Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Saturday, November 28, 2020

V 10 N. 78 Two Tales of the Race to Make Fast and Environmentally Sustainable Shoes

 Here are two stories I've recently become aware of through a a couple of enablers.

It Stretches the Limits of Performance: The Race to Make the World's Fastest Shoe     clik here

In the November 28, 2020 online issue of The Guardian, Simon Usborne has told well the tale of recent history's race to develop the ultimate racing flat.  He has given us a broad picture of the efforts of Nike and Adidas and less so of a few others to meet the challenge of helping runners get faster with what they put on their feet.  Not all of the secrets are revealed here, but there is a lot of information in how Nike prepared to meet this challenge and then how Adidas responded.  It also looks at what the individual who if fast enough to get their hands, or should I say 'feet'  in a pair of these super technical shoes must also think of their performance in them.  "Was it me or was it my shoe that made me so fast?"  That, my friends, is the question.  In my personal training log, do I need to put the efforts and the miles in a supershoe in a different color or mark those days with a big winged asterisk?  A friend in the business told me recently, that if we had worn these super shoes thirty or forty years ago, we wouldn't be limping so badly now that we are in our sixties and seventies.  That reasoning would certainly give me justification now to have chosen to wear them.    The old "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of pain" theory.   Or the seven P's:  Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.  Also interesting in this article is the description of how at a major race for elites, the current pandemic has pushed race organizers  into extreme measures of keeping athletes isolated from each other to protect them and to protect the event from being cancelled by Covid contamination.  The athletes sequestered in a hotel prior to the race were forced to wear collars that would beep if they came within six feet of another runner.  They were put into individual tents near the start to get 'dressed' to race.  We don't want to be forced to withdraw and at the same time reduce exposure of the brand.  I have to ask if in those circumstancess are we more worried about the person or the product.  

In Usborne's article he mentions that the current price, if you can find them, of the Adizero Adios Pro is US$226  and  the Alpha Fly is US$345.  The Alpha Fly is said to be good for 200 miles of running, then you have to get new ones.  At 50 miles a week, that's roughly 12 pair a year at a cost of US$3,883.60 a year.  A piece of cake if you're well heeled, but  a desperate challenge if you are a poor Ethiopian goat herder in the middle of the war in Tigray province or even a recently layed off bartender at Hooters.  

Running Shoes are Part of an Environmental Crisis. Is Change Coming?   clik here

                                          by Molly Hanson

                                 in November 13, 2020 Podium Running

This second article discusses a new method of shoe manufacture, sales and distribution that combines  a sense of environmental sustainability with some modern aspects of marketing through replacement and recycling.  Only question here is,  "How good are the shoes?"   Three companies are currently working on new production and distribution methods.  Ever hear of 'Circular Economy Principles'?   They didn't teach that when I was in school.  Goes against the principle of 'Planned Obsolescence'.  As if we all didn't know, producing a pair of running shoes creates approximately 30 pounds of carbon emissions in the manufacturing process, the dyes pollute the water, and we kill the environment in Bengaladesh where some of this work is done.  That makes production of running shoes the 17th biggest producer of carbon dioxide emissions.  Probably right behind brewing beer, our other great need in life.

When I think of the high numbers of people who are actively running, I realize a very high percentage of those people even care about how well they are performing and whether a super high tech shoe would help them to break 4 hours for a marathon.  Many of these plodders only wear those shoes to shop at Walmart, and they will be more concerned, if made aware,  about the effects on the environment of the product on their feet.  So even major brands may soon have to take that fact into into consideration with the product they are currently producing.  If say, 30% of all their sales were to environmental sustainability believers, that would be a huge chunk of their sales.  They might well find people turning away from their brand.  "Mommy, I want an ecologically friendly shoe for my birthday."  So these recyclable shoe 'pioneers' may well have a long term effect on the industry.  This is a very interesting article, well worth spending some time on this holiday weekend, or even next week.   And what can we do with all these discarded masks I see lying on the ground?    George

Two good articles, one about price and the other about the environment.  I had no idea how much pollution a shoe creates.  Are they ever recycled?  

