Tuesday, June 2, 2015

V 5 N 46 Laszlo Tabori, 60th anniversary of his 4:00 mile

While sitting here in the kitchen trying to put my thoughts in order on the Prefontaine Classic,  I received the following letter from John Bork (Western Michigan University NCAA 880 Champ, 1961) relating his experience attending Laszlo Tabori's party celebrating 60 years since his first sub 4 minute mile.  I've added a few pictures to enhance the letter.  Many thanks, John for writing this.

Tabori, the third man to run the mile in less than 4 minutes (3:59) on May 28, 1955,
defeating Chris Chataway and Brian Hewson.
In his career he also set the world 1500 meters record and
finished 4th in the 1500 and 6 in the 5,000 at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
Dear Friends:

Yesterday Ron Larrieu and I attended Laszlo Tabori's 60th. Anniversary celebration of his historic sub for minute mile,   held at  Westlake Village Hyatt Hotel only 20 minutes from my home in Camarillo.

Neither Ron nor I knew quite what to expect.. 
We hoped that we could hook up with some of our old LA Track Club teammates but, we soon discovered that Laszlo, Ron and I were the only LA Track Club past members in attendance.
Joe Douglas of the  now Santa Monica Track Club a la Duane Soloman and  Carl Lewis was out of town. Coach Merle McGhee did not attend..Merle was actually Johnnie Grey's Coach during his development and greatest successes. 

But, there was a very nice crowd of  perhaps 75-120 people

When we walked in we could see some  hors d' oeuvres" and an obvious book signing was going on. So we bought Laszlo's  new and only book. 
(I plan to pass mine on to Dick Greene in Las Vegas.)

The small ballroom had large poster blow ups of Laszlo's finest race moments and pages from Track and Field News of his exploits.

The only thing that was frustrating is the folks hosting this for Laszlo failed to have name tags.
I suggested this and they gave Ron, Coach Len miller (US-Irvine/Steve Scott) and me name tags and thanked us for a "great idea". But that's as far as it went.
So we knew that we were were now stuck with going up to people who we hadn't seen in fifty years and guessing who they might be.
I struck up a conversation with Len Miller (Steve Scott's Old Coach), who joined us as the same table along with Mark Covert who was probably the best runner (collegian) that Laszlo coached.
Mark now coaches at Antelope Valley Junior College out in Lancaster-Palmdale.
Lazlo never seemed to want to follow in Igloi's footsteps and be "the world greatest elite coach.
Instead it become apparent during testimonials that followed a truly great buffet dinner
that Laszlo coached any and  all who came to him.- As long as they would work hard and could take the pain. A number of his runners told how they came to both love and hate seeing his little red Volkswagen drive up to the track. 

Ron and I had a nice chat with Laszlo, before the formalities began. Ron and Lazlo knew each other quite well. I had to explain a little who I was because I only met Laszlo briefly on 3-4 occasions in the Fall of 1963 when I began my training under Igloi and Laszlo was phasing out of serious competition. I reminded Lazlo of going up to him before a workout and asking him how to survive under Igloi. Laszlo's advice to me back then was ," Oh' don't worry about the old Man!". 

After having a very engaging talk with Coach Len Miller, Mark Covert showed up and sat between us. Oh !. for a name tag! I hadn't seen Mark in 35 years or so and he looked very different. He actually looked better than I remembered him as a strong looking ,long haired runner of the 60-'s-70's. Now as a coach and teacher he is more polished.

The nicest thing that  happened for me was when the buffet was served, Len Miller noted that I was carrying a single crutch, to support my right knee, as I recover from Arthroscopic knee surgery and offered to get my buffet dinner for me. I don't know anyone on the planet other than
Lisa who would have offered to do that for me. - Now "I'm a Len Miller fan for life!

On the other hand it was hard to see some of the people we knew "back when" and see how much we all have aged.

I was happy to see my old S.Cal. Strider counterpart Pete Petersons, who coached Strider distance men for many years. Eventually he became  a Nike Rep as he moved towards retirement.  
When I decided to make a come back in 1967-68 I ran in Pete's group for a year and produced a 1:50.6. But, in my final come back race I could feel my hamstring tightening up
and tell me "don't you dare go into "5th, gear" or you will pull me again. So ,I retired somewhat, happily, with a sense that I could still do the work, compete and run a respectable time,
That's when I began working for Blue Ribbon Sports and Phil Knight and became the Striders A.D.  Both Pete and his wife Joyce looked great and in good health.

When I was at Blue Ribbon Sports Ron Allice, Now the retiring USC Track Coach, after 18 years used to buy Tiger Shoes from us for his Long Beach City College teams.. 
You knew back then that he was going to be a strong effective Coach.

Coach Allice was in the crowd and when I identified him and tried to get over to chat with him. But, he was in a circle of 3-4 guests and I chose not to intrude. Darn. it was too late and we were about to leave. Ron Allice brought in Laszlo as his distance coach for about 7 years at USC. (One of our Camarillo runners, Ted Price, was coached by Lazlo at USC

The  12-15 testimonials were  all heart felt. Most were heart warming. A few were a little hard to get behind  - as we heard a lady or two tell how Laszlo got them qualified for Boston. (Yes, I'm an elitist.). 

It really brought home the realization that Laszlo Tabori's contribution to track and field did not end with a sub four minute mile or his 5-6 place finish in the 1956 Olympic Games 
but, extended beyond to over 50 years of coaching who ever came out to this San Fernando Valley track and asked for coaching!  

So, When we toasted Laszlo's racing and coaching career it covered everything!

Defeating Michel Jazy


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