Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prefontaine – My second Pre movie

If you actually read this blog (which I still find hard to believe), you may remember that I watched Without Limits, a movie about the great Steve Prefontaine, who died in a car accident when he was 24, before showing the World his full potential. I didn't get into the movie in detail at the time but I wish I had. I would have liked to have compared them in a little more detail. Without Limits was a good movie. The cast and photography was stronger. Still, this movie brought some richness to Pre's story that I didn't get from the one movie. You can't really summarize someone's life in a single movie.

The cast clearly wasn't on–par with Without Limits:
  • Jared Leto played Steve Prefontaine. It wasn't a bad performance. It didn't help that he is just too darned pretty. He looked 12 years old and that mustache looked stuck–on, which I'm sure it was. I had no idea who he was. My wife on the other hand seems to know him well. It clearly makes a case for me believing him to be too cute for the role. Billy Crudup in Without Limits was much more believable although he played Pre in a very dark and brooding way—maybe too much so.
  • R. Lee Ermey plays Bill Bowerman, the legendary track coach of Oregon and the founding partner of Nike. After this performance, I'm not sure if Bowerman was a lunatic of if Ermey is a little unstable. Probably a little bit of both I would imagine.
  • Dellinger, Bowerman's assitant coach is played by Ed O'Neil. I just love this man. I can't explain why and I know that I am not alone.

Jared Leto. Too cute.

Here's what stuck with me as I watched the movie...
  • There was some original footage mixed in to this movie. I liked that a lot. There's a cool home movie where Pre is doing push-ups as a kid. He looks super intense about it. A foreshadowing of the future drive that would make him a really inspiring runner.
  • Prefontaine depicts Pre as being too small to play other sports. There's a scene that shows him running home after an embarrassing football game. It cuts to him running when he is older. What I like about this scene is that I believe in the healing power of running and failure and frustration like that could well have been one of Steve's triggers. 
  • Pre was a huge Oregon fan but he wanted Bowerman to show him that he wanted him in the school. That's a pretty arrogant thing for a highschool kid to do. In Without Limits, Bowerman wrote a letter to Pre asking him to come to Oregon. In this movie, Bowerman wrote a published letter in The World of Sports. Later in the movie, Bowerman acts like he didn't actually write the letter at all. This doesn't seem to be accurate. This image of a letter from Bowerman in Flickr seems to show that Without Limits is more factual. I'm not an expert on the matter.
  • On the subject of Bowerman, the movie doesn't get into the craft of shoe making quite the same way as Without Limits but there are classic scenes of him making waffle soles with his wife's waffle iron. It's so sad that the noxious fumes from those days were what ended his life.
  • The other athletes at Oregon talked about runners being more upper class. It's strange to think that this classist carry–over from the old days still existed in the 1960's. 
  • This movie did a good job of balancing Pre's character. It made him seem arrogant but self aware. He was also tempered (willingly) by his parents and girlfriend who did not let him get too big for his boots. His role in fighting the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) was shown to have humbled him. I'm not sure if this was the real Pre but I'd like to believe he was more balanced than the more self-absorbed and arrogant version in Without Limits.
  • I didn't realize how sexy the mile was and maybe still is to track runners. Bowerman wanted Pre to do the 3 mile but Pre really wanted the mile. The movie makes it sound like Pre helped to make other distances popular with the Oregon fans. Not sure how true that is but he did have quite the following. He would have inspired me to run whatever distance he was running.
  • What is it with running movies and awesome music? The Who's Teenage Wasteland is an awesome piece of music to put to Prefontaine running. Perfection.
  • Without Limits does not get into any judgement of Pre's driving. Prefontaine seems to hint that he was a fast driver but doesn't peg him as reckless. He was even shown drinking a bit before he took–off in the car on the night he died. It's a touchy subject considering nobody ever found out why his car hit the rock. 
  • Why on earth would neither movie run with the story of Pre being half German? For someone with a German heritage to go to the Olympics in Germany would be huge. There's a whole storyline that is missing here. Only an American made film could overlook something that obvious. I would love to have known his mother's feelings. I would like to have known if it was his first time there. I would like to have seen him speak German and absorb the culture.
  • Without Limits didn't get into the emotions of the horrific terrorist act at the Olympics with the Israeli team. This movie made it a bigger story and portrayed Pre as being more sympathetic.
  • The first movie gets into the battle with the AAU. This movie goes a step further and you get to see Bowerman having conflict with them too. What this movie has that the other one doesn't is the deliberateness of Pre's involvement with fighting the AAU and how that brings him closer to others. This became a lasting legacy for him. 
  • His competitiveness with Lasse Viren, the great Finnish runner really comes through more strongly in this movie. In fact, it was one of the main reasons Prefontaine has him fighting the AAU in the beginning. I was relieved that when he came in 4th in the Olympics, he bounced back much more quickly in this movie. In Without Limits, they dragged it on and really played out the self loathing. I'm not sure which one is more accurate but this one was much easier to process.
  • Prefontaine was the first time I have seen a reference to Pre being called "World" as in World class. The fans were chanting "World, World".
  • I didn't realize that he held every record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters. I don't think that has been equalled and it's hard to match with runners becoming more specialized.
  • I can't image what it must have been like to be the person who found him after he had crashed, be unable to lift the car off him and then know that he died from the car crushing his chest. Horrible.
  • The funeral at the track where the crowd shouts "Pre, Pre, Pre" on a countdown to the time he was hoping to beat in his next race was really awesome. Sad but awesome.
Brian Lanker's amazing photo of Pre

