Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ghost Runner

John Tarrant running as a ghost with no race bib
My cousin Miles sent me a link to a story. It reminded me of Pre a little bit because of it's connection with the abuses of power of an amateur running organization. Just like Pre's experience, the AAA (Amateur Athletic Association) in 1950's Britain was organized by upper class folks who abused their power and inflicted ridiculous rules on lower class athletes. John Tarrant was a naturally talented runner who had a very hard life. At one point, he was paid a small amount of money for boxing and that ended up precluded him from competing as an amateur runner. As a protest, he would slip into the starting coral of an international field of elite runners, smoke them for 20 miles of a marathon and then disappear before anyone could catch him. Eventually, the AAA let him compete in Britain because of pressure from the public who referred to him as "the ghost". My understanding is that John was a great marathoner but was a record breaking ultra-runner. He was kept out of the Olympics because he was still barred from competing internationally for the rest of his life. It seems that he did run in some illegal black races in South Africa. 
It's inconceivable that power and vanity of an athletics organization would be allowed to destroy a person's life by shutting-down their talent and life's passion. Sadly, he clearly wasn't the only one it happened to. John died at 42 from stomach cancer. The AAA rules changed shortly after his death. His hometown are talking about erecting a monument in his honor. 

I love this old news reel clip of the 1968 London to Brighton race. Just a 52.5 mile run. Watch the clip here:
There is an autobiography that I believe John was encouraged to do by Chris Basher (a pacer for Roger Bannister) doesn't seem to be in print anymore. The only book I found was by Bill Jones available at Amazon. I think I'd like to give it a read even though I know it will make me very sad. Here's a link to Amazon:

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