|Orville Atkins on left with Wilbur Williams and John Bork|
Orville Atkins was raised in the north of Ontario, not far from the taiga and tundra in a town called Timmons. Not the best place to become a running legend and folk hero. He eventually came south to study in Toronto and became part of the pre running boom in the early 1960s as a member of the East York Track Club with fellow legends to be, Bruce Kidd, Bill Crothers, David Bailey and Coach Fred Foot being the most notable. Orville was for awhile, Canada's best marathoner finishing high at Boston and winning the first Chicago marathon as well as the oldest race on the continent, the Round the Bay in Hamilton, Ontario.
I never met Orville, nor did I ever talk by phone, but we did correspond and trade stories on numerous occasions after this blog got underway. I cannot remember how we first came in contact. Orville wrote frequently on the Runners Lounge discussion group on Lets Run and also on a thread for Track and Field News.
In 1964 he and several friends moved to Los Angeles to train with the LA Track Club and from there went on to watch the Tokyo Olympics. I learned about this when a few years ago the chief statistician for the IAAF contacted us to see if we would provide him with the heat and lane assignments of all the runners in the 200 meters prelims. I had no idea where that might be found, but I forwarded his request to Orville. In no time, Orville came back with the information. He had his program from the meet, and he had written down all that information as it occurred. He also mentioned that as he was in the stands it looked like a heavy rain was about to fall and he recommended to the somewhat older lady sitting next to him that perhaps she would be wise to return to the hotel before the rain cut loose. She replied that she could not. She was waiting to see the finals of the 5000 meters as her son was running in that race. She was Bob Schul's mother.
Orville once sent me copies of all of East York TC's workouts. My computer crashed with that information, and I was never able to retrieve it. But in looking over several places on the internet today I began finding clues and traces of his writings and some of those workouts. Below are a few links if you are willing to explore.
|Orville in the lead pack at Boston 1962|
Here are some of the other tracks that Orville has left behind, and I hope that you all find some joy looking through them.
Keep Running the Good Race, Orville,
Orville Atkins views of the sport This piece by Orville appeared in the blog Run Westchester by Joe Garland.
A few of Orville's commentaries on Lets Run
What Orville's friends are now saying about him on Lets Run
Runner This piece by the Canadian Film Board features the East York Track Club and specifically Bruce Kidd. Orville can be seen only briefly at 5:04 min. in the film about third place on the curb in dark shorts. The quality and clarity for the age are exceptional, and it can bring back the mystique of running in a group at practice. The 2 mile race at the end is the least important and the commentary is off the rails not mentioning the lead runner for the first mile, but again you can almost feel the heat and the dry cinders in your shoes and see a race almost sixty years ago in North America surrounded on all sides by spectators intently interested. Not a smart phone in site.
|This is where Orville appears briefly in the film 'Runner' dark shorts on curb|
|An old clipping of one of Orville's many wins|
John Bork mentioned Orville today on FB
My great friend & marathoner, Orville Atkins , passed away on Sunday 2/25/18 . I was able to be with him here in Camarillo just an hour before his passing. Orville was one time Canadian Marathon Champion with East York Track Club & 5th place in the 1962 Boston Marathon. Winner of the very first Windy City Marathon. (We've been corrected, in that this was not the first Chicago Marthon. That was in 1977, won by Dan Cloeter in 2hr 17min. 52 sec.) Orville completed over 40 Marathons. I had the pleasure of coaching Orville to his best times in 1966-1968 after we both left the LA Track Club. In recent years Orville & I had many enjoyable lunches together at Coogies Resturant in Santa Monica!
This morning, David Bailey sent this remembrance.
Dear John and George:
I was really sorry to hear about Orville's passing.
Although I did not know him on a personal basis, we had corresponded by email and I remember seeing him win that first Chicago Marathon. I always found him to be a friendly and knowledgeable gentleman.
Good men are hard to find. It is extra sad when we lose one.
You can tell from the comments about Orville Atkins that he was truly a good and decent person. Also a superior runner even if Igloi said he had no talent. I suspect he had talent in his unseen muscles and capillaries. Bill