would have no history nor legacy in our sport,” said Nancy Hobbs, executive director of the American Trail Running Association. “Many women — young and old — have been inspired by her.

That includes Pieper, who is planning to train for the Ascent along with one of Pieper Stine’s grandsons, Kyle, 29, who wants to train and qualify for the marathon. She also is survived by daughters Karen, 67, and Linda, 57, and her son, Karl, 66; three other grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Mom wanted to sprinkle some of her ashes on Pikes Peak,” Pieper said. “And I thought, ‘I’d like to go back 60 years later and see if I can do the Ascent.’ Maybe I can finish it, maybe not even do it as a race. And then maybe I could keep her legacy going.”

 No surprise that the Europeans were ahead of the Americans but your article and story was still awesome with only a few words needed to bring accuracy to a moving story of a real pioneer in the American spirit.  There have been pilgrims and pioneers long before Americans trapsed over our large country in Conestoga wagons, so just because someone moved long distances previously does not detract from that unique experience of the Oregon Trail, the Donner Party, and so much more.  Hats off to Violet Piercy as well as Pieper Stine.

   Bill Schnier

Sunday, April 25, 2021

V 11 N. 22 Eastern Michigan NCAA Cross Country Champion Charged with DUI in An Accident With Loss of Life

Former Eastern Michigan Cross Country 2001 and 2002 and 10,000 2002 and 2003  Champion Boaz Cheboiywo  was involved in a drunk driving incident that took the life of a Ypsilanti, MI woman.   The accident occurred April 21 near Ypsilanti.

The following story by Nathan Clark appeared on mlive.com/news/ann-arbor  on April 22, 2021.

YPSILANTI TWP., MI – A former Eastern Michigan University Track star and Athletic Hall of Fame inductee has been arrested and charged for killing a woman while allegedly driving drunk.

Boaz Kisang Cheboiywo, 42, of Ypsilanti, was arraigned Sunday, April 11, on one felony count of operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor causing death related to a suspected drunken driving crash that occurred Friday, April 9, court records show.

At about 4:23 p.m. Friday, Cheboiywo was driving east through Ypsilanti Township on U.S. 12 near Ecorse Road toward Canton when he crossed the centerline and hit a westbound SUV and a passenger car, causing a multi-vehicle crash, according to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver of the SUV and two children in the vehicle were treated for injuries that were not considered life threatening and are expected to recover, police said.

The woman in the passenger vehicle, a 38-year-old Canton woman, suffered critical injuries and was taken to an area hospital where she was later pronounced dead, police said.

The woman’s name is not being released at this time pending family notification, police said.

Two additional cars were involved in the crash, but further injures were reported, police said.

Police, suspecting alcohol played a role in the crash, arrested Cheboiywo and requested charges for drunken driving.

Investigators are awaiting toxicology results and the incident remains under investigation. U.S. 12 was shut down for five hours while police processed the scene.

Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to call Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Detective Joseph Ballard at 734-474-6094.

Cheboiywo is currently lodged in the Washtenaw County Jail with bond set at $200,000. Operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor causing death is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Cheboiywo is a two-time NCAA track and field champion and was later inducted into the EMU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.

The following bio on Cheboiywo appears on the Detroit Mercy website where he is currently an assistant cross country coach.

