Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Sunday, October 29, 2017

V 7 N. 71 Some Great Photos from the Book Stalls Along the Seine

Our good friend and contributor Jerry McFadden sent along a series of photos he culled from track magazines he finds when he travels to France.  These are from the late 60s, probably taken from Miroir d'Athletisme  the French equivalent of T&FN .  

Bob Beamon  8.05 at Europe vs Americas

Willie Davenport over Earl McCollough , Eddie Ottoz, and Tzmiel at Europe vs Americas

 Poster from the Europe vs, Americas in Montreal, Aug. 1967

Ron Laird 1967

Tommie Smith

Peter Snell
Hi George
I was looking at some of the photos and saw the one of Peter Snell.
He came to South Africa during the sixties, he was the world record
holder in the 880yds in those days.
In was asked if I would be the rabbit for the race which I thought would
be rather cool. I did set a rather good pace for the first lap , which he
thanked me for after the race. After the first lap I felt rather good and
decided to continue the race. With a 150yds to go I was still in front and
really felt I had a chance for a major upset. Being a 440yds runner myself
what I did not realize was that those guys only started to run at that stage.
When Snell passed I felt I was standing still, then to rub it in the rest of
the field also kicked passed me.
That was the last 880 I attempted.

Bob Seagren

Gerry Lindgren

Juergen May beats Keino  3:53.8 in New Zealand

Roger Moens

Friday, October 20, 2017

V 7 N. 70 Darel Newman, R.I. P.

Darel Newman in Action

Darel Newman, NCAA 60 yards indoor winner in 1964 and US team member in the 1965 Russian Dual Meet passed away October 10, 2017.  He once ran a 9.2 hand timed 100 yards for Fresno State.

Newman, Darel MaxDarel Newman was born in Reedley, CA on August 6, 1943 to George Max Newman and Elsie Newman and passed away on Tuesday, October 10, 2017. From early childhood Darel always enjoyed running and as a result attended CSU Fresno on an athletic scholarship. While attending Fresno State he had a successful track and field career and become a world class sprinter with several world records to his credit. During his track career he was affectionately called the "Bald bullet" for his lightning like performances which included several West Coast Relays in Fresno. During the cold war Darel went to Russia with the U.S. Track and Field team. There he tied a world record and was named Athlete of The Meet.
After his Track career Darel taught high school and coached many young athletes in Santa Ana, California. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

V 7 N. 69 R.I.P. Fred Abington (Vanderbilt) and Bill Donakowski (Michigan)

Two deaths to report,  Bill Donakowski  University of Michigan great and Fred Abington, early SEC national class miler in the 1950s at Vanderbilt.  Abington's death as yet is unconfirmed.  He had been living in South Africa for many years.  Information came to us from an anonymous source.

Here is the piece we  posted on Fred several years ago.
Fred Abington

"I new Fred in Cape Town, South Africa. He passed away yesterday."   Richard Wooding

Track & Field News reported Bill Donakowski's passing today October 18, 2017 at the age of 61.
He was Big Ten cross country champion in 1977.

William "Bill" Donakowski Obituary

William "Bill" of El Sobrante, CA, age 61, of El Sobrante, California passed away on October 15, 2017. Born in Flint, Michigan Bill grew up in Dearborn Heights. He attended Riverside High School and the University of Michigan. He excelled in athletics and academics. Bill was All-State in track and cross country. He graduated from the University of Michigan with degrees in architecture and engineering. As a distance runner at Michigan he was the 1977 Big Ten cross country champion, captain of the track team, and won multiple All American honors. Bill worked for Rockwell International and the Space Sciences Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, designing instruments and payload compartments for NASA satellites. While immersed in his aerospace career, he continued running and was the US Marathon champ in 1986 (Twin Cities Marathon, 2:10:41). Bill also invented a hubless caster and a linear actuator, for which he received utility patents in the US and China. Through his many accomplishments, Bill was always a humble gentleman who was gracious to all.

Another fitting piece to print with the above news is a tribute to a  deceased high school cross country coach in Ohio, Gordon Downie, not to be confused with the front man for the Canadian band The Tragicly Hip who passed away last night,  October 17, 2017.  The Ohio Coach Gordon Downie died in 2015.  Many runners  can relate to this story through the  sentiment he or she might be lucky to have when thinking of that first coach who got you going in your running career.  Thanks to Phil Scott for sending this piece to us.

From a Southeastern Ohio journal called  The Trib.  Not sure of its origin.

Remembering 'Coach': An appreciation of Gordon Downie
by COLIN MCNICKLE Saturday April 4, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
We laid a great man to rest on Saturday afternoon in the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle.

“We” were the once-inseparable friends who were teammates on the early and mid 1970s championship cross-country teams at Martins Ferry High School, a hop, skip and, usually, a run across an Ohio River bridge (sometimes, even a train bridge) in the neighboring Buckeye State.

The “great man” was our coach, Gordon Downie, who died at the age of 81.

Too light for football and too short for basketball — and seeking to break out of the nerdy statistician role I had played for the seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams — I decided in the late summer of 1972 that I would join the cross-country team. Brothers Scott and Kevin had been “harriers” in the 1960s. (Far bigger brother Shannon played football.)

“At least I can run,” I reasoned, recognizing my limited athletic options but not ready to surrender my athletic desires.

All of 14, I presented myself to Coach Downie, all of 38, on the first day of school my freshman year. “So you want to be a cross-country runner,” he said, sizing up the scrawny kid, then just shy of 5-foot-6 and barely 110 pounds, hair approaching his shoulders.