I was curious about Pre's rock and how the memorial came to be. My brief research led to a couple of interesting facts. Initially, the memorial was going to be a part of the rock the car hit but they decided to make it a stand–alone memorial. Pre helped start Oregon State Penitentiary's running program. Apparently, he was pretty committed to it and visited a number of times. It was the prisoners who donated the money for the plaque. Eugene Granite and Marble donated the headstone. Pre's dad asked Brian Lanker if he could his his famous photo. I didn't realize that runners leave running paraphernalia on Pre's rock when they visit. Pretty cool.
Pre's rock
Another fact I randomly came upon was a letter Pre wrote to Bill Rodgers, offering him a pair of Nike shoes to wear in the '75 Boston Marathon. Bill was a 4–time Boston Marathon winner who is well known for crossing the finish line in the Virginia 10–miler hand in hand with Frank Shorter. At this point in his career, he hadn't won big, although he had just taken a Bronze in the World Cross Country Championships in Morocco. He wore the shoes that Pre sent and took the course record. A few months later, Pre died. I never knew that he was actually an employee of Nike! There's even a business card to prove it. I knew that Nike had a building named after him and they put a memorial in Sports Illustrated. I had never seen this Nike Prefontaine tribute but it's pretty cool. It says "The look in Pre's eyes. Nobody else every had it like that. Sometimes when he ran, he was trance dancing. There were carpenters, mill workers, shopkeepers in the bleaches at Hayward's Field. A competitor once said the cheering for Pre was so deafening, you almost wanted to stop running. He ran the kind of race that made spectators yearn. Pre died in a 1975 car crash and it just about broke everyone's heart. What would we have done with distance when he was 25 or 30 years old? He placed 4th in the '72 Olympic five thousand and would have been 25 at the next Olympics. How far could he have gone? He didn't get a chance. We didn't get a chance to know. What does a great runner who died almost twenty years ago have to do with Nike running shoes? Everything."

"Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, "I've never seen anyone run like that before." It's more than just a race, it's a style. It's doing something better than anyone else. It's being creative." — Steve Prefontaine

See all the running movies I have seen to date.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Making a connection with Jim Axelrod

I didn't know that much about Jim Axelrod. I had seen him reporting from Iraq during the war and seen him report from the White House. You don't think about correspondents that much. You are usually more tuned into the news they are delivering. Sarah Lavender Smith (The Runners Trip) recommended his book In The Long Run. A Father, a Son and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness.

