Friday, July 13, 2018

V 8 N. 43 Book Review "My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life" by Frank Shorter and John Brant

To read an autobiography of someone who was a contemporary, though miles above one's own abilities in the sport of long distance running invites a visit to one's own  past making comparisons along the way through the protagonist's journey.   This was my experience while reading  Frank Shorter's autobiography co-written with John Brant. 

I have reviewed an earlier work by Mr. Brant,  (see: The Boy Who Runs, The Odyssey of Julius Achon) and corresponded with him about that book.  Five years prior to the publication of Frank's autobiography, Mr. Brant had also written an article about Frank for Runner's World.  Though I'm not a regular reader of that magazine, by chance I had seen the issue and photocopied the article which discussed Frank's childhood experiences of living in a family with a very abusive father, not only abusive, but one who on the surface was above reproach in his community.  I have worked in the field of child protection as a mediator in Ohio and now in British Columbia for twenty  years and have seen the worst of cases.  I can safely say that the Shorter family was near the top in levels of violence perpetrated  toward children, and by today's standards, had the facts been known, the Shorter children would have been taken from Dr. Shorter's custody, and by today's legal standards Dr. Shorter would have served some serious jail time for his parenting aggressions. However it must be remembered that it's only been since the 1970's in our country that laws have been on the books protecting children from abuse by their parents.  Had the Shorter children spoken to authorities in the 1950s and 1960s when the abuse was going on, it is not likely that anyone would have believed them, and nothing would have changed for them.  While Frank Shorter survived and thrived after a childhood of abuse, it must be remembered that many, many of these children do not do well and often repeat the sins of the parents.

It took Frank many years into adulthood to be able to publicly reveal what went on behind the walls of his family home.  The Runner's World article in 2011 revealed that story, and the  book tells it in greater depth.  For years I saved that article as a reminder to myself each day what I was seeing in families whose secrets had been discovered and brought to the attention of social workers, teachers, police, and eventually the legal system.   I even handed off copies of that article to new social workers coming into the field.  So it is not without a lot of anger that I read this book.

The book describes how Frank was able to function outside the home and move through school life and focus on becoming a great runner whose athletic history we all know.  It took incredible will and an innate sense of survival to accomplish what he accomplished.  He certainly personifies the old proverb of 'If it doesn't kill me, it will make me stronger'.  My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life is not just about child abuse but that theme winds through descriptions of how Frank's running career  and professional life grew and evolved.   The book covers Frank's  philosophy of running, and what he did after his skills and abilities began to fade.  He tracks the history of his relationship with Steve Prefontaine, Jack Bacheler, John Parker, Kenny Moore and others of that period.  He also talks about his time in Gainsville with the Florida Track Club, the fight for recognition from the AAU for compensation to runners like any other profession, and the rise of and his role in the formation of the US Anti Doping Agency.  His workouts with Pre are an historic record of how elite runners trained in those days.  He was consistent as few can ever be with his workouts, 11:00 each morning, and 3:30 each afternoon, and his ability to self coach is something truly unique in modern distance running.  All this can be taken away by the end of the book.  The story could seem braggadocio for everything he has accomplished in his life, but Frank also comes off as a humble person who has had to overcome roadblocks that many of us will hopefully never see.

At the 25 KM point in Munich

This book will serve the baby boomer generation of runners, especially those of us who were running in the 1960s and 70s, and it can be a primer for the new generations of runners showing them what they can and  must do if they hope to achieve greatness or at least tap the strengths that they were given at birth.

Without boring the reader by citing his training diaries, Brant and Shorter convey the types of workouts that were done in those days.  Shorter credits his coaches in high school and at Yale for getting him going and then cutting the reins and letting him figure things out for himself.  Sam Green and Warren Hall at Mt. Hermon prep school and Bob Giegengack at Yale who clearly saw that Frank had the intelligence to be his own coach.
Boston 1978

As a supplement to this excellent book I would recommend that folks also read Bill Rodgers' autobiography Marathon Man, previously reviewed in this blog.  See  Marathon Man  clik here.
Both men's careers overlapped.  They were New Englanders, though from very different backgrounds.  Frank chose to travel to Florida and Oregon to train, whereas Bill pretty much stayed at home.  They were both surrounded at times by great runners to learn from, Bill with Amby Burfoot and Jeff Galloway, and Frank with Prefontaine, Bacheler, and Parker.  Success can derive along many paths which both men's histories seem to indicate.