   At the OT Marathon in Atlanta Nike gave all participants an Alpha Flys.  Some ran in them but most went with whatever they already had.  I will say that those new shoes are really huge in the sole which reminds me of some 1970s trends which eventually morphed into a negative heel.  So which is right?  Bill Schnier

Bill, I'd say  take the one that fits you best as well as fits your budget.
I was thinking that fifty years ago  the pro golf tour was using steel shaft, wooden head drivers and it was highly unusual for a good pro to hit the ball off the tee more than 300 yards.  Now seems almost all are capable of 330 yards.  They use carbon composite shafts, metal heads, have adjustable angles on the club itself.  Before the steel shafts, the MacGregor company in Dayton made hickory shafts that had to be replaced when they warped.  But they were the top of the line at the time.  Golfers mainly have money and access to the best equipment money can buy.  
Fly fishing used to be done with home made split bamboo rods which can only be seen in museums.  Nobody had depth finders and fancy boats 100 years ago.  It's amazing the fish have a chance any more.
Bicycle racing same thing.
I don't know if bowling has changed much over the years.
Horse racing?  Drugs
Hunting,  fancy bows.  fancy portable hunting blinds, electronic spotting devices, camouflage gear, night vision.  George
George,   Who would ever have thought that bass fishing:  awarded trophies and had speed boats to get to the next school?
What about high powered telescopic sights making every weekend hunter a Navy Seal sniper?
My six-year old grandson in NC thinks the number of gears in a kid's bike determines the quality of that bike.
In "The Last Dance" Michael Jordan wore one of his original Air Jordans to celebrate a milestone.  His feet hurt so badly he could barely play the next day.
Baseball bats are so sophisticated that they have limitations much like a discus.
Knee-length swim suits are now responsible for nearly every swimming record and have been banned.
Drugs are in another category of all of this.
So what should be applauded as a superior instrument like steel, bamboo, fiberglass, etc. in polevauting and what should be illegal forever?  Tough call. Bill


   The cost of running shoes are outrageous today.    I was looking at the new Nike air zoom alphfly next.   It interests me because I need a lot cushioning in the forefoot and metatarsal  area.    The lowest price was $385!   Are you freakin kidding me!        In runners world shoe ratings they say $100 is a good price.       I’m sorry.   I come from a different era     Mike Waters

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

V 10 N. 78 Part 2 That Dumpster Discovery Tokyo 64 Photos

 Continuing on this "odyssey"    of the So Cal dumpster discovery.   

How many of you could spell the fourth word of this intro without looking up how?

I couldn't.  Sorry, I digress. 

We turn now to some incredible stars of the Sixties.   Gammoudi, Lusis, Kerr, Valentin, Roberts, and from the Fifties,  Pirie and Mimoun.  And even a few mystery people.  Maybe some of you can ID these folks and win a free trip to a Caribbean beach of your choice.  

Gammoudi (Tunisia), Anne Smith (GB), Gordon Pirie (GB),
Alain Mimoun (Fr) back to camera with the Gauloise in his hand.
Anne Smith?  She is obviously the translator in this picture.   Wikipedia notes.  
  • Anne Rosemary Smith, was a sprinter and middle distance runner, who specialised in the 1500 metres and mile events. She represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. In 1967, Smith broke two world records in one race, running 4:17.3 for the 1500 metres and 4:37.0 for the mile. These were the first 1500 m and mile world records to be ratified by the IAAF.