I was interested in the book because I am going through a rough patch with my son Charlie (turned 6 yesterday) and I hoped to find some insight that could help me re–connect with him. His mother understands him better than I do, although she claims he is just like me. I don't know about that. All I know is that his unadulterated boyness, his super high energy and his complete lack of focus lead to issues. The boy lives in the moment which is lovely, except that it often conflicts with just about anything you are trying to accomplish. On the other hand, when that kid smiles, it's like all is well with the World. He smiles with his whole face, including his honey colored eyes. It's a smile that warms you from the inside out. His teacher described him as "golden and alive". I just want to enjoy him. I also want him to feel loved by me—not just hear that he is loved. Sometimes I am not sure if he feels it and that makes me very sad. I don't care that he loves his mother more than he loves me. He should. It's a little boy's job to do that. I just have this uneasy feeling that a space is opening–up between us and it is a space I desperately want to close because I love that little man so much. I just have to find a way to connect with him. As I write this, he is downstairs in bed. I promised him I would sleep with him. It made me happy that he asked if I would.

Classic Charlie

The book is a lot more than a father and son's relationship. It was a good read and I'd recommend it. I came away from it liking Jim Axelrod. He has clearly become a very self aware man and shown a great capacity to change. I was routing for him throughout. These are some of the memorable moments for me. I don't go into the story but I guess some of the points are spoilers. You can read the book and then come back and compare notes if you like.

From a running perspective:
  • I am definitely sympathetic about what it is like to have a young heart but have a 40+ year old's body. It's amazing how fragile the old thing can be as you are pushing it toward an athletic goal. Jim's experiences of getting into shape are funny. I love the moment of shame when he is being overtaken by a lady in a jogging stroller.
  • Jim grapples a lot with mind barriers. It's amazing how mental running can be. There is a nice part in Born to Run were Chris McDougal says that Tarahumara (Mexican running tribe) elders do amazingly athletic things because nobody told them that they can't. 
  • The obsessive behaviors made me laugh. I loved that he kept driving routes in his car after running to check his distance. Running is such an obsessive business.
  • I was overjoyed to find that Jim's big race was about the enjoyment of the experience. In the book, he focuses a lot on getting himself to marathon condition. He talks about exhilaration but often it is tied to practical goals (distance or time). In the New York marathon, he writes almost exclusively about the positive experience. He stitches together some uniquely NYC moments, which really made that event really appealing to me.
  • The part where Jim's dad would not let him run with him when he was a kid was powerful. It was painful to read. It was cruel. It was something he probably regretted doing. I don't want running to be something that allows me to withdraw from people like that. 
From a human perspective:
  • This is an honest book. Jim puts himself out there and I admire him for that. He shares some very embarrassing and personal moments and I think he is probably stronger for it. He cries a lot in the book. I can relate to that. Nothing to be ashamed of there Jim.
  • He has some amazing clarity around his memories. I envy how vivid some of them are. It's lovely to hear all these little snippets of his life, like his dad letting go of the bike when he was learning to ride or the sweaty dollar bill in his dad's shorts at the beach.
  • I will look at corespondents in a whole new way when I watch the news from now on. I had no idea what pressure was involved in that profession. Not fun for them and certainly not for their families who have to go on with their lives with an absent mother/father.
  • I wanted to hear more of Jim's wife's experience. Jim was a selfish jerk in the past and really left his wife alone to raise a family. If that wasn't bad enough, he also kept up–rooting them. He is really honest about how he let her down but I'd still love to hear her perspective.
  • There are lots of lessons to be learned in Jim getting swept along with work ambition and stress. He does what most of us do and chase titles and "things" instead on concentrating on what is really important in life. You are so happy for him when he finally connects with his life.
  • I identify with Jim's dad's personality type. My grandfather was a real loaner. My father is too but he has been able to balance that with connecting with his kids. I would be blessed if my kids felt the same way about me as I feel about my dad. I need to keep myself in check. I have that reclusive type personality. 
  • There is a lovely moment where Jim has a lot of self doubt about completing the marathon and his friend Jo Gwin Shelby texts him "Go Jim Go". It's touching because Jo Gwin is a former runner and cyclist who is wheelchair–bound because of Lou Gehrig's disease. It reminded me that sometimes the perfect inspiration comes at just the right time in just the right way.
  • There is another lovely little interaction between Jim and his son where his son tells him "You know Dad, when I'm a dad, I think I am going to do this with my kids. They'll ask me where I learned it. I'll tell them I learned it from my dad."
  • Silly that it stands out but Jim uses a reference to Charlie Brown's mother's voice that is just like a reference I made in my last post.
So, what did I learn from this...
  • I need to continue to run for the experience and not the distance or time. I feel like I do a pretty good job of that already.
  • I need to make running something that connects me to people—not something that gives me an excuse to indulge my reclusive side. It should make me a better husband/dad, make me a joiner and allow me to run to benefit people. When New Balance finally sponsors me, there will definitely be a cause angle to it. That's non–negotiable.
  • I wasn't really interested in doing marathon distance on asphalt but I am turned on to the idea of running the New York marathon. I have a sense of loss in not running when I lived there. Maybe that race could make up for it somewhat.
  • Jim reminded me that parents are remembered by their kids in a series of mental snapshots—positive and negative. Your children will forgive you the negative ones as long as the positive prevail.
I decided that I want to start running with Charlie. He impressed me when we were in Cleveland over Thanksgiving because he did a mile on the track. He walked some of the way but I was impressed by his determination to keep going. After his mile, he positioned himself in the starting location and tried to rugby tackle me every time I completed my laps. He thought it was hilarious. That kid has a lot of fuel in the tank and running could be a way for him to blow–off some steam. I would obviously run at his pace and only allow him to do a short distance. The goal isn't for me to convert him into a runner or create a future athlete. My goal is much more pure than that. I want a physical activity that we can do together. An activity that is away from the rest of the family. Who knows, it could become a positive snapshot of me for him. A memory of time shared with his dad. A time when he felt special, happy and loved. We'll see. I'll keep you posted.