In communicating with Mr. Brant, he admitted to a couple of errors of fact in the book, which I will not mention to you.  They are purely historical error and do not take anything away from the importance of this book.

What a complete review of Shorter's book.  I was unaware of this book and also his life as an abused child.  Where can I get this book?  Is it for sale at Barnes & Noble, one of the few bookstores still thriving in Cincinnati?
   Thanks to you, I am aware that children had no rights before the 1970s and that a man was king of his castle.  Many today wish to return to those days of glory for one member of a household but days of agony for everyone else.  In reading about other such survivors, it is truly inspiring to see what they have accomplished, known all along that for every person who has overcome abuse to rise to great heights, there are so many others whose lives have been destroyed.  Even so, such stories are worth reading to keep us centered and reminded how to lead as men.  
   Keep writing about this topic and so many more as you use running as your stage.
   Bill Schnier

Thursday, July 12, 2018

V8 N. 46 Lindy Remigino R.I.P.

The following article was just posted on the USATF website.

Lindy Remigino
Born: June 3, 1931

A shocking upset in the closest race in Olympic sprint history etched Lindy Remigino's name in the annals of the sport.

On the heels of a runner-up finish in the 100y at the 1952 Olympic Trials that surprised many, the Manhattan College junior then sprinted to gold in Helsinki Olympics in 10.4, edging Jamaica's multi-talented Herb McKenley in a final that saw the top four finishers all awarded the same time. Later examination of the electronic times showed that Remigino's time was 10.79, .01 ahead of McKenley.

In the 4x100m relay, his storming third leg carry put the U.S. in position to win, and Andy Stanfield sealed the gold on anchor to give Remigino two Olympic golds.

After graduating from Manhattan, Remigino, who was named after aviation legend Charles Lindbergh, became a physical education teacher and track and field coach at Hartford Public High School, his alma mater. His teams there won 31 state titles and he guided 157 athletes to individual state championships.

Friday, July 6, 2018

V8 N. 45 Don Ritchie, R.I.P.

The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) recently published the following article on the passing of Donald Ritchie. Another obituary can be seen at Donald Ritchie (Washington Post)

News of Don Ritchie’s death was announced at the weekend. Andy Milroy has expanded the Foreword he wrote for Don Ritchie’s biography to give a more rounded picture of his truly remarkable career and we reproduce it below  with permission as a fitting tribute to an amazing career and man.

“Don Ritchie is justifiably regarded by many as one of the greatest ultra runners of modern times. With track World Best Performances at 50 km (twice), 40 miles, 50 miles (twice), 100 km, 150 km, 100 miles and 200 km, plus world road bests at 100 km and 100 miles he had an unparalleled record in the sub 24 hour events.
Added to this is his excellent competitive record both at home and abroad.  He had numerous Continental 100 km wins to his credit, (including setting a world road best) , and a 100 mile world road best in the USA. In 1990 he produced the best 24 Hour performance of the year, some fourteen years after setting his first world track best. This distance was to win him the inaugural IAU 24 Hour Championships in Milton Keynes.
In 1989 he had attempted the record for the John O’Groats-Lands End run -846.4 miles from one end of the United Kingdom to the other. Despite serious physical problems, Don set a new record of 10 days 15 hours and 27 minutes for the distance. A tribute to his steely determination.
It is rare for a top class runner to have a long career. The sustained stress of pushing one’s body to the limit usually results eventually in career-ending injury. Don Ritchie did have significant injuries, but he came back from these to add further laurels to his already distinguished list of achievements. As late as 2001 he was a member of the British 24 Hour team that won the Bronze team medal at Uden in the Netherlands. This was 24 years after Don’s first World Best at 50 km in 1977!
Don’s longevity as a runner allied  to his ability to push himself to the  limit, to sustain a pace, only very slowly giving way in inexorable fatigue, made him virtually unique among Ultrarunners. His willingness to share his hard won knowledge and experience with others was also notable. As a coach of Simon Pride, subsequent winner of the World 100 km Challenge, and also as contributor to first, Training for Ultras and then Training for Ultrarunning books, Don provided detailed information on his preparation for his major ultra feats.
His autobiography “THE STUBBORN SCOTSMAN DON RITCHIE world Record Holding Ultra Distance Runner” published late in 2016 revealed his running career in typical unfussy detail. His remarkable masterpiece of 6:10:20 for 100 km is covered in just three quarters of a page but is placed in context. His meticulous training diaries are recorded for many of those major runs.
Don’s legacy is not just the inspiration of his remarkable records but also his determination to pass on his knowledge and experience for those who come after him.