    • Nationality: England
    • Died: 9 November 1993 (aged 52), London
    • Born: 1 August 1941, Amersham, England

  • Alain Mimoun (1 January 1921 – 27 June 2013) was an Algerian-born French long-distance runner who competed in track events, cross-country running and the marathon. He was the 1956 Olympic champion in the marathon. He is the most bemedalled French athletics sportsperson in history.
  • Mohammed Gammoudi:   Mohammed Tlili ben Abdallah (Arabic: محمد التليلي بن عب  (born February 11, 1938) is a Tunisian athlete who competed as a long distance runner in international track and field competitions. He represented Tunisia in the Tokyo, Mexico City, and Munich Olympiads and recorded four medals, including a gold medal in the 5000 metres event in Mexico City.
  • Gordon Pirie:  Wikipedia:   Douglas Alistair Gordon Pirie (10 February 1931 – 7 December 1991) was an English long-distance runner. He competed in the 5000 m and 10,000 m events at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Olympics and won a silver medal in the 5000 m in 1956, placing fourth in 1952. Born in Leeds, Pirie grew up in Coulsdon, Surrey, and ran for the South London Harriers. He died of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) in Lymington, Hampshire.    
  • His role at Tokyo is unknown.  Ed.  
  • Here is a response from Tim Johnston regarding Anne Smith and Gordon Pirie:

  • 6:23 AM (3 hours ago)
    Hi George - Some interesting finds in that dumpster. The pic showing Anne Smith, Gordon Pirie, Gammoudi and Mimoun is a real find. Gordon's 'role' at Tokyo was as Anne's coach and mentor. 

    Like most athletes of my generation, I knew and admired Gordon, although he wasn't the easiest of people to get on with, and I was his junior by 10 years. After the disappointment of Rome, he turned professional. As I recall, one of his first races was multiple laps of a Spanish bull-ring against a team of local runners running in relays. The 'race' involved heavy betting.

    After he'd taken up with Anne Smith, they travelled the world together. Anne was still competitive on the track; Gordon picked up what he could from coaching and lecturing. At one point they were said to be living together in a tent in New Zealand.

    In 1966, I spent a few days with Gordon at Bosön, the Swedish National Training Centre and incidentally the site of the famous Lidingö 30 km x-country race, which I won that year. Gordon had totally changed his views on training. Multiple fast intervals had been replaced by flat-out continuous runs, the faster the better. 

    The next time I met Gordon was in early 1969, when he'd been hired as technical adviser by Michael Winner, the film director. The Games, about a future Olympics. A real turkey, think it went straight to video. Many of us figured in it as extras and advisers. Winner was really mean to Gordon, cos he thought he'd been fooled into overpaying him.

    Never saw Gordon again. News of his painful, premature death from cancer came as a shock, but the funeral was a tremendous gathering of several generations of runners.

    Keep up the good work.



  • Great issue George......many thanks. I met Gammoudi when I took the Bahrain team to Tunis for a X-C meet. Gammoudi met our plane and provided a bus to take us to our hotel. (circa 1983) He must have been a pretty big shot as our bus just ran down the middle of the street with the opposing traffic pulling off to the side when we came by.  Steve

    Steve Price

  • Janis Lusis (really a Latvian) (on bike)  the great "Soviet" javelin thrower.  Pedestrian unknown
    Cliff says,  On the training field outside the shopping centre, Jan Lusis (javelin Russia)  He'd have done much better in Adidas
    Wikipedia:  As of 2020, he remains the only Latvian to have won an all three classes of Olympic medals (gold, silver and bronze) over the span of his career. Lūsis set two world records in javelin throw, of 91.68 m in 1968 and of 93.80 m in 1972. He is also a 4-time European champion. In 1987 IAAF named him the greatest javelin thrower in history.

    After Lūsis finished competing, he became an athletics coach. He was married to Elvīra Ozoliņa, the 1960 Olympic female champion in the javelin throw. Their son, Voldemārs Lūsis, is also a javelin thrower who competed in 2000 Summer Olympics and 2004 Summer Olympics.