POST UPDATE (Dec 16th, 2011)
I just got a really warm and friendly email from Jim Axelrod. It was unexpected and very gracious of him considering where he is right now. Send some positive thoughts Jim's way as he moves with the last of our troops out of Iraq. Get home safe Jim.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Running toward my problems

I do realize that there is no consistency in the type of posts I write for this blog. To be transparent, I really wasn't sure what type of post I would have outside of the New Balance stuff. I'm discovering it as I go. Maybe you enjoy the light hearted posts. I like them too. This is not one of those posts. This blog is a personal blog and this post is very personal and not entirely easy to write. I'll let you be the judge of whether it is easy to read. If you prefer to stay with the light hearted stuff, that's OK, just skip this one.

I was reminded today that I have another reason why I run and I didn't share that when I brushed on the topic in an earlier post. Today I was emotional. I was upset and had that feeling where you don't know where to turn. That feeling of being so unhappy with your thoughts that you want to crawl out of your own body to escape them. I wanted to be someone else or walk away from it with no memories. I battled with that internally for a while and then, I ran.

My daughter Maggie (7) has a very rare blood disorder. So far, it has turned out to be undiagnosable. She has had it for about 3 years now (I think). Maybe it is longer. I deliberately try not to think too much about how long it has been. I'm not from a medical background and it's frustrating for me because I don't understand half the stuff the doctors talk about. My wife, Maureen understands it. She is a Certified Nurse Midwife but even hearing her talk about it is like listening to Charlie Brown's mother. What I know is that Maggie is not producing red blood cells properly. They are breaking down in the bone marrow and nobody knows why. She has had multiple bone marrow biopsies that gave confusing results and has received treatment at Children's Chicago as well as The Cleveland Clinic. She has even had her genome sequenced by researchers at Harvard as a part of a study at Children's Boston. The outcome? Nothing. Zilch. Nobody has a clue. In the beginning, they thought she was on the road to leukemia. Now, they have no idea. Maggie needs blood transfusions every so often to get her red blood cell count back up. It never quite gets to normal. She is such a great kid with an old soul. I hate to say it but she is the only one of my kids who could have coped with this. She handles everything that is thrown at her and she is even empathetic to others in the process. A great example of that was when she gave a hug to a nurse who hurt her with an I.V. because she said that "the nurse felt bad. she was just trying to help me". She is often more mature than I am about the whole thing. She is not a frail kid though. My wife likens being physically exhausted all of the time to training at altitude. She is really strong and manages physical activity in short bursts. It's interesting to see behavioral coping mechanisms like that. If you didn't notice her do it, you could easily mistake her energy level as being normal. When Maggie's red blood cell count is depleted, she becomes extremely exhausted, her personality becomes frazzled, her voice breaks, she looks ghost white, she is black under the eyes, she has toilet accidents and develops a heart murmur, etc. It's not an easy thing to watch happen to your child over and over again. It's also not easy to sit there with her getting transfusions with all the other poor kids around you getting chemotherapy. Hats off to Children's Chicago. They do a great job of keeping that unit really positive. Kids are amazingly optimistic—much more so than adults.