V8 N. 44 Dave Milliman R.I.P.

July 5, 2018

Yesterday, Bruce Kritzler sent me a note mentioning the passing of Dave Milliman.
I have to confess that I had never heard of Dave.  However I learned quickly of the man from notes
sent back to Bruce from other folks he had informed.   From their accounts of Dave he was a  man
bigger than life as we sometimes say about an influential person.  He was an instrumental cog in the 1970s and 80s running  boom in the Southeast US and eventually in other parts of the country.  It is more than meaningful when friends send unsolliceted notes and memories of a person when they die.
Dave had lots of those kinds of people in his life who remembered him and were willing to speak up.

There will be a memorial Saturday @ 5, including a run, in Travelers Rest SC @ Pace Magazine and Running Shop.

Dave Milliman passed away early this week, after his second bout with prostate cancer.
Dave was the first person I met from the Florida Track Club, while still living in Ohio. Seemed like we were around the same speed racing at AAU Cross Country Championshipz and Charleston 15 miler. So ended up running together/against each other and talking after races. He encouraged me to move down to Gainesville, and I finally did Dec. 1976. Stayed with Bob Hans, originally from Cincinnati and Defiance College. Got a job at Athletic Attic, and after about a year I was able to hire Dave Milliman. He knew more about running shoes than anybody, and had experienced every running injury, so could empathize with customers. Jimmy Carnes saw Dave's potential and started having him train new franchise owners. He helped open stores in Galveston, Columbus, and Pittsburgh. He continued to work for Carnes after Athletic Attic went out of business, helping start the US Track & Cross Country Coaches Assn. and was publisher of their quarterly technique magazine. After Carnes passed Dave moved to Greenville, SC and worked at his bother Jeff's store, Greenville Running Company, and published the GTC magazine PACE.

Dave was about 6-2, 170, and Frank Shorter called him the best "big" runner he knew. Think Dave's pr's were around 14:37, 30:37, and 2:27. He started "Team in Training" groups in Gainesville, and coached hundreds of people. Was always ready to offer advice and encouragement, to beginners and elite.
Bruce Kritzler

I’m sorry to hear this news.

I remember running a 5-miler in Pittsburgh one time in the late 70s. We went through the first mile pretty fast and Dave was right at my elbow. I don’t think we’d ever raced before when I was in decent shape. He looked over at me after we heard the first mile split and said: “What the hell are you running so hard for?”
The implication was I was running that pace just to annoy him.

John Parker

I am truly sorry that he's gone. 
I didn't know Dave in his prime running days (nor in mine), but it was through running that we connected. 
I don't recall where and how we met, but I recall seeing him in San Falasco where he'd train people to run their first marathons.  He would regal me with stories of the old days, how one day as a lark he and others put on spikes and blew through the SF 6-mile loop  in times I could never approach even on a track.  The times were so fast that they realized that it was a bit less than 6, but who was going to tell? 
Even though he had been a great runner, he wasn't a bit arrogant with we lesser folks. He always had time to chat, and I always looked forward to seeing him.
Due to injuries, I stopped running nearly a decade ago and lost touch with Dave. Our very casual relationship didn't prompt me to look him up after hanging up my running flats.  Undoubtedly it was my loss.
I wish his family all the best and to take heart in the fact that Dave is well remembered.
Robert Thomas
by Dave Milliman
The echoes fade from the locker room walls as the last victory dims into memory.  Long since the hot showers and white towels have been tossed away, you turn the key and ease into the snow covered highway, leaving the locker room for the last time.

