Josh about to pass his grandpa

Josh about to pass his grandpa
Here, at age three, Josh regularly runs a mile or two with me--and I have to work hard to keep up!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Ever Became Of . . . (Have You Seen or Heard From Any of These Guys?)

     For more than three decades, I had no idea what ever became of Gerry Lindgren. 
     OK, if you're under 40 years old, maybe you never heard about him.  But when I was in my 20s, Gerry Lindgren was a legend.  Still in his teens, but already a legend.  I was an aspiring marathon runner, and I did some monster workouts in those days, of the kind memorialized in John Parker's classic novel Once a Runner, but when I heard about some of the training runs Gerry Lindgren would do, it made my head spin.
     Gerry Lindgren burst on the scene as a high-school kid in the early 1960s, and broke the American high-school record for 2 miles with a time of 8:40--a record that stood for 47 years.  He ran some epic races with a certain Steve Prefontaine, whose name you do remember.  "Pre" was a heroic figure at the University of Oregon, and when his focus on winning a gold medal at the Munich Olympics was shattered by the terrorist murders of other athletes that summer, and then Pre himself was killed in a car wreck before he could rebound by winning at the next Olympics in Montreal, he became a tragic figure.  Soon after his death, word went around the distance-running community (it was mainly word-of-mouth in those pre-Internet days) that a 15k road race would be held in West Virginia, in Prefontaine's memory.  I made the trip and ran, and I still have the racing singlet all the entrants were given--with the words "Remember PRE".  And remember we did.  Three movies of his life were made, and America's greatest annual track meet (the "Prefontaine Classic") immortalizes him.  No-one who's into running can ever forget Steve Prefontaine.
     But Gerry Lindgren?  For those three decades after he stopped showing up in world-class races, I never heard his name again--until one day earlier this year when I decided to give up my antediluvian ways and join Facebook (and start this blog).  Suddenly, out of the blue, there was Gerry Lindgren!  And not only that, suddenly he was my friend!  OK, he's not the skinny superhuman kid I remember, he's a 60-something guy like me.  But Gerry Lindgren is still running and inspiring younger runners, and I got a big kick out of learning that.
     Facebook also got me reconnected with a number of other runners I'd known or admired half a lifetime ago.  It made me acutely aware of how many guys I'd run with in the 1950s or '60s (very few women ran then), and even in the '70s and '80s, I now knew nothing about.
     Now, that's where I hope you can help.  A lot of the people I knew in the early years of running became memorialized as icons of the sport--people like Ted Corbitt, George Sheehan, Bill Rodgers, and Jacqueline Hansen.  A lot of others, though, have more or less disappeared.  Some were stars, while others were middle-of-the-pack runners who were never destined to be remembered by sports writers or book authors, and when they stopped appearing in the race results I stopped hearing about them.  But as I grow older, I find myself thinking about those runners I once knew (or knew about) a lot more than I did in my busy 40s or 50s.  Whatever became of them?  It's a long shot, I know, but runners do have a way of crossing paths (sometimes literally), and maybe you happen to know one or two of the people on my long-lost lists, below.  If so, I'd love to hear from you; just comment at the end of this post, or e-mail me at,

Late 1950s (my high-school years)
          Bobby Mack (Weequahic, New Jersey High School, and Yale)
          Pete Hoey (Mountain Lakes, New Jersey HS, and Princeton)
          Mike Sabino (Plainfield, NJ HS)
          Stan Blejwas (Holy Trinity HS,Westfield, NJ)
          Tom Sisko (Westfield, NJ High School)
          Skiggy Appezzato  (Westfield, NJ HS)
          John Swinton  (Westfield, NJ HS)
          Jim Heatly, Westfield, NJ HS)
          Mikes Schnidt, Westfield, NJ HS)
          Malverse (Micky) Martin, Westfield, NJ HS)
          Roger Bannister (first 4-minute mile, England)
          John Landy (Bannister's rival)

1960s  (College years, coaching years, and early road-running)
          John Creighton (Swarthmore College, and Eastern Shore Maryland area)
          Al Giese (Swarthmore)
          Hap Fairbanks (Swarthmore and New England)
          Dan Sober (Swarthmore and Washington, DC area)
          Larry Phillips (Swarthmore)
          Dave Snyder (Swarthmore)
          Roy Jernigen (University of Delaware)
          Paul Minehan (LaSalle College)
          Jim Colvin (Swarthmore)
          Paul Peele (Swarthmore)
          John Simon (Swarthmore, poet)
          Eamon O'Reilly (Georgetown U. and marathon star)
          Morio Shigematsu (Boston Marathon winner, and Japan)
          Gar Williams (U.S. 50-mile champion, and New Jersey-area roadrunning)
          Bob Scharf (marathoner and road racer, Washington, DC area)
          Fred Best (Central Jersey Track Club)
          Herb Lorenz (South Jersey/Philadelphia area road runner)
          Tom Osler (ultrarunning pioneer, originator of alternative LSD (Long Slow Distance)
          Ron Delany (awesome miler)
1970s (The boom begins, and ultras get a foothold too)
          John Garlepp (New York Road Runners, and U.S. 50-mile champion)
          Gary Muhrke (winner of the first New York Marathon)
          Tom Fleming (first big prize-money winner in long-distance running)
          Morio Shigematsu (Boston Marathon winner, Japan)
          Steve Scott (top American miler)
          Wesley Paul  (2:55 at the New York Marathon, at age 9)
          Alex Ratelle  (masters phenom)
          John Campbell (masters phenom, Down Under)
          Stormi-Ann Guntsch  (kid phenom)
          Bruce Robinson  (Washington, DC-area road runner)
          Bob Thurston  (Washington, DC-area road runner)
          Laura DeWald  (Washington, DC-area road runner)
          Dick Clapp  (Washington, DC-area road runner)
          Max White (JFK 50-mile winner)
          Bob Harper  (occasional training partner, DC-area)
          Bob Zoellick  (Swarthmore, and occasional training partner, DC-area)
1980s  (Golden Age of Road Running, and growing popularity of ultrarunning
          Sal Vasquez  (masters phenom)
          Norm Green  (masters phenom)
          Jim O'Neil  (masters phenom)
          Antonio Villanueva  (masters phenom)
          Carlos Lopes  (Olympic marathon champion)
          Julie Isphording  (Olympic marathoner)
          Joan Benoit  (first women's Olympic marathon champion)
          Rob DeCastella  (world marathon record-holder)
          Mary Decker-Tabb  (elite road runner)
          Bob Cooper  (Running Times editor)
          Julie Brown  (marathon whiz)
          Gary Tuttle  (elite road runner)
          Miruts Yifter  (10,000-meter Olympic marathon champion, Ethiopia)
          Don Ritchie  (100-mile world-record holder, England)
          Pat Porter  (cross-country phenom)
          Ruth Anderson  (trail running pioneer)
     I realize that with several decades having passed, some of the older runners on these lists may have passed on to the Great Finish Line we will all reach in due course.  But most are probably still kicking and maybe even still running for health and enjoyment.  And if you can update me and any other interested readers on any of these remarkable people, please let us hear from you.