My Mags this summer in Michigan
So, Maureen and I are in this weird ultramarathon-like limbo. There is no diagnosis and nobody has any ideas of what to do next. The only thing that we haven't tried that they have talked about is a bone marrow transplant. There is a chance she could die and there is no guarantee it will fix the problem. There is no way we would take a chance like that. So, we wait. We try Eastern Medicine—why not? We continue the limbo. The feeling is terrible. If you think about the possibility of leukemia showing-up, you feel guilty about thinking dark, negative thoughts. You feel it your duty to remain positive. If you treat it casually like a routine, you start to feel guilty that you are not being vigilant in the event something bad shows up. You want to feel like you are running out ahead of her and not leaving her out there at risk. In short, you just can't win. It's a roller-coaster of an experience. Trying to convey these feelings to family members is impossible. They understand having a diagnosis and can't appreciate what's involved in not having one. They don't know what to say or do. Some even act like if there is no diagnosis, there is nothing really wrong. That's very frustrating. All of that would be complex enough but then we have to deal with how to talk to Maggie about it. We have chosen to tell her the truth and be honest without any histrionics. We don't allow her to use it for sympathy to get out of gym when she doesn't feel like it, etc. Even things like that can be a tough call though because there are days when she is just too exhausted to run in gym—even for short bursts. Generally, I think we have dealt with it pretty well as a family. I'm proud of us.

Dealing with the emotions of it can be tricky. My wife is often very upset about it. She has a sleep disorder and I think this has become a big part of it. I feel guilty but I honestly don't want to talk to her about it as much as she would probably like to. I manage to suppress it in my own way and I don't think I can do that if I am exposed to my wife's real emotions more often. It's really selfish of me, I know. It's purely self preservation. I do the family no good if I fall to pieces on them and as the primary bread winner, I have to stay in the game. Maureen and I could both probably use a professional to talk to. Just writing this is therapeutic. Right now, my coping strategy is to do some semi–controlled emotional explosions like a Thanksgiving speech at my in–law's that will go down in family history as the most tears spilled. I'm honestly not sure how to have a healthier way to deal with it. As I am writing this, I realize that what I am doing isn't really healthy. As her father, I feel like I should fix things for Maggie. At one point when I became frustrated with the waiting, I took things into my own hands and through a bit of luck, a colleague of my brother in–law connected us with a research team at Harvard. After they had sequenced a part of all our genomes and turned up nothing that could help her, I felt very defeated. Right now, I am having those feelings all over again. Who else can we take her to? Who can tell us what this is? Who can tell me that she is going to be fine? I want so desperately to be told that she is going to be fine. No medical person has been able to tell us that. I tell myself she will be. I pray that she will be. I pass on every positive piece of energy I have to that cause. It's not the same as being told by a medical professional "it's all over. she is going to be fine". It's just cruel.

After Maureen and I talked about Maggie's situation today, that cruelty hit me again. I was in that danger zone and on the brink of an emotional explosion. As Maureen went downstairs, my mind was going to dark places. I had a brief moment when I thought about Dean Karnazes taking off over the Golden Gate in his boxer shorts when he had a life crisis. What would I do if something happened to my little girl? I would go bloody berserk. I stopped myself at that thought and I chastised myself for thinking such a horrible thing. I had already planned to run. I had my gear on. I opened the back door and ran. As I headed down Western Avenue, it was like those scenes you see in movies where people are taking heroin. At first I was tearful and taut. I felt anger and I had to stop the temptation to explode into a sprint. I stuck with the pace and finally I was there. Ahhh! My face loosened up, my jaw slackened and I became expressionless. I felt like I was floating along for 4 miles. The gray sky, the 34°C, the dreary city streets and the drizzle didn't matter one bit. It was euphoric. I needed it.

