Once Upon a Time in the Vest

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

This is so damn good.....However I never minded running alone (Probably 'cause I could loaf) 

Steve Price

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, 
racingpast.ca.  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, Bellevue.  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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

V8 N. 37 The Southern California Trojan All Everything Track and Field List

Pete Brown, a  dear friend and follower of this blog sent us a link to a data base recently published by Trojan Force a booster group for USC Track.  The co-researchers, collectors, editors, historians of this data base are Russ Reabold and Sam Nicholson.  The data base contains the names, events and times performed by everyone who ever competed for USC.  Events are listed by order, fastest times to slowest times, and no times if the competitors are culled from dual meet lists where non winning times were not given.  The list goes back to 1894 and continues up to 2018.  The women's list is still under construction but expected to be done yet this year.  Amazing work by Russ and Sam.  Congratulations from Once Upon a Time in the Vest.  One minor suggestion to the creators would be further identification on many of the pictures.

Pete who connected us to the data base grew up in the Los Angeles area and attended meets with his dad from the early 1950s.  Pete went on to compete in the 880 for Porterville JC and the U. of New Mexico and has through his personal contacts and loans of material, kept this blog functioning.  His comments when he sent me the information are as follows:
You will find some incredible track tradition here, including my coach at Porterville JC in 1959, Olympic champion Sim Iness (1952), and my 6th grade teacher in 1950, Bob Pruitt, outstanding 880 man. There are some technical issues, but it really is an amazing list in terms of great athletes. It dates back to 1894.

When I was a kid, just getting interested in track and field, SC dominated everything. Mel Patton, Dick Attlesey, Sim Iness, and Parry O’Brien among the first  USC athletes I saw compete in the LA Coliseum. They all either set WR’s or won Olympic Games or both. Los Angeles was a great place to grow up for a track fan.

USC won the NCAA team title 7 times in the 1930’s; 5 times in the 1940’s, 7 times in 1950’s, and 5 times in the 1960’s. They were absolutely dominant---60% of all available NCAA track and field championships in that 4 decade period.

My great friend, history prof at U Kentucky, is on the USC list for the javelin---Eric Christianson.

My dad always talked about the great Clarence “Bud” Houser who is pictured in the shot put section---an Olympic champion and world record holder. Sprinter Charley Paddock was a legend to track fans from
S Calif like Roy, Eric, Dennis and me, as was the great miler Louis Zamperini. Both were before our time, but famous if you lived in Los Angeles.

USC had three of their greatest athletes of all time in the 2018 NCAA meet in Ellis, Norman and Benjamin. That long tradition of USC alive and well.   


The USC Data Base    Clik Here

Friday, June 1, 2018

V8 N. 36 November - December, 1967

Hey we're catching back up to 50 years ago.  Just have to push a little harder to get up to June, 1968.  

This as you all know is a summary of what Track and Field News was putting on their pages.   

    The year has ended not with a bang, but a whimper. More pages in these two issues are devoted to the possible negro boycott of next year's Olympics than reporting of competition.
    Saturday, Nov. 25 is a busy day in the cross country world. The NAIA meet is held in Omaha. The USTFF meet is contested in Fort Collins, Colorado and the AAU meet takes place in ChIcago. Two days later collegiate runners test the 7300 foot elevation of Laramie, Wyoming in the NCAA meet.
    John Mason of Fort Hayes State hauls in Canadian Dave Ellis on a steep half mile incline and holds on to win the NAIA meet by two seconds. Van Nelson is third, five seconds back. Defending champion, Irishman Pat McMahon, finishes fourth 20 seconds behind Nelson. If you remember what school he attended, give yourself a pat on the back. That's right, Oklahoma Baptist. Ellis' Eastern Michigan crew edges Nelson's St. Cloud State squad 85-88.
    Arjan Gelling of North Dakota and Holland overcomes miserable conditions to take the USTFF championship by 70 yards over BYU's Ray Barris. International vet Oscar Moore leads for 4 ½ miles before fading to 6th.

Arjan Gelling Biography   (For the piece we published three years ago on Arjan Gelling.)

 Mike Ryan of the Air Force kicks hard to finish third. Another pretty good runner, Doug Brown, can manage only 14th. How miserable were those conditions? The course, described as “more than six miles” is a trail scrapped from the snow. 108 runners brave the windy 20 degree weather at the 4300 foot altitude. Hot chocolate for everyone.