One of the most recognizable names in Midwest running, Boaz Cheboiywo is in his third year as an assistant coach with the Detroit Mercy men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams. His first year proved to be highly successful as he helped the men repeat as Horizon League champions and tutored a young women’s team to a number of improvements throughout the year.
Prior to his arrival in Detroit, he was an Assistant Personal Training Department Head at Life Time Fitness in Canton as well as a strength and conditioning intern at his alma mater Eastern Michigan.
Cheboiywo – a native of Tirap, Kenya – was a two-time NCAA cross country champion winning the titles in 2001 and 2002. He also won the NCAA outdoor 10,000-meters in 2002 and 2003. In 2001, was honored as the NCAA Cross Country Athlete of the Year and finished his career as a seven-time NCAA All-American and 10-time Mid-American Conference champion. He was also named MAC Most Valuable Performance in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track championships and helped the Eagles to a third place team finish in the 2002 NCAA cross country championships.
After graduating from EMU with a degree in education in 2003, he signed with Nike and ran professionally for 10 years. In his prime, he was featured in a Nike commercial for the 2008 Olympics with Nike sponsored athletes LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Roger Federer.
He was selected to represent Kenya in the 3,000m at the Indoor Track Championship in Budapest, Hungry, after posting the second-fastest time in the world behind legendary runner Haile Gebreselasie of Ethiopia. He also represented Kenya at the Penn Relays in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in the “USA vs. World Penn Relays”, and guided Kenya to victory in 2008 and finishing third in 2006 and 2007. He placed in the top eight in the 3,000m steeplechase and 10,000m events at the Kenyan Olympic Trials in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
He then turned his attention to marathons and posted a 19th-place finish at the 2008 New York City Marathon, while also running in the Chicago Marathon.
He graduated from Eastern Michigan with a degree in Education in 2014 and earned his masters in Exercise Physiology in 2014. He also became a U.S. citizen in 2010. 

Sad indeed! Pray for the survivors of this accident..   Darryl Taylor

Dear George and Paul:

This is tragic for all concerned., especially the family of the deceased lady.

I remember the first (and only) time I saw Boaz run in a cross country meet at EMU.  It was like a man running against children.  He was so powerful looking, smooth and fast.

We need to keep them all in our prayers.

Take care,

Tom Coyne

That's really tragic about both Boaz and the people his wreck injured or killed.  That changes so many lives.  I saw Boaz win some of his NCAA championships as well as his Great Lakes Regionals and Sea Ray Relays races and he was positively unbeatable.  He was also another great T&F athlete for Bob Parks at EMU.  Attached are the EMU outdoor records -- very impressive.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

V 11 N. 21 Dee Edward Givens (1937-2021) Oklahoma University Sprinter R.I.P.



      Another good guy has departed this earthly life to arrive in a new life of Peace, Joy, and Happiness.

      Dee Edward Givens, 83, resident of Tyler, TX, passed away March 8, 2021 while visiting family in Lawton, OK. He was born on September 26, 1937 in Edmond, OK, and grew up in Lawton.  He graduated from Lawton High school in 1955, attended Cameron Junior College for one year and then in the fall of 1956 arrived at the University of Oklahoma on a track scholarship.

      Dee had a very productive and rewarding tenure at OU (1958-60).  He was a sprinter running the 60 and 75 yard dashes indoors and the 100 and 220 yard dashes outdoors.  Dee was lightning fast out of the blocks thanks to his legendary coach, John Jacobs.

       1958 was a good year for Dee, to mention a few of his accomplishments this year.  Dee tied the World Record for 100 yards.  He was Big Eight champ at the 60-yard dash on the indoor track; Big Eight champ on the outdoor track in the 220-yard dash in the time of 20.4 seconds setting an OU school record that still exists today and Big Eight champ in the 100-yard dash; and to top the year off at the Kansas Relays Dee and his other 3 teammates seta new World Record in the Sprint Medley Relay with a time of 3:19.5.   (Gary Parr from Ponca City opened with the 440-yard dash, handing the baton to Dee Givens to run a 220 yards leg, and then passing the baton to Johnny Pellow, Enid, OK, to sprint 220 yards and then handing the baton to Gail Hodgson, South Africa, who clocked a 1:48 half-mile in the last leg of the race.)

      1959  was another good year for Dee, but the competition in the sprints suddenly got a lot better with the arrival of Charlie Tidwell from Kansas University, Billy Cannon from LSU, Bill Woodhouse from Abilene Christian College. and many more from all over the US.  Dee continued to run his sprint events placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at every track meet contributing points for the team.  The OU team placed second and third in the indoor and outdoor Big Eight Conference that season.

       1960  Dee ended the season at the Olympic trials where he placed sixth in the 200 meters with a time of 21.2.  Dee, as usual, scored points for the OU team in every track meet during the year.  The OU team won the Big Eight Conference indoors and placed third in the outdoor meet.