“Cut that hair and you can run faster,” he said with a wink (an observation that would be a running joke for the next four years). “Have you done much running?”

“I've run several laps around our field at my house,” I told him, all puffed up and full of myself.

Coach looked bemused.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication,” he cautioned, refraining from dismissing my woefully meager preparation while recognizing the hint of rare adolescent initiative.

“Discipline,” he added.

And discipline is what Coach Downie instilled — not through ranting or raving and certainly not through embarrassing anyone.

Over the next four years, there were thousands of miles of long-distance road work (easily more than 15,000 miles for most of us, and that's no exaggeration, and oftentimes morning, noon and night), “pacing” work at the stadium track and excruciatingly challenging hill work — sprinting up the steepest and longest city street inclines Coach could find, then “striding out” at the top for 100 yards.

And more often than not, Coach Downie was running right with us.

The harder Coach pushed us, the harder we worked. And, by Jove, the “luckier” we got. Those Martins Ferry teams dominated not only Ohio Valley cross-country but the sport in the eastern half of Ohio. Led by Bruce Smith, one of the top runners in the nation in his era, we scored multiple sectional and divisional championships and multiple trips to the state championship meet. Bruce twice was the individual winner (and twice more the champion in the two-mile run in track).

It was that same discipline that laid a great foundation for countless boys to become proper young men and, later, good and decent adults.

“He truly was a mentor and inspiration to me,” teammate Charlie Cunningham wrote on Coach Downie's funeral home tribute page. “He has touched me in many ways during my journey along life's path.”

But as foundational as that discipline was, another teammate, Mike Frazier, reminded me last week of another important lesson from Coach. “Yes, he was a good disciplinarian, motivator and leader,” Mike wrote in a text. “But he also allowed us space and room to grow and to be ourselves.”

Once wrote John Ruskin, one of the leading art critics of the Victorian Era, “Every great man is always being helped by everybody, for his gift is to get good out of all things and all persons.”

Gordon Downie had a great gift for making the best out of every situation and for getting the best out of every athlete he had the privilege to coach.

But Coach, here's a little secret: The privilege really was all ours.

Friday, October 13, 2017

V 7 N. 68 May, 1967

MAY 1967

    Let's say you have the power to transport yourself back half a century to April and May of 1967 and can watch one meet. Which would you choose: Mt. SAC Invitational, Drake Relays, Penn Relays, West Coast Relays or San Jose Invitational? Be careful.....Are you sure?....Really?......Well, you're wrong as you will agree when you have read further.
    April 28-29 has more track than you can shake a baton at. Working our way across the county we have Penn, Drake and Mount SAC. This edition of the Penn Relays is significant because Franklin Field has entered the 20th century. Yes, the venerable cinder track on which the first 72 meets have been run has been replaced by a $200,000 Tartan track and the results are spectacular. The meet record in the mile relay had been 3:11.8. Rice clips nearly five seconds from that with a 3:06.9 clocking and the other five teams in the final all qualified with sub 3:11.4 clockings.
    The highlight of the Drake Relays, viewed by a capacity crowd of 18,000, is Jim Ryun's celebration of his 20th birthday. On Friday night he takes the baton on the anchor leg of the four mile relay down 50 yards to Kansas State's Conrad Nightingale. With winds gusting as high as 36 mph, he isn't able to close much ground on the first three laps, but on the last lap the magic that is Jim Ryun is on display with a 54.0 finish to catch the K-Stater 15 yards from the tape with a split of 3:59.1 for a total time of 16:43.0.
Not the same race described but a similar result.  This was 1969
    Saturday afternoon sees Ryun getting the baton for the anchor mile of the distance medley just a few steps behind Georgetown's Bob Zieminski. He catches, then follows Zieminski with laps of 56.8, 62.5 and 62.4 before shifting into overdrive. His 53.9 final go round produces a 3:55.6 mile and brings the Jayhawks home in 9:33.8, the fastest DMR ever recorded, two tenths better than UCLA's 9:34.0.

Conrad Nightingale
Dr. Conrad Nightingale now runs the Hill Country Veterinary Clinic
in Bandera, TX