    Edwin Roberts (Trinidad and Tobago sprinter)  Adidas stand Tokyo '64
    Wikipedia  Edwin Anthony Roberts (born 12 August 1941) is a retired Trinidadian runner. He competed at the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics in various sprint events and had his best results in the 200 m, in which he finished third in 1964 and fourth in 1968. He also won a bronze medal in the 4 × 400 m relay in 1964.[1]

    Roberts attended North Carolina College in the United States between 1962 and 1966 where he was a member of the college track team. He was also part of the Trinidadian team that set a world record at 3:02.8 in the 4×440 yd relay at the 1966 Commonwealth Games.[2] He was among world's top ten sprinters from 1964 to 1971, according to the votes of the experts of Track and Field News.[3][4]

    George Kerr (British West Indies)  University of Illinois
    800m bronze in 1960

    George Ezekiel Kerr (16 October 1937 – 15 June 2012) was a Jamaican athlete who competed in the 400 and 800 metres. He competed for the British West Indies at the 1960 Summer Olympics, where he won the bronze medal in the 800 metres. He then teamed up with Keith GardnerMalcolm Spence and James Wedderburn to win the bronze medal in the 4×400 metres relay.[1]

    In 1962, he became the first Jamaican athlete to have the national flag flown in recognition of winning a gold when he won double gold in the 400 m and 800 m at the Central American and Caribbean Games held at Kingston's National Stadium. At the 1964 Olympics, representing Jamaica, he finished fourth both in the 800 m and the 4 × 400 m relay. He broke the Olympic record for the 800 m in the semi-finals but lost the bronze by less than one-tenth of a second with 1:45.9, his fastest ever time.[1]

    Kerr won five medals at three Commonwealth Games. In 1958 he won a bronze in the 4 × 440 yards relay. He won gold medals in the 440 yards and in the 4 × 440 yards relay and silver in the 880 yards in 1962. His final medal, a bronze for the 880 yards, came in 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica.[3]

    On 4 June 2012, Kerr had a heart attack and underwent heart surgery at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He remained in the intensive care unit until he succumbed to complications.

    German athletes,  on right  Sigfried Valentin, East German 1500m runner.
    Other two unknown
    From Sports Illustrated June 8, 1959
    TRACK & FIELD—SIEGFRIED VALENTIN, 23, lieutenant in East German Volksarmee, ran mile in 3:56.5 at Potsdam for new European record. DALE STORY, Orange, Calif. schoolboy, became latest U.S. mile phenom, running 4:11 at Bakers-field to break listed natl. high school record.
    Mystery Man,  probably inside Cliff's store in West Hollywood.
    Can anyone identify him?  Perhaps a football player.  
    L.A. Rams?, San Diego, USC, UCLA?

    Update on this picture:  Roy Benson suggested that the young shoe salesman might be Jeff Johnson who became a major player in Nike.  Here he is selling Adidas products.   Jeff was the individual who suggested that Blue Ribbon Sports change its name to 'Nike'.  He was a very instrumental person in that company's early years.  My friend Rick Lower confirmed all this.    George

    Cliff Severn outside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium
    Cliff writes, Used the white overnight bag quite a lot.  Neutral so the opposition wouldn't know what was happening.   
    Ah ha,  spy vs. spy at the Games.

    Two U.S. 'officials'  Marion Miller, Equipment and
    Jim Emmerich, 'tour'?  Olympic Village.  Anybody know these guys?
    Would 'tour' refer to T&FN tour?  Not sure why I put this here, but it was in the 

    Any help with unidentified individuals would be appreciated.

    I believe Jim Emmerich was the trainer with Dr. Kay Dooley at the High Altitude Training Camp at South Lake Tahoe in 1968

    Tom Dooley
    From Paul O'Shea
    Marion Miller was Director of Public Relations for Wilson.

    Holy cow,  I worked for Marion Miller in 60-61 in River Grove, Illinois.

    from Dick Daymont

    Good afternoon George and as always...thank you very much for keeping the track & field/cross country world informed. I was a college track & cross country runner in the late 60's with moderate success, but the relationships with wonderful coaches and wonderful teammates brings joy to me everyday.
    Again, 'Thank you and please continue!'

    Tuesday, November 17, 2020

    V 10 N. 77 A Rare Find in a Dumpster - Cliff Severn Rises from the Ashes

         Several months ago, I received an email from a gentleman in Southern California telling me that he had discovered some interesting photographs in a dumpster behind a commercial building where he had an office.  The man was not a fan of track and field but in going through the photographs he saw that many of them were probably taken at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Some had captions written on the back of them.  Others did not.  It was evident that the photographer was most likely Cliff Severn who in the 1960s was the Adidas shoe distributor on the West Coast.  