       It is pleasant to recall all the good times with my OU teammates.  But when one passes onto a new life after death it moves me to the realization that life is short and those many memories we recall of our friends and teammates are so precious.  Dee was a special and good friend; may he rest in peace.

       Dee is survived by his wife, Babs Yarmuk Givens; two daughters, Janis and Dena, four grandchildren, one great grandchild; and brother  John.  He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Rex.

ed. This remembrance was written by Dee's teammate Hial Gernert, himself a former school co-record holder with Gary Parr in the 440 at 47.1.    

Dee Givens' record at the NCAA outdoor meets

1958  Berkeley     100 yards   7th

1959  Lincoln       220 yards   5th    21.3

1960  Berkeley     220 yards   4th    21.3

Dee is mentioned on the last line of this article as a member of the WR Sprint Medley.

Hi George -

Re:  Legendary coach,  John Jacobs’ contribution to the speed of Dee Givens out of the blocks.  Reminds me of a story Ronald Reagan told about this hard working Kansas Farmer.  “ There was an old Kansas farmer. He had a piece of creek bottom land that had never been developed at all -- it was all rocks and brush and all messed up. And he started in on it, clearing it -- the underbrush, and hauling away the rocks, then cultivating the soil there. And he planted a garden -- everything from vegetables on to corn, and it really became a garden spot. And he was pretty proud of what he'd done. So, one Sunday morning in church after the service he asked the preacher if he wouldn't stop by to have a look.

Well, the preacher arrived. And he took one look and he said, ``Oh, this is wonderful.'' He said, ``These are the biggest tomatoes I've ever seen. Praise the Lord.'' And he said, "Those green beans, that squash, those melons.'' He said, ``The Lord really has blessed this place. And look at the height of that corn.'' He said, "God has really been good.'' And the old boy was listening to all this, and he was getting more and more fidgety and finally he blurted out, ``Reverend, I wish you could have seen it when the Lord was doing it by himself.'' 

 I believe that a coach’s greatest asset to a successful career is to chose and recruit his athletes with both immense vision and great acumen.    As in ‘Picking winners before they are winners’.    Richard Mach

Saturday, April 17, 2021

V 11 N. 20 A New Book by Rich Elliott "What Mad Pursuit, Short Stories About Runners"

 "What Mad Pursuit

Short Stories About Runners"

by Rich Elliot

a book review by George Brose

                                                                   Available on Amazon  
                                                         Also available on Kindle

     We do not have to look far to find books on running.  Most fall into the non-fiction category answering questions and purveying truths about how to start running, nutrition, injury prevention, training methodology, histories of running, the Olympics and on and on.  But few writers attempt and even fewer succeed in writing readable fiction with running at the focal point.  As experienced and dedicated runners and former runners, we know everything there is to know about the act of running, of coaching, and even of parenting a runner.  We live(d) it daily.  If we read riveting fiction about murder, very few of us may have lived it.  Very few of us may have experienced war and other forms of mayhem.  So we rely on fiction and non-fiction writers to explain those things of which we are so ignorant.  But once we become runners, a thing so mundane, so easy to learn by simply doing, we become quite knowledgeable from our experience.  If we progress up the running hierarchy we learn things few other runners will ever know.  We understand what it is like to run twenty miles in the heat or the cold, to run a set of 20x440's with a 110 jog after each, to try to win a place on a team, to compete for an athletic scholarship, to improve, to crash, to spar mentally with other runners, to find or lose love in the sport, to know the heroes, the saints and the ne'er do wells.  So if a writer takes up the challenge to tell us stories about competitive running, that writer better damn well know his or her subject or prepare to be called out very quickly.  

    Rich Elliott is a writer willing to take that risk.  Anyone who survived four years at Kansas under the legendary Bob Timmons is a guy who could walk into Hell and casually look around for some sunscreen.  Mr. Elliott is able to tell those stories we all know in a way that can shed light and truth on things we did in our youth and often didn't realize we were doing them.  