Ed. Note:  Both men would go on to represent the US in Mexico City, Ryun at 1500 and Nightingale in the Steeplechase.
    Most of the 10,000 watching the Mt. San Antonio Relays will opine that the winds harmed the meet. The discus throwers will disagree as the 25 mph quartering gusts delight the big boys. Jay Silvester, returning after a year off with a shoulder injury, throws 203-6. Bill Neville cranks out 202-9 and Jon Cole throws 199-4.
Jay Silvester
    How often do you get the two best college teams in the country going against each other in a dual meet these days? Okay, let's rephrase that. How often do any teams have a dual meet? Return with us now to those golden days of yesteryear, specifically May 6, 1967 when the Trojans of USC and the Bruins of UCLA tangle for the mythical dual meet national championship.
    The Trojans win 10 of the 15 events but the Bruins take 14 second places and win both relays to score a lopsided 83-62 win. Earl McCullouch gets a great start and beats Ron Copeland in the highs in a slightly wind-aided 13.3 to 13.4. McCullouch also takes the long jump in 25-2¼. Lennox Miller takes the sprints in 9.4 and 20.6. SC's Geoff     Vanderstock and UCLA's Roger Johnson come off the last hurdle in the 440 intermediates together but Vanderstock wins the run in 50.2 to 50.6, the fastest times in the world this year. Bob Seagren vaults 17-0½, his bestin six weeks. Gary Carlsen takes the discus at 196-8.
    In essence, the meet comes down to the relays which the Bruins win by oh, such a slight margin. The 440 relay sets the tenor of the day with the Bruins team of Bernard Okoye, Don Domansky, Ron Copeland and Harold Busby coming out on top by a tenth in a world and college record tying 39.6, but not American record as the first two are foreigners.
    By the time the mile relay is run the meet has been decided, but the Bruins aren't letting up, winning by two tenths in 3:11.1, Had the Trojans taken both relays, it would have been a one point meet in which a Bruin stumble could have been the decider.
Remember our challenge to pick one meet? The West Coast Relays might bear some consideration. The first balmy weather of the season combined with a “lightning fast” (dirt) track produce two world records, three American records and four collegiate records.
    Bud Winter has preached world record at Fresno to his San Jose State 880 relay team. The four young men do not disappoint. Ken Shakelford leads off in 21.1. Bob Talmadge stretches the lead with a 20.5 leg. Lee Evans takes off too soon and has to slow to keep from running out of the zone thus producing a less than optimal (for him) 21.1. Not to worry, as Tommie Smith is on the anchor leg, And what an anchor leg it is, 19.4, the fastest 220 split ever recorded. The Spartan foursome delight their coach with a 1:22.1 clocking, reducing Abilene Christian's record set in 1958 and again in 1961 by half a second. Without Evan's faux pas, one wonders how low the record would have gone. Actually it's a two for one special as the 800 meter record goes in the books as well.
    These guys aren't sitting in the stands, downing hot dogs and cokes. No, 35 minutes later the same quartet is up for the mile relay. This time the lead off duties fall to Talmadge who responds with a 47.5 effort. Shakelford holds the lead with a 46.4 second lap. So far, so good, but no indication of what is to come. Evans makes up for his earlier impatience by joining Smith in the “fastest split ever” club with a 44.2. Smith's 45.3 is nearly a disappointment. The 3:03.5 clocking knocks a full second off the American record held by Arizona State and Southern University, but falls seven tenths short of Trinidad's world record.
    May 19 finds us in Eugene for the AAWU meet. Let's take a side trip down the historical acronym trail. The Athletic Association of Western Universities is what the PAC-12 is now.....sorta kinda. The founding group in 1958 was USC, UCLA, Washington and California. Stanford hopped on board a month later. Washington State joined in 1962, followed by Oregon and Oregon State in 1964. The group was also known as the Pac-8.
    Today the one US city that is a track and field hotbed is Eugene. Fifty years ago it was the same. With UCLA and USC coming off that great dual meet, the Ducks of Oregon are facing an uphill climb. Yes, the Trojans and Bruins score big in most events, but the Ducks did then what they do now, dominate the distances. With 80 points in the 880, mile, two mile and steeplechase, the local lads tally 129 points, leaving SC (107) and UCLA (87) in their wake. Superduck, Neil Steinhauer's 66-4¼ is the top mark. SC's and Jamaica's Lennox Miller leads the way for SC with 9.3 and 20.6 wins in addition to anchoring the winning 440 relay in 39.9. Fred Kuller and that football guy, OJ Simpson, take second and third in the 100 in 9.4 and 9.5 and, along with Earl McCullough, help out on the relay
    Tommie Smith and Lee Evans have been running crazy fast splits on San Jose State's great relay teams but they don't run against each other......until the afternoon of May 20 at the San Jose Invitational on their home track. The race will be at 440 yards with the 400 meter and 440 yard world records the obvious goal. The history books need to be consulted to find the last race either has lost. For both of them that would be 1964.
    The stadium seats 1000, no problem for most meets. This day the crowd swells to 5000, “many of them stacked five and six deep standing along the backstretch, others perched on rooftops and more on telephone poles”.
    The record for the 440 is 44.9 set in 1963 by Adolph Plummer. Four hundred and forty yards is 402.3 meters. Obviously Plummer passed 400 meters in less time but as there was no watch at this distance, Plummer's metric record is also 44.9. This tied him with Otis Davis and Carl Kaufman in the 1960 Olympics and Mike Larabee in the 1964 Olympics. Okay, are we clear on this? As their will be times at both distances, today's race will clean up this awkward bookkeeping mess.
    There are others in the race, but the crowd's attention is focused on Tommie Smith in lane three and Lee Evans in four. The problem Evans has is that not only does Smith have better basic speed, but relay legs have proven him to be a great come from behind finisher. What to do?
    At the gun Evan's strategy is obvious, take it out hard, open up a lead and hope to hang on. His 100 meter splits are 10.9 and 21.7, putting him up by two tenths at the halfway mark. In the third 100 Smith switches to his “Tommie-jet” gear, passing his teammate and opening up a three tenths lead at 330 yards in 33.5 seconds. Now it is a matter of holding on and hold on he does, crossing the finish in 44.5 for meters and 44.8 for yards. Evans is clocked at 45.3 for yards. No split is given for meters (Sorry, Lee, we only have one watch at the 400).
    Let's revisit your choice of which meet you would want to see. Unless you picked the San Jose Invitational, we were right, weren't we?
Charley Greene
Bits and pieces: When asked why he wears dark glasses when sprinting, Charlie Greene replied, “For reentry.” note: If you haven't researched Charlie on the internet, it would behove you to do so. Track isn't the only thing he has done well.....Tracy Smith is pleased with Mihali Igloi's coaching regimen. After having run a world leading 8:32.6 two mile in the West Coast Relays, the former Oregon State star says, “I am working harder than I ever thought I could. Coach Igoli has me running five hours a day. But he let me rest before this meet. I only ran an hour this morning.”......Page 17 sports a photo of a high jumper clearing a personal best of 6-10¾ in a flawed execution of a unique style. The caption explains the procedure. “He runs away from the bar, makes his approach, then pivots around on his final take-off.” Simple as that. Okay, kids, you now know enough to try this at home. The jumper is Dick Fosbury, a kid at Oregon State. Wonder if this will catch on.
    Now it's time to take a stroll down Advertisement Memory Lane. Do you remember what you were buying or hoping to buy in 1967? How about the Puma #275 track shoe? Or, if you want a step up, the Puma #295 Mexico with the patented heel protector and unbreakable bottom? These babies have a large foam padded tongue with lacing guide, special rubber reinforcement at the ball of the foot and uppers of Super Kangaroo Suede in red or blue. They're available from Sports Beconta, Inc. in New York or San Francisco. Live in Piqua, Ohio and you'll have to buy from their catalog which also offers glass and steel vaulting poles, javelins, discuses, starting blocks, standards and measuring devices.
    Turn the page and we have ALUMINUM spill proof rocker hurdles that are streamlined, carefree and safe (yes, carefree). They are the first choice for “Tartan” tracks. The catalog is available from Aluminum Athletic Equipment Co., Box 145, Wynnewood, PA 19096.