    My first thought was, "Go back to that dumpster and see if there are any mint condition, or any condition, old Adidas shoes in there.   My source informed me there was nothing else of significance. 

                   In numerous postings on our blog, my colleague, Roy Mason, when writing about Track and Field News issues would always mention Cliff Severn's advertisements which appeared for years in the journal.  Cliff's shoe store in West Hollywood was a magnet for track and field athletes and the sole source of Adidas shoes.  Many of our readers have mentioned that store and Cliff.    We even did a story on Cliff in this blog.   See this link:

    Cliff Severn Article

    This posting must have shown up when our contact googled the name of Cliff Severn.  In that was I was found and contacted about the pictures.  

    Spoiler Alert!  Spoiler Alert!

    Just as I was writing the work above we were in a major wind storm here on Vancouver Island and a forty foot section off the top of a Douglas Fir snapped and hit the front of the house.  Exciting, minor damage to eaves on the roof and a lot of tree in the front yard.    Will continue this in due time.

    As I was saying:  Cliff, on his own, was material for a book.  Born in England, a child actor in the 1930s in Hollywood,  international cricket player, and shoe distributor.    I am posting a number of those pictures below on this piece, but there are quite a few others that I will post in subsequent articles.  I don't want to overwhelm you with all of them in one shot.   The candidness of these photos is what I feel makes them unique.  They often tell their own stories without my comments.  So here is the first batch with Cliff''s comments in italics and mine following each one.


    Cliff studying bkb shoes being made at Adidas France.  Dec. 64

         Blaine Lindgren , hurdles  and Morgan Groth, 800m - Olympic Village Cafeteria, Tokyo '64
    Robbie Brightwell, Ann Packer, and John Cooper being interviewed just after lunch.  Olympic Village  Tokyo '64

    Ann Packer silver in 400, gold in 800 was the darling of the British team.  It looks like there is some serious competition going on between Brightwell and Cooper for her favors.  Brightwell would win that race.  Several years later,  Cooper would die in a Turkish Airlines crash near Paris.

    Here is the official Tokyo 64  film.  You can see the finish of Packer's win in the 800 meters and who is greeting her after she crosses the finish line.

    Go to 1 hr. 1 min 10 sec on the film to see the finish of her 800.

    Horst, Ray Schiele, a Polish beauty, and Hayes Jones hurdler par excellence.
    Tokyo 1964
    Horst and Ray?  Adidas reps perhaps?  The Polish beauty a mystery.  She appears is several other photos.  Hayes Jones of course the 110M HH champ in a narrow win over Blaine Lindgren.  

    Ron Clarke and Valerie - at lunch-  The International Mess Hall 
    Australian Olympic Team  Tokyo '64
    Theron Lewis  and Ralph Boston
    US Team Olympic Games  Tokyo '64

    Look at Peter go- He's absolutely running away with the 
    1500m.- A fine victory and such a treat to see! Tokyo Olympic Games '64.
    Had a terrific view of Peter's winning runs- I sat near the last curve and beginning of the home stretch.  He poured it on in the 800 and 1500 at the beginning of the last curve and just crushed the opposition.  It was a real treat to see him win and in a pair of white with black  "9.9" model 141 which I gave him two years previous.  

    Wait,  Peter was wearing two year old shoes?  My God where were the shoe sponsors in those days?

    Stay turned for more of these great photos.  There are several subjects, some less interesting than the Tokyo Olympics including some lesser known and unidentified athletes and places.  


    What a fabulous find! A real time capsule with some of the track heroes of my youth.

    I got my first pair of blue, white-striped Adidas trainers at Clifford Severn's West Hollywood store in Fall 1965 and later a pair of white, green striped Melbourne spikes from there that Christmas. Wore them out in my junior track season in Spring '66.

    Thanks for the story!