For most now, the years have given out to quiet memory, like trophies hanging in a darkened case.  They are opened only to show at cocktail parties and class reunions.  But once a month, or so it seems, you wake again from that dream you have had since the championships when you won the long jump and broke the tape to celebrate victory with your 4 x 1 teammates.  Etched in memory so fine you awake to taste the victory again and again.

You never speak of this, never mention it at cocktail parties or the reunions.  But in your deepest thoughts you feel blessed and filled with a satisfaction you never have to express.  Your team won the title and for the rest of your life, you remain a champion.

If you were lucky, you were blessed to have a mentor, someone who coached you, showed you the way.  In track & field, this someone more than likely enriched your career and as well as your personal life.  The coach, your mentor.

Mentors carve our lives with impressions undimmed and undiminished by the passing of years.  Some mentors have been Olympic coaches, some not so accomplished, but each has often served as both father as well as coach.  Each mentor/coach loved his sport and his predilection.  This love was passed on to us. 

We often honor a coach by the listing of names. The names of his athletes, of those who won championship, those who went on to Olympic glory, those who stepped up to fame and fortune.  When we think of a Hall of Fame coach, we may also think of a solitary man, standing in twilights’ shadow, holding a watch at track side - timing the last interval of the day.  

And yet, that man, the solitary figure to whom we give honor at track meets and reunions may not have coached any list of champions.  He may not have sent young men and women on to Olympic glory.  He may have worked hard, trained many fine individuals, shown hundreds of young men and women the way through the wilderness.  And yet, the accolades he has received do not compare to those whose fate lead down an Olympic road.

…the solitary figure to whom we give honor at track meets and reunions may not have coached any list of champions.
As the echoes fade from the championship moment, when all the towels have been put away, many an athlete may close the locker room door for the last time but keep the memories of a mentor as well as a performance.   Many of these athletes have memories of a modest performance by any other measure, but yet, a personal milestone, an achievement not diminished by a stopwatch or a place in a national championship.  The man they remember, their coach, is just as deserving to be honored and remembered. 

No matter how measured, no matter how small against a list of giants, athletic achievement and personal satisfaction will always haunt the playing fields of memory.  Both in the memories of those returning for a college reunion and for that solitary coach, spending another day in the classroom of life - teaching the fundamentals of individual perfection.  There is more to this pursuit than the chasing of school records, of running, jumping, and throwing.  But for this, if for nothing more, our coaches will always be our heroes.

This piece written by Dave Milliman has appeared in a number of journals and websites over the years.  Ed.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

V8 N. 42 Irena Szewinska R.I.P.

Irina Szewinska nee Kirszenstein was one of the most durable international athletes ever, competing for twenty years , five Olympics, and winning seven Olympic medals.  She passed away yesterday June 29, 2018 from cancer.  She set the 200M world record in Mexico 1968  (22.58).   In 1976 she set a 400M world record at the Montreal Olympics , winning in 49.28, still a formidable time today.  She was able to meet and beat the hybridized East German women in those days of no holds barred doping.  I do not recall that her honesty was ever called into question.   She eventually became a member of the IOC.  

Below is the Associated Press release on Ms. Szewinska.
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Irena Szewinska, a Polish sprinter who dominated women's athletics for two decades, winning seven Olympic medals, and who later became a member of the International Olympic Committee, has died at 72.
Szewinska's husband and former coach, Janusz Szewinski, said his wife died shortly before midnight Friday in a Warsaw hospital after a battle with cancer.
The Polish news agency PAP on Saturday described Szewinska as the most famous athlete in Polish sports history.
Polish President Andrzej Duda remembered her as the "First Lady of Polish sport," saying her death was "a great loss and great sadness."
Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, said the "entire Olympic family is in deep mourning" and that the Olympic flag would be lowered at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, for three days in her honor.
"With her gentleness and modesty, she was a real role model, dedicating her whole life to sport. As such, she inspired athletes and women around the world," Bach said. "I personally experienced this over many years and I will always have fond memories of the time we spent together."
Szewinska competed in five Olympics, winning gold medals in the 400-meter relay in 1964, in the 200 meters in 1968 and the 400 meters in 1976. She was also a 10-time world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races.
She was born Irena Kirszenstein on May 24, 1946, in the Russian city of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, to a Polish-Jewish family. The family returned to Poland when she was still a child.
At her last Summer Olympics in 1980 in Moscow, she suffered a muscle strain that ended her Olympic career.
At the time, with her seven medals, she tied the record of Australian Shirley Strickland de la Hunty for most Olympic medals won by a woman.
Szewinska became an IOC member in 1998. In 2012, she was among the first inductees to the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