    The AAU meet in Washington Park is in Kenny Moore's hip pocket from the get go. The former Oregon Duck, now competing for the Oregon TC, knows his capabilities. He stays with Andy Boychuk and Kerry Pearce until the finish is in sight and kicks past for 30 yard victory. “If any big kickers were up with the leaders, I would have run the last two miles very hard. But they weren't, so I waited until the end”. Joe Lynch must be a big kicker because he caught Pearce and Boychuk to take second, seconds behind Moore.
    There are certain axioms that must be accepted; the law of gravity, the rotation of the earth, the danger of running with scissors and ain't no NCAA runner beating Gerry Lindgren. In eight NCAA championships – indoors, outdoors, cross country –, no one has done it and it doesn't happen this day either. He goes to lengths to give them a chance by intentionally arriving two days before the competition. “Altitude affects you the most after two days. I wanted to feel the worst that it could do to me - and I guess I did.” 
     Wearing long johns and gloves to protect against the biting wind and 25 degree weather, he finishes 15 seconds ahead of Arjan Gelling who is doubling back after winning the NAIA race two days ago. Villanova won this meet easily last year. They win this year as well, but just barely. Their fifth man, Ian Hamilton, does the heavy lifting by finishing ten spots ahead of the Air Force's fifth finisher to give the Wildcats a 91-96 victory. Colorado is third with 110.

Enjoy reading your blog while traveling thru Italy! Particularly liked today’s on  XC from 67’, which I’m pretty familiar with since I would hear all the stories in 70’ when I got to USAFA about Ryan, then knowing a lot of the characters from CU and CSU. I have told others about that Lindgren story of arriving two days before the race, but not sure where I had heard it- at least now I can document it!
One small error on the USTF meet- Fort Collins is at 5,000 feet and there’s no where near there that is at 4300- possibly 4800 and its a typo?
Back to Portland tomorrow!

Take care!  Rick Lower

'This from another reader:

Once again, please let me remind you about the difference, often mistaken, between altitude and elevation. The former is the distance above the Earth’s surface, such as an airplane flying 20,000 above the Earth’s surface. That’s altitude.

Elevation is the measure of how high one is on the topography, such as that I live at 5,700 feet above sea level.

Having read this comment I'm reminded that the athletic community frequently juxtaposes the definitions of 'elevation' and 'altitude'.    For years we have been saying that runners have been going to 'high altitude training sites' or 'the Kenyans have certain advantages due to their living and training at high altitude most of their lives'.   Yet they run on the ground at zero altitude.  So it is the elevation which is the determining factor.  Just to confuse the issue some more,  architects use a completely different definition of 'elevation' meaning the view of the surface of a building, but I digress.   

 I'm reminded that I was once flying at an altitude of 100 feet over the south slope of a mountain, but at an elevation of 10,000 feet.    Indeed pilots generally refer to altitude as how high they are above the surface of the earth so that they do not crash into mountain sides.  So do altimeters measure altitude by a radar like device or are they set and adjusted to barometric pressure?   

Google says, "Conventional aircraft altimeters work by measuring the atmospheric pressure at the airplane's flight altitude and comparing it to a preset pressure value. Air pressure decreases by about one-inch mercury for each 1,000-foot altitude increase. ... A higher static pressure causes the wafers to compress.May 11, 2018

I would certainly hope that preset  pressure value is accurate and takes in pressure differentials  due to weather changes.   I guess when in doubt the pilot can always look out the window. 

Another place where altitude and elevation can get one in trouble is parachuting.  I read once that a bunch of skydivers parachuted at the South Pole but forgot to take into account that the South Pole is at a significantly high altitude, such that their standard parachutes were not big enough to slow down their descent in that thinner air and they hit the ground much harder than expected.  

    Nineteen sixty-eight is just around the corner and with it the Mexico City Olympic Games. Sociologist and activist Harry Edwards has suggested that black athletes boycott the games as a means of drawing attention to the plight of the negro in American society. The world's best 200 and 400 meter runners, San Jose State teammates Tommie Smith and Lee Evans, are contemplating a boycott. Will they? Will others join them? Seven pages of the December issue are devoted to this subject. Two pages are filled with essays by T&F News founders Cordner and Bert Nelson and managing editor Dick Drake, counseling against a boycott.

Comments from athletes, retired athletes and others close to the situation:

JERRY PROCTOR: I, as a negro athlete, will go along with whatever the majority of athletes decides. May God be with everyone so that he makes a wise decision.