    You will meet a crazy coach who dabbles in Russian roulette with a nail gun when his team is having an off season.  You will meet a fictional walk-on who runs with Pre at Oregon.  You will fight with a teammate for the affections of a girl by running a duel of repeat charges up a sand dune.  You will live with a group of societal rejects who find their way on the cross country field.  You will run with a ten-year-old girl in a trans-America race.  You will learn that even the best runners struggle with self doubt.  There are 17 stories in   "What Mad Pursuit".  Each one can stand on its own.  Some have been previously published in literary journals.  It's not my gift to critique writing style.  I just know what I like.  Rich Elliott is a master storyteller whose work will have you saying to yourself,  "My God, I've been there."

Here are excerpts from three stories:

From Cross Country at the School for Troubled Teens

    "You know what I think, men?"  Coach leaned against the bridge railing and stretched.  " I think we were born out of our time.  I think we were meant to live two hundred years ago.  Out on some Open Plain.  Sleeping on the ground with our horses and dogs.  Heading up our tribe, protecting our People.  Leading them into battle."

    We squinted at Coach and stretched like him.

    "Out of our time.  We weren't meant to be crammed into a school chair.  Not meant to be cooped up in a beige bedroom, stoned by a computer screen, turning into some species of marshmallow.  Our Age doesn't know what to do with us, doesn't know what to make of us.  That's what I think."

    We began to run again, still in the opposite direction from school. It got dark.  Over his shoulder Coach threw us a quote from the Book.  "It is the illusion we can go no further that holds us back."

From  the Diary of Kid Comet

    There's nothing like running at night.  You're floating along in front of your dad's headlights in a cocoon of light smack in the middle of the black universe.  You hear the tap-tap of your flats on the road and the huh-huh-huh of your breaths.  Other than that, it's real quiet, except for the skittering of things off the road.

    You're just coasting along, feeling the cool night, it seems to breathe along with you, the little puffs in your face.  Times like this you feel you own the world and can run forever without a thought.

    Finally, you realize the black is changing a little and maybe you can make out silhouettes of things, trees and bushes, the strip of road going out, and sure enough in a few minutes in the east the black gives way to gray, and with that an orchestra starts warming up, just for me alone, first the wuh-ee-weeet of the blackbirds, then the twee-twee of the robins, then the chee-chee of the wrens, until pretty soon the full orchestra floods the road with music.

    Dad turns off the headlights.  The gray in the east turns to light pink and then brighter pink, and my heart feels nice, and I'm thinking,  twenty miles done, and the day's just beginning, and gosh, breakfast is going to taste great.

From Walk-on

    Stubbornness is my only talent.  

    That's what kept me on the team, hanging on by my fingertips.  I buried my chin in my chest, and I stuck.  through twenty-mile road runs at soul-killing pace.  Through violent quarters on the track.  Through endless repeats of Cardiac Hill.  through blistered feet, bloody urine, leg spasms, and ice baths.

    Through predawn hours waiting for my alarm to shout, Get your sorry ass into the dark for your morning run!

    Through the countless privations of monk-like existence.  (That incredulous look on my date's face---What?  You have to go to sleep?  It's only nine o'clock!)

    Through the annoyed looks from teammates, looks that said, Why is he still here?  He's not in our league.  And even through Coach's ongoing sarcasm--"Basner, goddammit, I'll have to buy a sundial to time you!"

    I raced in the few home meets we had, but I never once made our travel squad.  Why would you spend money on someone who couldn't place in any event?    

    Sure, I improved, but my teammates, already way ahead, improved more. One thing was clear:  I would never have their artistic, flawless strides.  I would never, ever have their immaculate engines.  The scholarship guys purred along like Porsches, while I rattled like a used Corvair.


    Rich Elliott's other books are Duck and Cover,   Runners on Running,  and The Competitive Edge-Mental Preparation for Distance Running

  Rich Elliott's running credentials include being Big 8 Conference three miles champ,  a 4:09 mile, 13:44 three miles, 29:44 six miles, and a 440 in 51 or 52 (he can't really confirm that 440).  

George Brose

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