    The next ad brings a tear to your reporter's eye. “HOW THEY TRAIN” 880 to 6 Miles. Somewhere in a box stored in a cabinet somewhere there is a copy. The cover has been torn and mended with tape. Track and Field News, Box 296 Los Altos, CA 94022.
Half of page 9 is devoted to Nutrament, “the proven pre-competition meal”. Much as you loved it before, it now has 25% more protein and, in addition to chocolate, vanilla and cherry, comes in rich Dutch Chocolate.
    A whole page of stopwatches available from T&F News. Another nostalgic moment. Your reporter had the Minerva 10 second split. It was the most wonderful item he ever held in his hand. Long after his coaching days this marvelous piece of machinery was stored in its box in his desk. Upon occasion it would be taken out, held, started and stopped a couple times and put back. Loaned it to a friend only 6-7 years ago. Thought he got it back, but can't find it. Life in a microcosm.
    Remember Track Newsletter, the mimeographed few pages full of results that “speeds to you each week during the peak of the season by Air Mail.” That would be 24 issues each year for $6.
    Puma isn't the only company with a shoe named for next year's Olympics. The Brooks Mexico City 68 “is the strongest lightweight track shoe ever made”. Yep, lighter than those unnamed German imports. In case your patriotic fervor isn't stirred, the ad writer cuts right to the chase. “America is the best track nation in the world and this American made shoe is the best track shoe in the world.” Hard to counter logic like that.
A quarter of the next page is taken by an ad for the New Balance Trackster which looks like the saddle shoes you wore at the sock hop. The ad writers have hit upon “More Hustle” as the prime selling point. Half the following page is devoted to Riddell Gold Award Racing Shoes which are “fit for action” and give you “more speed, comfort and wear per ounce”. The catalog is available at 2720 S. Des Plaines Ave, Des Plaines, Illinois 60018.
    Of course you remember the ever present ad which always graced the last page. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, concentrate.....yes, there it is, the full page Adidas ad, which in this case promotes the virtues of the Tokyo 64. There are three numbered facts that the good folks in Munich would like you to remember: 1) Adidas was the first to manufacture track shoes with four spikes. 2) If it hadn't been for Adidas there would be no superlight track shoe with removable spikes. 3) Adidas and only Adidas is permitted to sell a shoe of reverse suede kangaroo in the U.S. (That would be the result of US patent no. 3,224,117.)
    Okay, that's it for this month. Remember we'll be meeting at the Dew Drop Inn 5:30 Friday. Last one buys the second round. Be prepared to give a report on Charlie Greene's post track career. Note: that patent number may be on the quiz.        Roy Mason

Editor's Note:   Roy Mason, our esteemed colleague and co-conspirator, writes these wonderful synopses of  T&FN each month sort of.  Well, really whenever he feels like it.  Because he finally got this one out, five months late,  the board has decided that he can stay on staff but at a reduced salary.  Also his office will be moved from a corner room overlooking Monte Carlo, and back down to the broom closet at the end of the hall.

And of further note.   Roy lives in Ukiah, CA and is currently surrounded by the spreading wildfires in that state.  Please keep him in your thoughts as well as everyone else living in that tinderbox.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

V 7 N. 67 Book Review "The Boy Who Runs, the Odyssey of Julius Achon"

Book Review:  The Boy Who Runs, the Odyssey of Julius Achon
                         by John Brant,  Ballantine Books, NY 2016.

There are many, many books on running in the market advancing on the subject from a multitude of angles.  Most seem to be geared toward novice runners looking for a way to get faster.  There are so many promises in those titles that I feel like I'm trolling through a maze  of cosmetics ads and anti-aging creams making impossible promises of impossible dream fulfillment.

However, John Brant has taken on the subjects of international  track racing, the NCAA collegiate scene,  African life both beautiful and tragic, the problems faced by former child soldiers, the big business of the running gear industry, the underside of the Nike Oregon Project, the challenges of creating a viable AID project, the description of a beautiful cross cultural relationship between two men, and woven them all into a concise, readable, book that has put all the above into very simple and understandable terms for someone concerned not only about running but also about the world.