V 8 N. 41 JANUARY, 1968


    Remember the January issues of Track and Field News back in the day? They were filled with the previous year's stats. They were objective. You could see who ran the world's 44th fastest 400, who had the 36th best pole vault and the 18th farthest discus throw. They were also subjective. The editors listed the top ten in each event, not by time, but by yearlong performance, leaving you with quandaries such as how could Franz-Josef Kemper, with four losses and a best of 1:46.2, be ranked #1 in the 800 ahead of Wade Bell who lost only twice and had a best of 1:45.0? Then you studied their racing history and discovered they had met once with Kemper the decisive winner. Still, if you were to sit across the table from D. H. Potts or R. L. Quercetani at the Dew Drop Inn, you could put up a spirited case for Bell.
    But you weren't sitting at the Dew Drop. Remember where you were sitting when you pored over the annual issue? That's right, you were on the pot. The January issue was always so full of stats that you kept it on the bathroom counter for easy access.
    The cover of the annual issue always had a facial of the Athlete of the Year. The AOY for 1967 was Jim Ryun. Not much argument there. He had broken the world records in the 1500 (3:33.1) and mile (3:51.1) and, save for a second behind Tracy Smith in the Italy-Spain-US triangular in his first attempt at 5000, was undefeated.
    Athlete of the Year awards were presented at several levels in both track and field events. If the AOY was in track, the top performer in a field event was listed as the AOY in the “other division” and visa-versa. Got it? Okay, here we go.
    The other division for the World AOY was Randy Matson who put the shot 71-5 ½ to up his own WR by ten inches. This was a throw of 2 ½ feet beyond history's next best, Neil Steinhauer. Not surprisingly, the same two were US and collegiate athletes of the year. The JC AOYs were miler Neil Duggan of Hancock JC (and Great Britain) and vaulter Paul Heglar of Pasadena CC. The college freshman of the year were big time. Oregon State's Willie Turner tied for the fastest 100 meters of the year – 10.0 – and sits second on the world list for '67 and all time, a tenth behind Tommie Smith at 20.1. Clarence Johnson of Cal took the field event AOY by high jumping 7-3¼. How good was that? How about '67's best mark and fourth on the all time list. High school honors went to Jerry Proctor, who long jumped 26-0¾, with    Marty Liguori taking the “other division” for his 3:59.8 mile.
    The indoor AOY went to Bob Seagren for his 17-3 WR vault with Tommie Smith taking honors for on the track for his 46.2 400 which chopped nine tenths off the world record.
    Not surprisingly, the Outstanding Performance honor went to Ryun for taking down Herb Elliot's 1500 world record by an amazing two and a half seconds. Other performances receiving votes were Matson's 70-5 ½ – 213-9 shot - discus double and Smith's 44.8 WR 400.
    And now to report on what little action there has been up to mid- January. Indoors the stars have been Texas El Paso sophomore Bob Beamon and Southern Illinois grad George Woods. Beamon won the long jump at the Los Angeles Invitational at 26-1 Friday night then boarded a plane for the NAIA meet in Kansas City. Even with no sleep and a short runway, he got his first 27 footer, winning at 27-1.
    On the 1967 shot put lists Woods ranked 13th in the world and 6th in the US with a best of 62-8¼, so his 66-5¾ win in the LA Invitational was a shock. But it wasn't the event's biggest surprise. That would be Randy Matson coming up 11 feet short of his world record with a throw of 60-4. Bet he improves in our February report.

George, Roy,
Jan. 1968 was my first issue of Track & Field News. Sure had 50 years of enjoyable reading and memorization. Currently printing out copies of new issues to send to my technically challenged brother.


Monday, June 25, 2018

V 8 N. 40 Another Literary Fling on Running by Thomas E. Coyne


                                . . . . Though Running

Unlike many recent devotees of the sport I do not find it necessary to justify myself.  I run because I like to and I feel like it. With this attitude I get all of the benefits without any of the soul-searching. It’s a lot like being a drunk rather than an alcoholic. I don’t have to go to all the meetings. A less visible advantage is that it frees the mind while running.  The philosopher types have to listen to their Karma, commune with nature, think deep thoughts. I can screw around.