    Jim Mosher

    Good post.   I was in Santa Clara during the ’64 Olympics.   So swimming was the big American sport in those Olympics.      That’s wild seeing how the athlete’s dressed when they weren’t competing 



    Mike Waters  

    Dear George:

    Two thoughts:

    The picture of Snell is such a great reminder of what a truly outstanding runner he was.

    Why was Severn wasting his time photographing those athletes when he had Valerie, Ann and The Polish Beauty to snap?

    Take care,

    Tom Coyne

    1:42 PM (58 minutes ago)

    Very interresting a lot of souvenirs, two best Olympics on my opinion Rome 1960 & Tokyo 1964 .  Thank you again pour ces souvenirs de notre jeunesse   Jose Sant, Montreal, Repentingny, Quebec

    Sunday, November 15, 2020

    V 10 N. 77 A Book Review by Paul O'Shea : "The Remarkable Life and Inspiring Vigilosophy of Coach Joe I. Vigil" by Pat Melgares


    Running Up Front. That’s the Way They Did Things.

    Book Review

    By Paul O’Shea

    Chasing Excellence: The Remarkable Life and Inspiring Vigilosophy of Coach Joe I. Vigil

    By Pat Melgares

    Soulstice Publishing, 305 pages, $19.95

    This morning Joe Vigil likely rose at 4:30 a.m., brewed a pot of coffee and got right down to work in his Colorado home. He’s ninety years old, still eager to learn. There’s more to know, more to teach, others to inspire. 

    Other nonagenarians may be holding on to daily routines, quietly contemplating life’s bookends. Not Joe Vigil, one of the most revered figures in the history of cross country and track and field. Still running up front, he’s pursuing superiority.

    That’s the message infusing the new biography of the world-famous coach, international lecturer and brilliant scientist who perfected high altitude training for distance runners. 

    Chasing Excellence is the first book from Pat Melgares who ran for and reported on Vigil (pronounced VEE-hill) for more than thirty years. Melgares was a four-time All American running for the coach at Adams State College. At the Alamosa, Colorado school he studied journalism and became its public information officer. Since l998 he has been a communications specialist and public information officer at Kansas State University. 

    “My boyhood home was just four blocks from where Coach Vigil grew up,” Melgares tells us. “I’m really passionate about his story because like Coach Vigil, I grew up on the south side of Alamosa, and perhaps can understand some of the struggles he faced to overcome some of the stereotypes and challenges that go along with being from that side of town.”

    Devising workouts and motivating Alamosa High School runners wasn’t Vigil’s first coaching choice. Football was. But blocking and tackling workouts led to an opening on the athletic staff.  It was the beginning of a career that led to building two legendary programs in the city.

    After winning a state cross country championship at Alamosa High School, where Vigil coached for a dozen years, he relocated across town to Adams State College. Onward and upward to the collegiate ranks, his teams won 19 NAIA and NCAA Division II national titles. Four hundred twenty-five of his athletes earned All American honors. 

    When he ascended to the professional level, his athletes won 47 individual titles and set 17 national records. Twenty-two Vigil-mentored athletes won 20 medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships.  Three ranked No. 1 in the world, according to the Michelin guide of runners, jumpers and throwers, Track and Field News. 

    Adams State was the only school whose seven runners earned All American honors in a single race. Vigil’s teams did that three times.  He has shared his knowledge widely over the years, conducting international clinics and giving lectures in 29 countries and territories on six continents.  

    “We run up front. That’s the way we do things,” Vigil emphasizes. There was no better example than the l992 Adams State cross country team. After years of dominating NAIA schools, in l992 the Grizzlies moved into the NCAA’s Division II.  Greeted with snickers and an icy reception at the regional meet, ASC easily qualified for the championship final.

    Before the race Vigil told the seven starters: “You may be the best team in the history of Adams State College.  Today, you will have to run as a team. Put aside your individual desires. I want you to pack together so tightly as a team that you can touch each other.  And remember this: win or lose you are the greatest team in America.”  