Brant's previous book is Duel in the Sun  describing the 1982 Boston Marathon between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley.

In The Boy Who Runs, we're introduced to a young boy, Julius Achon, who lives in the northern reaches of Uganda near the Sudanese border.  When he was twelve, he was taken prisoner by the Lord's Resistance Army of the infamous pseudo-spiritual leader John Kony and forced to be a gun bearer for one of Kony's soldiers.  Julius witnessed horrific killings of his friends and innocent people over and over while held in the LRA.  He eventually managed to escape and returned to his village and resumed his schooling in the devastated area.  At some point his father told him that if he ever hoped to get out of the area he might want to learn to run like his famous fellow Langi tribal member  John Akii Bua the 1972 Olympic 400 meter hurdles champion.  

Julius took his father's words to heart and started running each morning before school, eventually winning a few local races.  When he hoped to go to a regional meet forty miles away, he could not find anyone to take him there, so he ran the forty miles barefoot to the meet and next day won the 800, 1500, and 3000 meters races.   He went from there to winning the Ugandan junior championships in the same  three races and was offered a scholarship to attend Makerere College in Kampala, the nation's capitol.  In a short time he became a world junior champion in 1500 meters.  That led to an NCAA offer from George Mason University in Virginia from then coach  John Cook.  While there, he won the 1996 NCAA indoor mile in 4:02.83.  He was also MVP at the Penn Relays that year. 

In the meantime, the war in northern Uganda dragged on and Julius' family continued to suffer incredible hardship eventually losing Julius' mother to rebel bullets.  She suffered three days from a shoulder wound that infected and took her life when there was no medical facility to treat her.

Julius would go on to represent Uganda in two Olympics, Atlanta and  Athens, although he would not advance from the early heats.  

His career gradually faded, and he found himself living as a refugee in Portugal. Cook went on to be an early advisor when the Nike Oregon Project began and was able to locate and bring Julius with him to be Galen Rupp's pacer in workouts when Rupp was still a teenager.  

Although he was working for Nike in the Oregon Project and also as a shoe gopher in their on site employees' store, he was not part of the Nike dream as far as a long term career was concerned.   He could earn a few dollars in local road races to make ends meet with his paltry salary he was receiving at Nike.  But what he did do  was vow to go back to Uganda and build a medical clinic in his village of Awake, pronounced  'A-waa-kay'.  The last quarter of the book is about the fulfullment of his dream in partnership with a local Portland businessman and runner Jim Fee.  Eventually even Nike bought into Julius' dream, and employees at all levels of the company would come to support Julius' project.

Brant touches on all the subjects mentioned above, and without being overly critical of any one aspect where injustice seems to exist, he manages to tell a wonderful story about the human spirit and how a seemingly impossible goal can be achieved.  This book can be read in a couple of evenings and  a lot can be learned about how the world functions in good ways and bad, but also what incredible resilience some gifted individuals seem to have in order to survive.  

George Brose

V 7 N. 66 Social Media Posts from Gary Corbitt's Celebrating African American Running History Site

The following are social media posts from July to September, 2017 done by Gary Corbitt on the history of African Americans in the Distance Running World. Printed with permission from Gary. As we find photos of these men and women, we will add them to this piece. Anyone with additional information and photographs should contact Gary Corbitt directly. Contact info is at the bottom of this article.
George Brose

Celebrating African American Running History
African American Middle & Long Distance Running Timeline (1880-1979)
July – September

James T. “Jimmy” Smith
A Great Black Long Distance Runner of His Era
(1913 - 1999)

Running History: July 3, 1937
Jimmy Smith representing Indiana University places 2nd to Glenn Cunningham in the U.S. National Championship 1500 meters.  His time was 3:54.0

In 1936, Jimmy Smith set an Indiana collegiate mile record of 4:11 that stood for 29 years.

He was a business major and graduated in 1938.  He became a public accountant and was owner of Smith’s Big 10 Grocery.

Lillian Greene Chamberlain
The First Ladies of Women’s Running in U.S.

Before there was Joan Benoit Samuelson, Grete Waitz, Nina Kuscsik, and Kathrine Switzer, there were ladies from 1958 to 1966 who paved the way for the sport of women’s long distance running.  There have been many milestones that have taken women’s running from when the longest distance allowed was 220 yards in the 1950s and today where many road races have more women finishers than men.

The names of these pioneer “First Ladies” include Grace Butcher, Chris McKenzie, Pat Daniels, Doris  Brown Heritage, Judy Shapiro Ikenberry,  Arlene Piper Stine,  Julia Chase Brand, Lynn Carmen, Merry Leeper, Sara Mae Berman, and Roberta Bobbi Gibb to name a few.  Also included is African American Lillian Greene Chamberlain and Rose Lovelace Thomas were the earliest women middle distance running champion.

Running History: July 5, 1958
Lillian Greene representing NY Police Athletic League becomes the first* U.S. national champion for  880 yards. Lillian set American records for 880 yards of 2:19.4 and 440 yards of 58.4 in 1958.  She was the first African American to represent the U.S. in the 400m and 800m in international competition.

*Lillian was disqualified and then re-instated.  Florence McArdle had been declared the winner.

Robert Earl Johnson
(1891 – 1965)
The First Great African American Distance Runner
Running History July 12, 1924:
In the cross-country Paris Olympics in 1924, Johnson finished third behind the great Finland duet of Paavo Nurmi and Willie Ritola. Along with receiving the bronze medal and he also led the U.S. cross-country team to a second place silver medal.  Johnson also placed 8th out of field of 43 in the Olympic 10,000 meters in 1924; setting a personal best time of 32:17.