GAYLE HOPKINS: Who does Harry Edwards think he is? I am over 21. I will make my own decisions.

TOMMIE SMITH: Right now, I'm standing where I stand. If you can come up with some good answers why I shouldn't boycott, I'll listen.

JOHN CARLOS: The motives behind the boycott are alright. Today's Negro is using his own mind and realizes he is being mistreated. If enough athletes boycott, it can be effective.

CHARLIE GREENE: It comes down to a matter of if you are an American or if you are not. I am an American, and I'm going to run.

LEE EVANS: Due to some misunderstanding in previous quotes, I would like to express my gratitude for the help I have received from my coaches, Bud Winter and Ted Banks, both on and off the track. There has been a tremendous amount of pressure on me lately, and they have lessened the burden with the understanding they have demonstrated.

LARRY LIVERS: My own feelings are myriad. But I am convinced of one thing. That the proposed boycott is off base.

JACKIE ROBINSON: I say use whatever means. I feel we have to use whatever means to get our rights here in this country. And I don't go for violence. But when, for 300 years, Negroes have been denied equal opportunity, some attention must be focused on it.

JESSE OWENS: I deplore the use of the Olympic Games by certain people for political aggrandizement. There is no place in the athletic world for politics. It is my own personal experience that the Olympic Games is one of the greatest areas in which personal achievement is rewarded culturally and, eventually, financially and economically.

REV. ANDREW YOUNG, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference founded by Dr. Martin Luther King: Dr. King applauds this new sensitivity among Negro athletes and public figures and he feels this must be encouraged, not discouraged. Dr. King told me that this represents a new spirit of concern on the part of successful Negroes for those who remain impoverished. Negro athletes may be treated with adulation during their Olympic careers, but many will experience the same slights experienced by other Negroes. Dr. King knows that this is a desperate situation for the Negro athlete, the possibility of giving up a chance for a gold medal, but he feels that the cause of the Negro may demand it.

AVERY BRUNDAGE, International Olympic Committee president: These misguided young men were being badly misadvised. If these boys are serious, they are making a very bad mistake. If they are not serious and they are using the Olympic Games for publicity purposes, we don't like it. They would be depriving themselves of an opportunity that comes only once in a lifetime.

Less moderate was mail received by Tommie Smith and Lee Evans.
Smith got this one.  "Thanks for pulling out of the Olympic Games. Now I can be interested in our Olympic team. I quit being interested in watching a bunch of animals like Negroes go through their paces. Please see what you can do about withdrawing Negroes from the professional field such as boxing, baseball and football."   (San Francisco)

"You are right. Off the field, you are just niggers. Does UBSA mean United Sons of Bitches Assembly? Black boys, you need the games."  (San Jose)

"How much are the communists paying you to make damn fools out of your fellow Americans?" (Fullerton, CA)

"Don't be a fool and try to pull rank or pressure. Because if you do, you're through because we wouldn't want to see a flock of letters to the Olympic committee asking that you NOT be permitted to represent the US in any event" (Glendale, CA)

"Why the hell don't you and all the jiggabo so called athletes boycott all things American and try the Congo. Now, there is a leading country - - cook pots and dung piles everywhere, but that is the black culture. If you can't stand that, try Biafra, Nigeria. I think you colored folks would be better off in your own tribes with your unpronounceable names."

And then one voice of reason with a well thought out suggestion.

"Dear Lee,........My suggestion: The black athlete should try out for the Olympic team. Those that make it should go to Mexico City and compete in their events. Those that win medals should, if they wish to protest, refuse to mount the victory stand. The American flag would be raised. The band would play the national anthem but there would be an empty place on the stand where Lee Evans or Tommie Smith should be. That way the world can see America's shame in a very dramatic way.........It would shake us up a lot more to look at that empty space on the victory stand and hear a black athlete say over world wide TV, “ I refused to get up there, not because I don't love my country. I do. But I love it, not for what it is, but for what it can be.”

Many of our readers are “old timers” who have criticized today's manners and morals (think grandchildren obsessed with cell phone games) with the assessment, “It's not like the old days”. After reviewing this entry, I think we can say, “Thank God it isn't”.  Roy

The Journey of the African American Athlete     this  6 minute clip from youtube records some of those events we have just covered as well as the resulting actions taken at Mexico City.

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...