    Thirty-two and a half minutes after the starting gun fired, five Adams State runners crossed the finish line within four seconds of each other. The Green and Gold was the first and still the only team to record a perfect 15 at a national collegiate championship. Adding to the school’s trophy case: the women’s team also was victorious, with a low 64 points.

    In the 1960s collegiate cross country dual meets were sometimes a less formal enterprise. Vigil forged a strong friendship with Alex Francis, the Fort Hays State College coach, and a highly competitive history soon developed between the NAIA schools. 

    One year the Fort Hays coach suggested a different venue than the usual home-and-home arrangement.  Let’s do something different, he offered. 

    The idea was for each team to drive halfway between the schools (some 425 miles apart), meet at a random location and put on a show. The runners and coaches would get out of their vans, have a brief warm up, and the battle for NAIA bragging rights would begin. The course was usually set up by one of the host school’s former runners.  Some years the runners would even race out-and-back on a country road. 

    As a professional coach two of Vigil’s three most notable performers were Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor, each of whom medaled for the United States at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Meb won silver, and in a race that began in 95-degree heat, Kastor won the bronze. The third elite was Pat Porter who graduated from Adams State in l982 and went on to become one of the most dominant American distance runners of the era.

    Porter won eight consecutive U.S. national cross country titles. As a ten- thousand meter runner he made two Olympic teams. Five times he wore a USA vest in the World Cross Country championships, finishing fourth in l984. A year earlier he set the road world record for ten thousand meters. Melgares fittingly writes that Porter was “perhaps the greatest cross country runner this country has ever seen.”


    When asked about Vigil’s impact on his life, Porter told the blogger JackDogWelch: “I was a typical high school kid and Coach gave me direction. Coach taught me about life by stressing so much more than just running. He teaches you to apply the discipline of running to the rest of your life.”  

    But life was cut short one early 2012 morning in Arizona. An avid pilot, Porter’s plane hit a fence at the Sedona Airport.  He was killed along with his son and the son’s friend. Pat Porter was 53 years old.

    Another Vigil runner taken prematurely was Olympic marathon candidate Ryan Shay. Vigil coached the former University of Notre Dame athlete for five years after Ryan turned professional. Running in the 2007 Olympic Marathon trials in New York City, Shay collapsed just past the five-mile mark and was rushed to Lenox Hill hospital where he died of heart failure. Ryan Shay was 28.

    “I’ll never forget Ryan speaking to the York High School cross country team (Joe Newton’s legendary Long Green Line), Vigil remembers. “He made a statement that stuck with me. ‘The rest of the world is suffering,’ Ryan told the young runners.  ‘You are lucky you are not there.  You made a choice to run cross country.  It’s a freedom and I want you to run well.’” 

    Chasing Excellence is superbly documented and crisply written, a worthy addition to the serious enthusiast’s bookcase.

    What was Vigil’s vision?  Vigilosophy Melgares tells us, “came to represent not just the way Vigil applied scientific principles to training distance runners, but also the Coach’s set of ideals for living day to day: work hard, be honest, respect others, give your best to a cause, show compassion for humankind, and similar ethics.”

    Joe Vigil always got the day started earlier than most. That’s the way he still does things.


    Paul O’Shea  After retirement from a career in corporate communications he coached high school girls’ cross country team and was a long-time contributor to Cross Country Journal. He now writes for Once Upon a Time in the Vest from Fairfax, Virginia. He can be reached at Poshea17@aol.com.

    >> Thank you very much for the nice write-up in your blog!
    >> This was such a gratifying project, primarily because Coach Vigil is such
    >> a wonderful treasure and authentic in every aspect of his life. The number
    >> of people he has touched in his life is phenomenal.
    >> I really appreciate your support and for spreading the good word about the
    >> book and about Coach's life.
    >> Take care,
    >> Pat Melgares
    >> Manhattan, Kan.

    V 11 N. 51 Finally the 2020 Games Have Begun and Who Was the First American Olympian to Compete?

      Even though the posters around Japan are calling this Tokyo 2020, most of us know this is 2021.  Finally, Finally, Finally.   The opening ...