Earl Johnson was a two time Olympian (1920 & 1924). History records him as the first internationally ranked African American long distance runner.  He competed from 1914 to 1926 from distances of one mile to twenty-three miles.  At the time Earl was the only Negro athlete to have made the Olympic team in a distance running event.

Earl Johnson’s U.S. National Championship titles are as follows:
1921 6 Mile Cross-Country
1921 – 1923 5 Mile Track
1921 – 10 Mile Road (victory over Ritola)
1924 10 Mile Road in 54:29 (victory over U.S. marathon Olympians Albert Michelson and James Hennigan)

He finished second to the Willie Ritola in the 1922 Berwick Marathon; a distance of nine and three-quarter miles. His time of 48:36 was just three seconds off the previous course record. The Berwick race has a tremendous history of bringing top college track athletes to race the top road runners. Most of the great runners over the eras starting in 1908 have raced in Berwick, PA on Thanksgiving Day.

Johnson was also a marathon winner.  In 1921 and 1923, he was first in the Detroit Marathon, a 22 mile event whose inadequate distance prevented Johnson’s name from appearing in official marathon histories. His time in 1923 was 2:09 which was 8 minutes faster than in 1921. An illness in 1924 prevented him from running the Boston Marathon that year.

Earl Johnson was born in Woodstock, Virginia and graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore.   He competed for the Edgar Thompson Steel Works AA team near Pittsburgh. He became a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier and managed an African American sandlot baseball team at Edgar Thomson Works.

Rose Lovelace Thomas
The First Ladies of Women’s Running in U.S.

Running History: July 15 -16, 1960
Rose Lovelace representing Cleveland Recreation finished 2nd in the Women 800 Meters trial race for the Rome Olympics.  Pat Daniels set an American record of 2:15.6 in winning with Rose a close second in 2:15.7.    This was an historic race for the following reasons:
*This was the first time the Women’s 800 meters would be contested in the Olympics since 1928.
*Historians consider this the starting point in the evolution of women in long distance running.

Malvin Greston “Mal” Whitfield - 3 Time Olympic Gold Medalist
Reggie Pearman - Relay Anchorman Extraordinaire!

Malvin Greston “Mal” Whitfield
(1924 - 2015)
Marvelous Mal – Three Time Olympic Gold Medalist

Running History: July 22, 1952
Mal Whitfield wins the Olympic 800 meter gold medal over Arthur Wint in 1:49.2.

Mal was considered the greatest middle distance runner of his era.  His record includes two Olympic 800 meter crowns, six world records and eight National AAU titles.   From 1946 to 1955, he won 66 of 69 races at 800 meters.

In 1954, Mr. Whitfield became the first African American to win the James E. Sullivan Award presented each year to the country’s top amateur athlete.

Reggie Pearman
(1924 - 2012)
Relay Anchorman Extraordinaire!

Running History: July 22, 1952
Reggie Pearman places 7th in the 800 meter Olympic finals with a time of 1:52.1.  The race was won by Mal Whitfield.

Reggie won seven national and major collegiate titles for New York University in events of 440, 600, 880 and 1,000 yards.  His fastest times were 47.6 for 440 yards and 1:51.5 for the 880.  His greatest impact came as the relay anchorman for New York University and the New York Pioneer Club.

Fred Ritcherson
High School Phenom

Running History: July 26, 1969
Fred Ritcherson won the U.S. National One Hour Run Championship. His distance was 12 miles, 23 yards and was the third best performance ever by an American on the track. Buddy Edelen and Mike Kimball were the only other Americans to have ever run better at this distance.

Running for Selesian High School in Los Angles, Fred was one the greatest high school distance runners ever.  In 1968 he was Junior National AAU Marathon champion with a 2:27:01. In 1969, he ran 8:55.2 for 2 miles which is one of history’s all-time best high school performances.
He went on the run for USC.

Reader Comment: A great series on track history.  One note about Fred Richardson, he was also a phenomenal High School 2 miler.  In 1969, I took Talawanda’s Gary Cameron  (Oxford, OH)  to the Golden West meet in the High Jump.

I witnessed Steve Prefontaine win the mile in that meet as well as one of the greatest 2 mile races I ever saw.  It was between Fred Richardson and another HS stud who I cant remember off the top of my head.  However, it was a dead heat with one lap to go and both athletes split 60+ to a photo finish.  I believe that Fred was declared the winner, but I’m not certain. The time was 8:55. The meet was held at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento.   The track was a dirt/clay oval.  I recollect that Richardson went on to run at UCLA.  Correction:  USC

Joe Rogers

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt
(1919 - 2007)
“A Founding Father of Long Distance Running”

Running History: July 27, 1952
Ted Corbitt placed 44th in the Olympic Marathon with a time of 2:51:09.  He became the first African American to represent the U.S. in this event.  The race was won by Emil Zatopek who also won the 5,000 & 10,000 meter Olympic races.

This was Ted Corbitt’s 7th career marathon.  He would go on to do the following in the marathon:
Finished a total of 223 marathons and ultramarathons
Never dropped out of a marathon
National Marathon champion in 1954
Won the first Philadelphia Marathon in 1954, when the race was called the Shanahan Marathon.
Won the Canadian Marathon Championship in 100 degree temperature – 1955 – 3:00:05
Recorded a 2:26:44 personal record in 1958
Ranked among the top 3 American marathoners throughout the 1950s
He placed either 1st or 2nd for 11 consecutive years (1952 – 1962) in the New York Metropolitan AAU Marathon Championship.
In 1966, he became the second person in running history to finish 100 marathons.  Mike O’Hara achieved this milestone in 1962.
From May 1969 until February 1981, Ted Corbitt completed more marathons than anyone in the history of the sport.
He was victorious in 12 marathons from 1954 to 1964.
He was the first African American to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in the marathon, and the first to win a marathon national championship.

