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The History of Famous Marathon Runners 4

Posted on October 28, 2013 by Daniel Lofthouse
Jim Peters set the world marathon record four times between 1952 and 1954.

Jim Peters set the world marathon record four times between 1952 and 1954.

The first modern marathons were held at the 1896 Summer Olympics, and were won by two Greek runners – Kharilaos Vasilakos and Ioannis Lavrentis. In the ten years that followed, their times of 3:18:00 and 3:11:27 (respectively) would be beaten by runners from Britain, Japan, and America – the last of which was run by Johnny Hayes at the 1908 Summer Olympics in what is considered to be the first marathon over a now official distance of 42.195 km.

Top Runners from Around the World
From 1908 onwards, the field of marathon running began to be dominated by an elite set of countries who regularly produced high performing marathon standard athletes.

In the men’s races, Sweden, Japan, American and the UK were regular contenders for the top spot, with many of their runners continuing to break records. A roster of familiar faces began to creep in: Son Kitei of Japan, Jim Peters of the UK (who broke the world record four times between 1952 and 1954), and Derek Clayton of Australia, who broke his first record in 1967 and followed up with an encore in 1969. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that the title of ‘World’s Best’ was introduced and presented for the very first time to American runner Khalid Khannouchi for his time of 2:05:37.8. Read the rest of this entry →

Discus Legend Mac Wilkins: 3 Throws, 3 World Records on May 1, 1976 0

Posted on April 13, 2013 by Rojo Grande
(photo: sporting-heroes.net)

(photo: sporting-heroes.net)

 

I once rubbed elbows with Hercules.

It was at the 1976 Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. My wife and I were crossing a grass practice field during a break in the action. From a distance, our attention was drawn to a tall, dominant figure striding in our direction.

With each approaching step, the figure took on the glowing countenance of someone special—almost beyond human. Tanned, handsome and muscular, he was clothed only in the thin garments of competition—obviously an elite athlete in peak condition.

As an athlete myself, I had been around a few hard bodies, but I had never seen such a physical specimen as this. He whisked right by us, his long hair and mustache accentuating the aura of a Greek god. We were speechless, mouths agape.

When we caught our breath, the dawning of reality hit us both at once: That was Mac Wilkins!

That simple brush with greatness gave us a focal point for the summer. Wilkins became our hero (and my wife’s not-so-secret crush). Via television and newspapers, we followed his exploits right through his Olympic record and gold medal in the discus at the ’76 Montreal Games.

And though that Olympic masterpiece will no doubt be considered the high point of Wilkins’ incredible 23-year career, it may have been eclipsed (in terms of sheer accomplishment) at a relatively insignificant track meet in the Bay Area of California in early May of that year. Read the rest of this entry →

Legendary Marathoner Rick Hoyt Inspires The World One Letter At A Time 1

Posted on December 11, 2012 by Todd Civin

Legendary marathoner and triathlete Rick Hoyt poses with statue of Team Hoyt that was unveiled at the 2012 Mayors Reception before the 2012 Boston Marathon. A life size version of the statue will be erected in Hopkinton MA, the start of the famous Boston Marathon.

Rarely in life do we have the opportunity to look back and appreciate the fact that we may have actually achieved something that really counts. Something that makes a difference not only to ourselves but perhaps has an impact on everyone who touches it. A creation that seems to have such potential impact that it becomes impossible to comprehend that it came from us alone and wasn’t also sprinkled with a heavy handed dose of divine intervention.

I’m reminded of the story called Starfish that I heard some years ago. It is the story of a young girl who was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean.

People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!” The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean.

Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one, didn’t I?” The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said.

Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.

The story which was adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley, describes precisely how I feel after experiencing the fervor and enthusiasm that has surrounded the launch of my new book, entitled One Letter at a Time by Rick Hoyt with Todd Civin.

One Letter at a Time is the life long story of famed marathoner and triathlete, Rick Hoyt, who together with his equally famous father, Dick Hoyt, makes up the world-renowned duo known as Team Hoyt.

Read the rest of this entry →

When Rafer Johnson Broke the Decathlon World Record—After Only 9 Events 0

Posted on October 12, 2012 by Rojo Grande

Many who witnessed Ashton Eaton’s incredibly moving decathlon world record at the 2012 Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon swear they will never see another sporting performance so inspiring.

I would never attempt to minimize such sentiments, as it truly was one of the signature moments in all of track and field.

Yet 52 years earlier, decathlete Rafer Johnson drew upon the same Hayward Field magic to lay down an earlier version of one of the sport’s most grueling accomplishments.

Let’s take a look back at another episode in the amazing legacy of Hayward Field.