The attitude is best fulfilled when running with others.  Usually I run with people who are as good or better than I am as a runner.   Consequently, I have to be alert to ways I can negate their superior skills or get an edge on the equal ability lads.  One way, with a new running companion, is to neglect to mention we’re supposed to turn at the next corner until I already have and he is past the intersection.  The constant playing “catch-up” can really break one’s rhythm. This, you understand, is good for only once around that course. To really make it work one needs many different loops.

Another technique is to engage companions in spirited conversation in which they end up doing the conversing, and I do all the breathing.  There is, however, a danger in this technique. Given the right topic the adrenaline really starts to flow and the speaker moves right into race pace.

Running with needle artists is fun.  A group with two or three wise guys in it is always lively.  They alternately gang up on someone in the pack and then shift to cutting up each other.  The constant back and forth skewering keeps you alert and the miles just flee by.

However, for long range fun and pleasure I’ve found an involved, practical joke is the best.  Fitting the pieces of a scam together during workouts over weeks, and even months, puts variety and spice into what otherwise might be another humdrum conversation about the respective merits of running shoes.  I do mean weeks and months, by the way. The most involved hoax a couple of us put together began with an innocent remark made during the tail end of an August noonday workout and didn’t end until we played a tape recording for the still unsuspecting victim the following June and confessed all (almost all, that is).  The hoax involved, by the time we were through, a naked lady, medical ethics, the Mafia (with appropriate references to runners’ broken legs), a few well timed and taped telephone inquiries and two brands of coffee.

During various workouts, and afterward in the locker room, we set the several stages of the charade carefully in place.  A key point was not returning to the subject during each and every workout but, instead, casually slipping in a point or two, to keep up the momentum of the joke, during runs sometimes weeks apart.  Non-running acquaintances added some of the needed pieces in between. Not all practical jokes require such elaborate details to achieve their objectives, but once the imagination starts working only the limits of gullibility and mercy can restrain it.

What it all comes down to, I believe, is the companionship; the mutual encouragement of runners in what otherwise might indeed be loneliness.  In all honesty, however, it is not the best way to become a top-flight racer. The tendency of packs to run to accommodate the least gifted makes for good fellowship, but not champions.  There is a point, therefore, when two or three of the most ambitious may go their separate ways for a period of time to test and stretch and drive themselves to still another plateau of fitness in preparation for a race or series of races.  This is as it should be, for in the ebb and flow of the seasons the pack will reform, the camaraderie will resume and friends of all abilities will renew themselves in the fellowship of the run. Wits will sharpen and jokes will be told and retold.  We will take ourselves a bit less seriously and….the fun begins.

Thomas E. Coyne

February 14, 1983

Saturday, June 23, 2018

V 8 N. 39 A Poem on Running by Richard Wilbur

John Cobley sent us this note and poem on running by Richard Wilbur, one of America's much honored poets.  For more on Mr. Wilbur, you can simply follow the google trail.   Mr. Cobley writes one of the best distance running blogs to be found on the internet,  He was once a teammate of Lasse Viren at BYU.

Running, According to a Great American Poet.

Richard Wilbur (1921-2016) was one of the finest poets of the 20th century. In 1969, at the age of 48, he  published the poem “Running” in Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations.

The poem is divided into three parts that are set in 1933, 1957 and 1969 respectively. These three parts correspond to Wilbur’s childhood (age 12), adulthood (age 36) and middle age (48).

The poem expresses his regret as a middle-aged man that it’s too late for him to take advantage of one of life’s pleasure’s—running. In the first part he equates childhood running during outdoor games with happiness. In the second part he watches the Boston Marathon with his son and feels shame that he’s watching when he could be running. In the third part he is out for a jog and feeling his age when he slows to a walk on hearing “boy-shouts.” This reminds him that he would still like to have that feeling of youth that comes from running. However, “the god of that” has left him and all he can do is vicariously experience the joy of running through the two boys—the joy of running that he had experienced at age 12.