Dr. Philip Aaron “Phil” Edwards
“Man of Bronze” Canadian Five Times Olympic Bronze  Medalist
(1907 – 1971)

Running History: August 4, 1932
Phil Edwards representing Canada places third in the 1932 Olympic 1500 meters in Los Angeles.  His time of 3:52.8 placed him ahead of American Glen Cunningham.

Edwards earned the name “Man of Bronze.”  Here is his five Olympic bronze medal performances:
1928: Amsterdam – 4 X 400 Meter Relay
1932: Los Angeles – 800 Meters, 1500 Meters, and 4 X 400 Meter Relay
1936: Berlin – 800 Meters

Phil Edwards is a graduate of New York University and McGill University.  He became a highly regarded physician and expert of tropical diseases.

John Youie “Long John”  Woodruff
First Great Black American Middle Distance Runner
(1915 - 2007)

Running History: August 4, 1936
John Woodruff wins the 1936 Olympic 800 Meter Gold Medal in 1:52.9 over Mario Lanzi and Phil Edwards.

Woodrfuff from 1937 until 1941 enlistment into the army was never beaten at the 800 meter distance outdoors.  He won three NCAA 800 Meter titles representing University of Pittsburgh from 1937 – 1939 and was U.S national champion in 1937. His American for 800 meters of 1:48.6 set in 1940 lasted for 12 years.

After college he became an Army career officer, serving in World War 11 and Korea and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Ron Davis
An Outstanding Runner of His Era

Running History: August 23, 1964
Ron Davis representing the Long Island Striders takes 2nd place in the U.S. National 25K Championship held at the New York World’s Fair.  He placed second to John J. Kelley in 1:32:24 on an extremely hot day.

Ron was a member of the San Jose State Cross-Country team that won the NCAA Championship in 1962 where he finished in 6th place.  His specialty was the 3,000 meter steeplechase where he place in the top 6 at NCAA Championships for two years.

He would go on to be a track & field coach for over 40 years both domestically and internationally.

1964 National 25K Championship
This was a seminal race in which most of the east coast runners of this era participated.

Long Distance Log Headline:
John Kelley Captures Senior National 25 Kilo Championship In Blistering Heat as Norbert Sander Falters In Late Stages; Ron Davis Second
Here are the top 75 finishers:
1.       John J. Kelley
2.       Ron Davis
3.       Moses Mayfield
4.       Tom McCarthy
5.       Jim Lombardi
6.       Jim McDonough
7.       Ted Corbitt
8.       Norbert Sander
9.       Jim Green
10.   Gordon McKenzie
11.   Hugh McEleney
12.   Robert Fitts
13.   Fred Betz
14.   Abe Fornes
15.   Browning Ross
16.   Richie Dugan
17.   Scotto Gonzales
18.   John Kelly
19.   Steve Hayden
20.   Jim O’ Connell
21.   Joe Jones
22.   Vince Chiapetta
23.   Herb Lorenz
24.   Bill Schwab
25.   Bill Gibson
26.   Bennett Flax
27.   Colemen Mooney
28.   Leroy Gerber
29.   Bill Greenplate
30.   Art Hall

31.   Vern Ordiway
32.   Abe Assa
33.   Al Williams
34.   Paul Sullivan
35.   Roy Jernigan
36.   Carl Owczarzak
37.   Joe Burns
38.   Clarence Richey
39.   Bernie Wright
40.   Jose Dones
41.   Ken Hagelman
42.   Mike Attena
43.   Ron Gaff
44.   Harry Berkowitz
45.   Ed Dodd
46.   Francis Carver
47.   Ray Kressler
48.   Dave Faherty
49.   Mike Johnson
50.   Sid Smith
51.   Lou Coppens
52.   Carl Gilmore
53.   Ed Stansions
54.   Nat Cirulnick
55.   Bruce MacNaul
56.   Tom Osler
57.   Steve Conroy
58.   Dr. George Sheehan
59.   Greg Weis
60.   Bob Chambers
61.   George Wisniewski
62.   Bob Harrington
63.   Jim Borden
64.   Bob Gatowski
65.   John Long
66.   Pete Levin
67.   Jeff Levine
68.   Steve Harris
69.   Joe Kirby
70.   Kurt Steiner
71.   D. Srothers
72.   Chip Sweeney
73.   George Cushouac
74.   Mike O’ Hara
75.   Hugh Conway

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt (1919 – 2007)
He Helped Invent the Sport of Long Distance Running

Running History: August 1964
Ted Corbitt published the monograph “Measuring Road Running Courses.”  Here’s how he positioned his leadership in course measurement:

“My initiating the accurate course measurement program in the USA is easily the most important thing that I did in the long distance running scene.”

