Friday, February 9, 2018

V 8 N. 9 A Mystery Solved or Why I Love This Blog!!

Two days ago, my good friend and fellow blogger, John Cobley,  see   (RACING PAST)
sent me the picture just below with these words.

George: Did I ever send you this amazing photo?  Who? Where? When?  I know; can you deduce?  John

PS  It’s not the Tour de France!!!!!!!

How much drama can you find in one picture?  This one sure has a truckload.  Bicycles crashing.  A lone runner.
Is that the Arc de Triomphe? Look at the cinematographer standing on top of an old Peugeot!    John gives us his only clue, "It's not the Tour de France".  But he's telling us it is France. It possibly is the Arc de Triomphe in the background, the runner may be on the Champs Elysee.  What is the occasion?  It could be another bike race,  the Paris Roubaix  or the Paris Brest Paris.   Unless you absolutely recognize the runner from the get go, you can only speculate.  

I sent the photo out to a few friends who might have a clue.  Phil Scott, an avid track nut and cyclist looked right away and noted the absence of brakes on he bikes putting it into the 1920s or 30s.  The head lamp on the car to the left could go back to the early 20s.  I looked up the 1925 Bentley roadster, and it had big lights like the one on the left.  But the car holdihng the cinematographer looked much more modern, so I began checking out  pictues of Peugeots from the mid 1920s onward.  Only in the early 1930s did the windscreens start having a curved upper frame.  Before 1930 they were 90 degree corners on the top of the windscreens.  So we're into the 1930s.  Some of the cyclists are clearly in racing uniforms, but others are dressed more in civilian outfits.  But some of the early Tour de France cyclists did dress rather civilian.  But then there is at least one motorcyle in the peleton.  Are they chasing the runner, has he cut in front of them?  It's still not clear to me, and it won't become clear until I know more about the man and can identify the occasion.   It seems that this event is important enough that cinematography is being used to record it.  Therefore this guy is of great importance.  He sure as hell looks like a trained runner.  It is almost remeniscent of a chase scene in a Buster Keaton film.

I'm wondering if this is truly the Arc de Triomphe or some other lesser Arc in Paris or elsewhere in France.  Did Paris Roubaix start in Paris?  Today it starts out in the suburbs as did the 1924 Olympic marathon in Paris.  But checking back on the history of Paris Roubaix, from 1925 - 1937  the race started at Porte de Maillot which had an Arc.  Could this be the case?  I was beginning to run out of ideas.  I checked out some of the French runners of the 1930s but did not find this chap, although I should have.  It just didn't click.  How could an American know about all the French middle distance runners of the early 20th century?  I should have checked further and looked for French world record holders.

Among the folks I sent the picture to were Jerry McFadden and Jose Sant.

 Jerry wrote back:

I do not have a clue on who the runner is, or the date or event, but I would bet even money the monument in the background is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Under my magnifying glass the sculpture looks like the "Le Départ of 1792" and the "Le Triomphe 1810."  The roof of the arc has been cut off. They could not do this now-a-days as through traffic through the circle has been cut off.

But the event is big enough to be followed by cars & photographers & motorcyclists (on the right). with a large crowd of spectators. 

Would love to hear the final conclusion.


Jose  sent this

Salut George , j’ai trouvé le nom du coureur Jules Ladoumègue dit " Julot  «  Année 1935  Il a couru suivi du peuple de Paris de la Porte Maillot à la place de la Concorde pour fêter une victoire en Russie . J'espère que cela répond à ta question.
"Hey, George, I found the name of the runner,  Jules Ladoumegue, called  "Julot".  The year 1935.  He ran followed by the people of Paris from la Porte Maillot to the Place de la Concorde to celebrate a victory in Russia.   I hope that answers your question.

The clip is over 8 minutes long.  Published by INA. France.  You can look at it but your time is limited to about 30 days on the site without paying a subscription.  If you browse on the site you'll find a lot of other rtrack films.
On the link above there are several sections
0:00-2;30  film of Ladoumegue running in the Bois de Boulogne in 1963
2:30-3:49  Ladoumegue in action in the 1920s or 30s.  Races look like they were paced.  
3:49-4:30  film of Ladoumegue running at the age of 56.  Still looking very fit.  Place is his home stadium Jean Bouin.
4:30-5:39  The run in the steets of Paris from the original photo that  started this quest.
5:29-8:30  Ladomegue at his job broadcasting and also working with street kids giving encouragement.

John Cobley has translated from Ladoumegue's biography Dans Ma Foulee

"In 1935, Ladoumègue ran what he called “the most beautiful race of my life.” (DMF, p. 173) The newspaper Paris-Soir arranged for him to make a ceremonial run down the Champs Elysee. “The citizens of Paris were invited to come and demonstrate against the bias of the [athletic] Federation and to show sympathy for my situation,” he wrote. (173) According to Ladoumègue there were 300,000 people lining the famous avenue; later reports all say there were 400,000. Ladoumègue himself found it a frightening experience as people swarmed around him and wanted to touch him."
The bias John refers to is the banning of Ladoumegue from amateur competion for having accepted fnancial support.  He was not even allowed to run on his club track during that banning, and he could not run in the 1932 Olympics where he would have been the favorite in the 1500 meters.
Compare this today with the outpouring by the citizens of Philadelphia for their Super Bowl Champions.  Ladoumegue was only one man.