The U.S./USSR Cold War rivalry of the mid-20th century was typified by the decathlon’s back-and-forth world-record duel between the American, Rafer Johnson, and then-current record-holder (8,357 points) Vasili Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union.

The record, in fact, had alternated between the two athletes four times since 1955.

And so it was, at the 1960 Amateur Athletic Union’s decathlon championships in Eugene, Johnson’s patriotic intent was as much to break Kuznetsov’s record as it was to secure a berth on the 1960 Rome Olympics team. 

In an uncanny subplot, Johnson’s UCLA teammate and good friend, C.K. Yang of Formosa (Taiwan), stood as a potential roadblock to the American’s quest. He was, after all, the defending collegiate national champion and a legitimate contender for the record in his own right. 

Johnson, UCLA coach Drake, and Yang

Rafer was a powerfully built hybrid of speed and strength, evidenced by his expertise in the sprints and throwing events. The three-time AAU champion was the silver medalist at the 1956 Melbourne Games but was on the comeback trail after an automobile accident had derailed his entire 1959 season.

Yang was a chiseled, wiry athlete who excelled in the hurdles, jumps and mid-distance races. As a foreign citizen, he was not eligible for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but was competing as a UCLA representative and of course, was himself cognizant of Kuznetsov’s record. Read the rest of this entry →

Olympic Track & Field History: 4 Interesting Sprint Sub-Plots 8

Posted on July 16, 2012 by Rojo Grande

Doesn’t it seem ironic (and almost cruel) that one of the most heavily promoted, highly anticipated and most-viewed disciplines in all of Olympic track and field is over in a matter of seconds?

If it were a boxing match that ended so quickly after it began, we’d be demanding our money back.

Yet the very essence of the sprint—sheer speed—is its appeal. It’s why we watch, and we accept its brevity without misgivings or regret.

For the athlete and spectator alike, the sprint satisfies one of the three tenets of the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”).

And though the sprints themselves occupy such a brief moment in time, their residue lives on in the vaults of Olympic history—and often with a surprising backstory.

Let’s enter the vault and take a look.


Valery Borzov, Soviet Union, Munich, 1972

Valeryborzov1_display_image

The Cold War was still a bit chilly in 1972.

A shroud of mystery separated East from West in Europe, and Americans, too, were curious as to the reports of a steely-eyed Russian who ran with machine-like precision at world-class speeds.

As it happened, America (and the world) got a real good look—at Valery Borzov’s heels.

But this story is as much about who didn’t stand on the podium as who did.

Team USA was led by Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, who both equaled the world record (9.9 seconds hand-timed) at the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Indeed, the Americans were riding a wave of sprint dominance at the time, and any (non-military) threat coming from behind the Iron Curtain was regarded as little more than a nuisance.

Hart, Robinson and Robert Taylor were on their way to the track for their quarterfinal heats, when they noticed on an Olympic Village TV that the heats had already begun.

They raced to the stadium, but only Taylor—who was scheduled for Heat 3—made it in time to quickly dress down and enter the blocks. Hart and Robinson, assigned to earlier heats and working from an out-dated schedule, were disqualified.

Later in the finals, Borzov, legs churning like pistons, made quick work of the field, taking gold in 10.14 seconds.

Robinson and Hart vowed redemption in the 200-meter dash but the Soviet automaton proved his earlier victory was no fluke, winning the half-lapper in 20.0 seconds.

It was about this time in history when Westerners began to take a hint from the Eastern Bloc nations and sprinting became less an issue of raw speed and more an issue of the science of sprinting. Read the rest of this entry →

Mary Decker’s 1982 “Spur-of-the-Moment” World Record 189

Posted on March 17, 2012 by Rojo Grande

Over the years, Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon has hosted some of the most prestigious track meets in the world.

Multiple US Olympic Trials, USA National Championships, NCAA  conference and national outdoor championships, and the notorious Prefontaine Classic have all contributed to the incredible legacy of Hayward’s hallowed grounds.

Champions might give partial credit to that legacy, or to the sophisticated and supportive Hayward fans, or the mild Willamette climate in evaluating their exploits there.

But at Hayward, there is another mysterious force embedded within the very soil. Some call it the Hayward Magic.

Such is the power of that force that even in a casual and insignificant all-comer’s meet—with about 500 fans ringing the track—the unlikely can occur…like a world record.

On July 16, 1982 Mary Decker (Tabb), running on a whim, officially expanded the limits of human performance in the women’s 10,000-meter run under the lights at Hayward.

Modern runners, accustomed to a detailed regimen of energy intake, precise training protocol, and mandatory pre-race recovery might be surprised at the unconventional circumstances which precipitated Decker’s record run.

Let’s take a look back. Read the rest of this entry →

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