From: Phil Stewart
President Road Race Management
“Besides being an African American Olympic marathoner in 1952, a time when marathon running was far from integrated, Ted Corbitt was the quiet, tireless founder of the measurement and course certification system which allows millions of runners today to know that the courses they run -- be it the Boston Marathon or their local Turkey Trot 5K -- have been accurately measured. This is his remarkable and enduring legacy.”
From: Ken Young
Association of Road Racing Statistician
“Perhaps my most significant interaction with Ted was around 1980 when I visited Ted in NYC with a plan to add four final signatories that would greatly reduce the load that Ted had been carrying by himself.  The demand for certified courses had increased markedly over the preceding few years and I could see the demand increasing still further.  I remember sitting with Ted on the steps outside the NYRRC offices.  Ted agreed and we named four additional final signatories.  Within a couple of years, this led to the formation of the Road Running Technical Committee and the involvement of Pete Riegel.

About this same time, Ted came up with the "short course prevention factor" to add 0.1% to the race distance to help insure that the course was at least the stated distance.  This was an important step in legitimizing road records.  Without Ted's work over the years, a lot of what we take for granted today in the sport of road racing would not exist.”

Herman Atkins
The Greatest Still Standing (38 Years) Black American Long Distance Record!

Running History: September 9, 1979
Herm placed 5th at Nike/Oregon Track Club Marathon in a time of 2:11:52.  The race was won by Tony Sandoval and Jeff Wells who finished in a tie 2:10:20. The race was held in Eugene.

Herm Atkins has held the distinction of being the fastest native born black American marathoner for 38 years. This is truly an amazing running history milestone.

Herm Atkins Accomplishments:
High School: Seattle, Washington – Garfield
College: Arkansas State University & University of Washington
One mile best of 4:04
1973 – 5,000 meters 13:43
1977 – First marathon 2:18
1979 – 9th place Boston Marathon – 2:14:27
1980 – Nike/OTC Marathon – 2:15:09
1993 – Led Snohomish Track Club to a National Masters Cross-Country 10K Championship.

Herm co-owned a running shoe store and was a coach.  He also has served as a police officer in Everett, Washington.

Lou Scott
One of America’s top distance runners in the 1960s

Running History: September 13, 1968
Lou Scott became the second African American ever to make the Olympic team at 5,000.  He finished 3rd in the US Olympic trial qualifying race beating Gerry Lindgren.

In June 1962, Lou won what was known as “Michigan’s Greatest High School Mile Race” over Dick Sharkey in 4:13.2.  He was Michigan Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 1962 and 1963.
He attended Arizona State University and his best times were 4:04.9 for the mile, 8:35.2 for 2 miles, 13:12 for 3 miles, and 13:46 for 5k.
Lou placed 2nd in the 1967 Pan American Games for 5,000 meters.
He competed for the Motor City Striders.

Oscar Moore  “Speed & Grace”
One of the Greatest Road Races in New York City History!

Running History: September 15, 1963
Oscar Moore defeated Pete McArdle in the New York Metropolitan 20K Championship on the New York Road Runners Harlem River 4.01 miles course at MaCombs Dam Park and Yankee Stadium.

It was McArdles’s first defeat in the NY area in 4 years. Four course records were set by Moore.  He ran the last lap in 20:17 to beat the previous one lap record of Jim O’Connell.  He ran the last 2 laps in 40:40 to beat McArdles’s two lap record.

Here are full results:
Senior Metropolitan 20K Championship
September 15, 1963
60 Starters, 46 Finishers
G. William






United AA



Bruce TC







Source: Long Distance Log November 1963

Alan Price  (1947-2015)
An American Centurion Legend

Running History: September 23, 1978  
Alan qualified as an American Centurion for the first time at age 31. His time of 18:57:41 was a new American record for walking 100 miles.
Centurion is a club for which race walkers are eligible who have completed a distance of 100 miles within 24 hours.  Alan Price would go on to do this amazingly 23 times from 1978 to 1993.  

Alan was considered America’s greatest ultra-distance race walker.

Rufus Tankins
Protégé of R. Earl Johnson
“Tankns Winner Of East Pittsburgh Marathon Event”
Rufus Tankins, dusky marathon star of Edgar Thomson A.A. last night added another triumph to his string by winning the 11 mile jaunt staged in connection with Old Home week of East Pittsburgh.  Tankins time was 1 hour, 9 minutes and 42 seconds.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, September 27, 1928

Theodore “Ted” Corbitt (1919 – 2007)
“The Father of Ultramarathon Running in the U.S.”

Running History: September 28, 1969

Ted Corbitt places 2nd in the London-to-Brighton 52.5 mile road race.  It was his 5th appearance at this race, and at age 50. He recorded his fastest time and an American record of 5:38:11.  Dave Bagshaw won in 5:28:53.

*On three occasions (1962, 1964, 1969) he set American Road Records at this distance.
*Ted Corbitt at London to Brighton:

Ted Corbitt a year later sets an American age group (50-54) road record for 50 miles of 5:34:01.  This record still stands and its 47th anniversary is in October.  It should be noted in the 1969 London to Brighton race Corbitt’s estimated 50 mile time was 5:22:06.  There were no timers at the 50 mile mark so this couldn’t be the official record.
*Bernard Gomersall was the dominant ultramarathoner of this era with four London-to-Brighton wins and one Comrades Marathon win.

Reader's comment: George,
Maybe Jerome Walters should be on the list. He was a terrific miler in early to mid 1950’s and ran at SJS and S Calif Striders. He was in the race when Jim Bailey upset John Landy in the LA Coliseum in 1956. He won the OT in 1956 as well.

For More Running History:
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V 11 N. 3 "Quicksilver: The Mercurial Emil Zatopek" by Pat Butcher, a Book Review by Paul O'Shea

When we come across books to review, we know that there is a particular skill set needed to be fair and honest and at the same time literary...