I.  1933
(North Caldwell, New Jersey)

What were we playing? Was it prisoner’s base?
I ran with whacking keds
Down the cart-road past Rickard’s place,
And where it dropped beside the tractor-sheds

Leapt out into the air above a blurred
Terrain, through jolted light,
Took two hard lopes, and at the third
Spanked off a hummock-side exactly right,

And made the turn, and with delighted strain
Sprinted across the flat
By the bull-pen, and up the lane.
Thinking of happiness, I think of that.

“Keds” refers to an old make of sport shoe or gym shoe
“lopes” surely is wrong here. A lope is a stride but it’s gentle and easy. The boy here is sprinting and leaping.
“whacking,” “spanked”: interesting choice of words to convey the sound of his running. Both words also suggest, especially for kids, physical punishment.

(Wellesley, Massachusetts)

Restless that noble day, appeased by soft
Drinks and tobacco, littering the grass
While the flag snapped and brightened far aloft,
We waited for the marathon to pass,

We fathers and our little sons, let out
Of school and office to be put to shame.
Now from the street-side someone raised a shout,
And into view the first small runners came.

Dark in the glare, they seemed to thresh in place
Like preening flies upon a window-sill,
Yet gained and grew, and at a cruel pace
Swept by us on their way to Heartbreak Hill—

Legs driving, fists at port, clenched faces, men,
And in amongst them, stamping on the sun,
Our champion Kelley, who would win again,
Rocked in his will, at rest within his run.

“fists at port”: fists at rest—like ships in a port.

(Cummington, Massachusetts)

I jog up out of the woods
To the crown of the road, and slow to a swagger there,
The wind harsh and cool to my throat,
A good ache in my rib-cage.

Loud burden of streams at run-off,
And the sun’s rocket frazzled in blown tree-heads:
Still I am part of that great going,
Though I stroll now, and am watchful.

Where the road turns and debouches,
The land sinks westward into exhausted pasture.
From fields which yield to aspen now
And pine at last will shadow,

Boy-shouts reach me, and barking.
What is the thing which men will not surrender?
It is what they have never had, I think,
Or missed in its true season,

So that their thoughts turn in
At the same roadhouse nightly, the same cloister,
The wild mouth of the same brave river
Never now to be charted.

You, whoever you are,
If you want to walk with me you must step lively.
I run, too, when mood offers,
Though the god of that has left me.

But why in the hell spoil it?
I make a clean gift of my young running
To the two boys who break into view,
Hurdling the rocks and racing,

Their dog dodging before them
This way and that, his yaps flushing a pheasant
Who lifts now from the blustery grass
Flying full tilt already.

Richard Wilbur, 1969

“swagger”: walk proudly
“frazzled”: worn out
“debouches”: emerges into the open

Asking John's permission to use his comments on the poem, he replied,  
George: You are welcome to do that—as long as you think my notes aren’t too “teacherly.” There’s a lot more I could have written about the poem.  For example, why did he choose to mention Heartbreak Hill? Why did he spend so much time describing the landscape in the third poem? John"

  " John, I'd also like to know why Wilbur didn't add to the poem as he progressed further down the aging path.   Perhaps he wrote so many other poems he forgot about this one?  Or he sensed it was complete.   How much would we  give to be 48 again and full of the fire of youth?     When he used the word 'port' in the first poem to describe the runners' arms, I sensed the military term   'port arms'  which is a postion a soldier holds a rifle in front of himself as he runs or double times with the rifle.  The arms come up and are bent much as if you were running long distance. George"

Thursday, June 21, 2018

V8 N. 38 Ted Corbitt as Remembered by Denis Fikes

This post was taken from Gary Corbitt's Facebook page with correspondence from Denis Fikes about Gary's father, Ted Corbitt. 