Jerry then replied.

History: Jules Ladoumegue 
  • Silver Medal in 1500 in 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. 
  • 1930 - World record 1500 in 3:39.15 (1st to break 3:50 in 1500) + WR 1,000M in 2:23.06. 
  • World Record mile in 1931 in 4:09.2 + 2K WR in 5:21.8
  • The film: The French Sports Federation banned him for life for accepting payments for racing & the run was set in 1933 to honor him on a running tour through Paris. He was the only runner with a massive crowd lining & following the run.

Personal Anecdote  (Jerry's)

I actually trained  with Jules a coach in Paris for a few months in 1971. He was coaching at the sports club Stade Francais. He was in his early 50's at the time. His was still pencil thin but did not look like the young guy in the photo or film. I knew about his world records but knew nothing of the film or solo run way back when. He was a hard coach, fixated on fast intervals. He got pissed at me one time when I jumped over two hurdles in the second lane while running 300 repeats with the group - Told me that if I had the energy to hurdle while doing intervals I should be out front in the 1st lane pulling the group along.

Jules died in 1973.

Now that I had a name, I googled 'Jules Ledoumeque'.   This led me to a picture of Jules, and I immediately noticed that the picture was from an artcle on John Cobley's blog  Racing Past

Jules Ladoumegue  clik here to read John's story about Ladoumegue.

So that's how the puzzle was solved.

Back Story

So how did these relationships between Jerry, Jose, John, and myself come to be?

1963  Jerry and I raced against each other several times when he was at U. of Missouri and I was at U. of Oklahoma.  He won both races easily.  He placed second at the Big 8 Conference in the mile in 4:05 that year.

1964  Jerry went on to the Peace Corps and served as a coach in Morocco.   It was there that he met Jose who was one of his students.

1965 Not knowing anything about Jerry's Peace Corps service, I too went in the Peace Corps in Tanzania.
We both met and married women with French backgrounds, his wife from France, my wife from Quebec.

1964-1974  We had both moved to our wives' countries and remained in the sport.    Jose had emigrated to Quebec where I was living and we met each other while coaching Quebec athletes.  When Jose learned I had been in the Peace Corps he immediately asked if I knew Jerry McFadden.  By chance I did know of Jerry, but not his connection to the Peace Corps.   For the next 35 years or so, whenever we met, Jose would always pester me about where  Jerry might be.

2009  when we started this blog, I began learning of the power of the internet to connect people and did a search for Jerry and found a phone number  in Bethlehem, PA.  I called the number, and it was the Jerry I was looking for.  Right away I told him about Jose being in Montreal.  By that time Jose had risen through the ranks of coaching in Canada and was working with several of the top Canadian sprinters including Bruny Surin.
I was able to  connect the coach and his former runner, himself now a coach.

Jerry and I have had a great relationship ever since.  He's visited my family in Ohio.  He's always gone to the bookstalls on the banks of the Seine when he returns to France.  There he has found magazines and photos and supplied this blog.   Back in the 70s Jerry wrote several articles for Runners World in its early days. 

Jerry and some of his young athletes

Jerry leading a mile race in Morocco

Jerry at the line, with Jose behind the flag
encouraging their friend Medhi Jaouhar who would
go to U. of Houston and then to Canada.

Recently this video of Jose and one of his current athletes Annie Leblanc was promoted in Canada by Petro Canada.  Annie is a former U. of Oregon runner, multi-time All American and member of the Canadian Olympic team.  Her mother Chantal Derosiers was also a Canadian Olympian in 1980.

Annie Leblanc and Jose Sant

George, John Cobley, and Geoff Williams in Vicotoria, BC

John Cobley comes into the picture, since I moved back to Canada in 2013.  We both live on Vancouver Island and have met and exchanged stories and books several times over the past five years.  Only two weeks ago we had dinner in Victoria with mutual friend Geoff Williams who has seen many of the great races in London back in the 1950s.  John is from Brighton in England and came to the US on a running scholarship at BYU.  While John was  there, Lasse Viren spent a semester, but quickly returned to Finnland.   John found his way to British Columbia and for many years was chief chronicler for British Columbia Track and Field.  He was also a university English instructor.  The Russian language also another of John's many interests , and he still translates Russian poetry.  Besides his incredible track blog on distance running, John is also doing a blog on jazz and the arts.  That blog can be seen at 

   That's really fascinating as to how the group could figure out more about that picture.  I never heard of Jules Ladoumegue but he was quite a character, one who deserves recognition in your blog.  Hats off to those sleuths who got to the bottom of this picture.  With that group still walking the earth I will try extra hard not to commit a crime.  I loved the film clip about Jules.     Bill Schnier

I find your blog stories quite fascinating. Today’s French mystery was great. Thank you for doing these. I believe I told you how much I enjoyed the 1967 stories. That was a veritable summer of track for me:
Pan American Games
USA vs Europe 

Your friend.

Bob Roncker

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