Here's the thing about my run today. I don't physically run so that I can mentally run away from things. I feel that I run toward them. I run inside them. It's easier for me to think about Maggie's situation when I am in that running state of mind. I feel like I can deal with it. I feel like it is lighter and more manageable. I feel more positive about it. In fact, I had a little moment as I was coming alongside Humboldt Park where I daydreamed that Maggie (on older version) and I were running a trail side-by-side on a very long run in the sun. It was a very good feeling. The best of feelings. I told myself that once we get this blood thing dealt with, she could make an awesome distance runner if she is interested. She has a lot of self discipline and she knows how to overcome the limitations of her body. Every day for her is like an ultramarathoner standing at the starting line of a 100 mile race but with the disadvantage of having run 50 miles already. I so admire her. When I returned to the house after my run, I felt completely different. Nothing about the situation had changed but I had changed. I felt positive and motivated to talk about what we could do next. That's no small gift. It's amazing what a quick 4-mile-run can do.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Had Running Idols?

If you read my last post, you know that I had a chance to run on an all-weather track for the first time in my life. It really made me think of watching great British runners when I was a kid. I totally forgot that I had these running idols and that running was a part of entertainment back then. I had asthma, so I was never going to be really interested in running as a personal endeavor but running was a big part of British TV and I was glued to the box just like everyone else. There were great athletes before and after but the period of the late 70’s to the mid 80’s was magical. The athletes that pop for me are Daley Thompson, Allan Wells, Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Zola Budd and not forgetting Steve Jones. My readers in Britain will know these people like they are members of the family. For the rest of you, I’ll give you a quick trip down my memory lane. I actually learned a few things I didn’t know about these amazing people writing this post.

Daley Thompson
"When I lost my decathlon world record I took it like a man. I only cried for ten hours".

Great shot of Thompson. Last man standing.
Photo: George Herringshaw

An amazing decathlete from Notting Hill, London. I had no idea his real name is Francis Morgan Ayodélé Thompson. He was a handsome, cocky but lovable fellow. A great smile and a classic mustache. I include him when I think about running because a couple of his strongest events were the 100 and 400 meters. In fact, he won medals on the men’s 4x100 team in the European Championships and Commonwealth Games. He may not have been quite as fast as the 100 meter specialists but it was amazing to see him power away from the other decathletes. He won Gold in the '78, '82 and '86 Commonwealth Games. He won Silver in the '78 and Gold in the '82 and '86 European Championships. He won Gold in the '83 World Championships. He won Gold in the ’80 and ’84 Olympic Games. He broke the World record fours times and constantly kept beating Jürgen Hingsen, an amazing West German who was probably a better all round athlete but lacked Thompson's confidence and strength in the earlier events. His '84 World record lasted until '92 and is still the UK record. Daley was amazing to watch. He was as much an entertainer as he was a competitor. I didn't realize that after he retired in '92, he became a professional soccer player and was then a fitness coach in professional soccer. He also tried motorsports and did some motivational speaking as well as general appearances. He has been an ambassador for the 2012 London Olympics. Aparently he refused to carry the British flag at one event and got himself in trouble. He claimed holding a flag for an opening ceremony would spoil his event. A lovable rougue. This guy had big time charisma. I remember the nail biting experience of watching him rack up points over two days. Enjoy this 1984 piece of Thompson magic.

Allan Wells
"It’s about taking the body and mind to the limits. And I, masochistically, say that because I quite enjoyed doing that".
A picture that sums up Well's power.
1982 Photo: George Herringshaw
I think Allan Wells is the first man that made me jealous of another man's body. His legs were amazing pieces of machinery. He was controlled aggression. There was massive power in this Edinburgh born 100 and 200 meter specialist. I didn't know that he was originally a champion Scottish triple and long jumper. He turned to sprinting late in life at age 24. He retired in his mid 30's, setting a trend for sprinters to retire later. I remember his pale skin. I remember him being super intense while he competed. He claims that there were other sprinters with equal talent but nobody could match his commitment. His wife was an international sprinter too and together they were obsessive about their training. She now has a school of speed called Wellfast. I was interested to learn that the race that made him believe that he could be World class led to him receiving a winners trophy from Eric Lidell, the Olympic champion from the movie Chariots of Fire. If you can't remember the movie, I made a post about it. He won Golds for many years in the UK Championships, the AAA Championships, Commonwealth Games, European Cup, IAAF Golden Sprints, IAAF World Cup with his crowning glory being Silver in 200 and Gold in the 100 at the '80 Olympics. After he retired, he coached the British bobseligh team. It makes sense. Sprinting is a big part of the beginning of that sport. Apparently he is a system's analyst and a sprinting coach with Ian Mackie, another well known Scottish sprinter. I remember running in the back garden and pretending to be explosive like he was. I often think about him when I finish a run with strength. Enjoy this happy moment for Wells as he beats Ben Johnson.