In case you missed this post by Denis about his New York visit June 6th, I’ve posted again below.
Denis – I thank you for attending the bust unveiling ceremony. Your presence added to a great evening honoring my father. I never saw you run in person for the University of Penn, but your outstanding years at Rice High School are quite memorable. Dominating, majestic, running royalty are terms that come to mind. Your groundbreaking achievements are an example of what motivates me towards preserving this great history of our sport. Firstly we need to be made aware of our history-makers, and once we have the facts; stories can be documented and handed down to future generations.
FB Followers: Denis is part of the African American Running History timeline (1880 – 1979) that I’ve developed.
April 27, 1974 - Denis Elton Cochran Fikes
Denis Fikes representing the University of Penn runs a 3:55.0 mile in the 1974 Penn Relays’ to place second to Tony Waldrop in the Ben Franklin Mile. This performance was the fastest mile ever by an African American. He would hold the distinction of being the fastest African American miler ever for an amazeing 18 years.
At Penn, Denis Fikes recorded over 25 school records in the middle distance events from 1,000 meters to three-miles. He won seven Heptagonal titles and one IC4A title. He was a six-time All-Eastern honoree and a two-time All-American.
Here’s the post from Denis:
Yesterday I was surrounded by people and places that inspire me. It was Global Running Day. I started the day having breakfast with my mother, Ella Fikes Dufau, who was and continues to be my biggest fan and supporter. I then had a too short visit with my only remaining aunt, Dina Joyner, she now lives in a nursing home in Harlem and is as loving and caring as she ever was. It was a joy to spend time with her. Upon returning to my mother’s place, we had a wonderful afternoon of talking and visiting with her friends at the Lehman Senior Center. Then, I was off to the New York Road Runners’ (NYRR) Running Center via a walk through Central Park, which was where I ran many of my morning workouts with my brother, Don Welton Fikes as well as my Rice teammate, Norman Dufford before school.
This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the NYRR. Among the many events surrounding this milestone and Global Running Day, and the reason for my going to the NYRR Running Center was to witness the unveiling of the bust of Ted Corbitt.
“The Father of Long Distance Running”
A distance running pioneer and the co-founder and first president of NYRR, Ted Corbitt had a unique dedication to the sport and a passion for excellence that carried over into every aspect of his life. He completed an incredible lifetime total of 223 marathons and ultramarathons. His training, which routinely included 200-mile weeks, was more than just preparation for racing. It was a lifestyle that has inspired many who came after him.
For me, as a young black distance runner in the late 60’s there were very few Black-American’s I could look to for inspiration. It wasn’t until late in my high school career that I first learned of Ted Corbitt but it was years later that I came to better know and appreciate what he gave to distance running and in particular, what he gave to Black Men in America. As I sat in my chair awaiting the unveiling of Ted’s bust, I was struck by the number of black men in attendance. I still have vivid memories of starting cross country races at Van Cortlandt Park my freshman year at Rice, races that had up to 200 or more runners and not seeing anyone on the starting line that looked like me. I was proud to see that we were so well represented and I wondered what Ted would think of Black Men Run, an organization whose mission statement reads – “To encourage health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running/jogging to stay fit resulting in “A Healthy Brotherhood.” I only recently became aware of this organization – their moment is growing – they have groups in Atlanta, New York City and Philadelphia with others locations starting up.
At the conclusion of the unveilingl program, I quickly thanked Gary Corbitt for all that he has done to promote his father’s legacy and to support and strengthen the participation of Black-Americans in all aspects of track and field and distance running through his research and writing. I was then off to catch my train back to Philadelphia. I reached home around 9:00 PM and was welcomed by my wife, Doris S. Cochran-Fikes, who is the joy of my life and the person who provides me with continuous inspiration simply by being herself. How did I get so lucky.
If you have interest and or want to learn more about Ted Corbitt, Gary Corbitt and/or Black Men Run, please Goggle them, you will be inspired.
Stay well.

Dear George:
I heard about Ted Corbitt very soon after I began distance running in 1947.  He was beginning to be a legend even then.
However, a story I heard (or read) about him has always stuck with me.
Apparently, Ted used to run to work in the morning and run home at night as a regular part of his training.  His route went past one of New York's famed mental institutions, but I can't remember which one.  He did this for years.
On one morning, Ted was planning to race that afternoon so he cut short his run and was walking when he passed the facility.  A guard at the front gate came out and asked:
"Is anything wrong?"

Ted replied, "No!  Why do you ask?" and the guard answered,  "I've never seen you walk before."  Thom Coyne

V 8 N. 43 Book Review "My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life" by Frank Shorter and John Brant

To read an autobiography of someone who was a contemporary, though miles above one's own abilities in the sport of long distance runni...