Zola Budd
"Running was the easiest way to escape from the harsh reality of losing my sister because when I ran I didn't have to think about life or death".
Little Zola Budd catches up to Mary Decker.
The infamous South African born Zola Budd (now Pieterse) was best known for four things: Putting on a British vest in order to compete, accidentally tripping Mary Decker at the '84 Olympic 3000 meters, being a tiny 5'2" and running barefoot. As a kid, I didn't know that much about South African sanctions and I was certainly oblivious about Mary Decker, even though she is one of the most dominant female middle distance runners of all time. I was interested in a tiny girl who ran barefoot though. She was fun to watch. I really liked her running style. When Zola was 17 in '84, she broke the World record for 5000 meters but it was not recognized because of South Africa was banned from international competition. The Daily Mail newspaper helped Zola become a British citizen because of her grandfather and she ended up breaking the World record for real in '85. Her wins on track were spotty compared to some of the dominant runners of this period. Goodness knows how this kid would have performed without all the bullshit going on around her. How she managed what she did with that sort of pressure at that age is beyond me. She took two Gold medals in the '85 and '86 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. It was amazing to see such a tiny thing compete at that level and destroy competitors with her skinny little legs and bare feet. She was treated very unfairly because of politics and the Mary Decker incident. She had protestors on the track and crazy Decker fans threatening her life. Decker later admitted that it was her own fault because she didn't have enough pack running experience. Zola eventually had enough of the pressure and returned to live in South Africa. She now lives in the U.S. part of the time and competes for the love of running in masters races. She is married to a South Carolina track coach. Her feet must have softened over the years because she is now wearing Newtons. Check out Zola taking the 2000 meter World record. If you have some time, also check out the YouTube of her 1985 World Cross Country Championship win

Steve Jones
"I just run as hard as I can for 20 miles, and then race."
Jonesy running a marathon
I have a soft spot for Jonesy because he is Welsh. A blue collar boy who is humble and gracious but has a lot of drive and a desire to devastate his competition. The quote says it all. He viewed the marathon as a hard Sunday run and then a 10K and he fancied himself in a 10K against other marathoners. He grew-up not that far from where I am from in a town called Ebbw Vale. He got into cross country running as a favor to some friends and then ran in the Royal Air Force. He tried the steeple chase, did some cross country, 5000 but eventually found his way to the 10000 meters. He was spotty but gutsy on the track but then he graduated to the marathon and found true success. He was injured in '83 but he won his first ever marathon he entered in '84 in Chicago to take a World record. He did this without any pacer, race plan or special fuel. Just instinct and grit. In '85 Jones won the London Marathon even though he stopped for a bathroom break at Charlie Spedding (the favorite's) advice. He also won Chicago again in '85, came second at Boston in '87, won New York in '88 and won Toronto in '92. He currently lives in Boulder Colorado and I believe he is a painter as well as a personal running coach. When I think of Jonesy, I think of this video. He is well known for front running because he didn't have a strong kick. This video is so inspiring. If you get time, you can also watch the 1984 Chicago Marathon win too. That is also very impressive and shows the heart and courage of of the man. The post win interview gives you an idea how humble he is.

It was fun to look these folks up again. I thought that I had no real roots in running but I realized that these people are my roots. I never ran myself. I couldn't. But, I ran through these people. I watched them and jumped up and down in front of the TV to help them win their races. Since living here, I haven't heard anything about them. It would probably be different if I still lived in Britain. You probably see them on TV from time to time. I was going to cover Coe, Ovett and Cram in this post but that's a post to itself. That was a rare trinity that deserves a little deeper dive. There was a lot of mythology built-up around the three of them and I wanted to make some sense of it. Stay tuned...

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