This is my story with a brush of greatness: In the summer of 1974.I was a junior in High School who continued to run All-Comer track races at various spots in Southern Calif. My main hero at the time was John Walker of New Zealand. The man who would become Olympic champion and world record holder. He just came off that amazing Commonwealth Games 1500. To this day my favorite 1500/mile race of all-time. One day I decided to run an all-comers at Long Beach Jordan High school. It was sparsely attended. I noticed a familiar person in the stands wearing all black. When I realized who it was I stopped dead in my tracks and said to my friend, "Oh my god. That's John Walker!" What's he doing here? I said to my friend, "What ever race he runs in, I'm going to run in." I was an 800 meter guy and Walker chose to run that as well. So we toe the line along with one other athlete, a 1:48 guy from UCLA named Jeff Haynes. We ran on a dirt track. I had the furthest lane out. I felt like I was in a dream. The gun goes off! By the time we had gotten around the first turn Walker had passed me. I had never seen so much dirt being thrown up by spikes before. I completely forgot about my race and just watched this magnificent beast run! John Walker ran 1:52, Haynes 1:54 and this green junior in high school, 2:06. That equaled my best for the year. But the thing I will never forget and did not expect is that John Walker waited for me to cross the line, his hand extended and said to me, "nice race." What made it additionally surreal is that this was held at dusk and the setting sun behind Walker. His long blond hair gave off a glow. My reaction was, "I have seen the face of God!" Not really, but pretty damn close. I'm 56 years old now, and I still get excited talking about it. John Walkers handshake was an encouragement for many years. In 1979 I improved all the way down to 1:50.7 and was satisfied when I retired. P.s John Walker was at this rinkydink track meet because the following week he would be a guest at the AAU National Championships and would be racing against Wohlhuter. He just wanted to stretch his legs out after a 22hr plane flight.
I may have told this before but humor me repeating my brush with greatness. For the past 40 years, I have run in the annual invitational Tyler Cup, a 2 mile race/fun run, back-scratching event for over age 40 executives held a Ken Cooper's Dallas clinic every October/November. About 200 run each year in eight seeded "participation" heats and a serious Championship heat. The second year of the race, 1973, Frank Shorter, although not 40, attended as a celebrity guest runner, easily winning the Championship heat in about 9:30. At the conclusion of the heats. he ran a five mile race against a 10 x 880 relay team of mortals. Selection for the relay is not necessarily based on running prowess so he was not pressed, carrying on a conversation with each relay runner. When the last relayer dropped out, Frank picked up the pace and ran a solo 4:17 mile.This event was held the day before the NY marathon . This was his pre-race day workout. After lunch he got on someone's private jet and flew to NY. In 1973, I was still lean and mean and running in the Ch heat with the other low 10:00ers. I was wearing an Oklahoma State shirt, OkSt was enjoying some X-C success at the time. Frank mistakenly assumed I had some distance credentials. He smoked us. Frank has run in nearly every Tyler Cup since then, lowering the 2 mile record to 9:17 the year he turned 40 and participated in the event as a "peer". Frank runs in the 12:00s now but still as light as a feather. I have been priviledge to provide local transportation for Frank and Billy Rogers the years they have teamed up to run the 2 x half in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Frank is an interesting guy on much more than running, dedicated to eliminating doping and still campaigning to have Cerpinski(sp?) DQed from the Montreal marathon.
I'm adding this to my John Walker story. Maybe some of you remember John Walker took some serious time off to get Achilles surgery in the early '80's I think. He chose to make his first comeback race to be the Mohammed Ali Invit, an indoor event in Los Angeles which no longer exists. I was there with my wife who was a track fan as well. Anyway, Walker sets a new indoor WR in the 1500, running 3:37+. After the race Walker is walking up a nearby aisle. My wife was so caught up in the moment that she went up to him alone to congratulate him. I'm watching from a distance. She then asked him if she could kiss him. It caught John off guard and he said yes. I remember John smiling but blushing. Got a great laugh out of it!
I enjoyed both bearraccon and lonewolf's stories...good stuff.
Closest I have come to a brush with greatness was an October, 1961 cross-country race with Dennis Carr of Lowell H.S. I pushed the pace hard all the way in the 1.8mile race...Carr stayed with me until the final about 200m and then kicked away for a 8:54 to 8:58 win...we both broke the course record. Later in the track season Carr ran a 4:08.7 mile and was California state champion and in 1967 I watched him place second to Wade Bell in the 800m in the NCAA held at Provo, Utah.
Great stories! I always thought it would be cool to have a world class athlete show up at a local track and do some intervals or a fast mile. The best I've ever seen was in the middle of the night at a junior high school track in Orlando - I was doing a 13 miler at 7:10 pace, and a guy came up and did 6 x 1 mile with a 440 jog inbetween at 4:38 pace. I kept doing my laps, but was amazed to see a workout like this out of nowhere. Of course, there was the time a cow wandered onto the track while I was doing quarters, and when I came around the backstrech, I wasn't sure what the hell was at the end of the straightaway!
Several years ago, I think it was before the 1996 or 2000 OTs, Sheila Hudson, who was living and training in Fayetteville, Ark, showed up unannounced and at an all-comers/last chance meet at Univ Okla. I knew her from many previous high level meets but none of the other officials or competitors knew who she was. It was a small turnout so I jumped Men and Women together. It was amusing to watch her beat all the men except OU's # 1( at the time) TJer , who broke 50 feet for the first time. Shelia was one of the most technically efficient TJers I have ever observed, getting everything out of her diminutive body, leaving only a pair of size 5 foot prints in the sand as she extended and rotated forward, no butt, no body, no hands. She was a good LJer and I believe, had she had the physical stature of the East European women, would have been in the upper echelon of Women TJ. All that and she was/is attractive, shy and modest. If I sound like a Shelia Hudson fan.. yep. Oh yeah. Forgot. By grand coincidence, I happened to be the Pit Judge for two of her ARs. New Orleans and Atlanta, I think.
Last edited by lonewolf on Tue Aug 21, 2012 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Like many of the posters here I've kicked around the sport for a half century as a fan and official hanging out with the cool folks often came with it. Not the only story but given Mathew's recent success I'll toss this. The setting NYAC afterparty at Millrose
The cast doing the listening Bill Rodgers Tom Fleming Reese Hoffa wineturtle A couple of guys who "only" managed to run 2:12/2:15 at Boston back when.
The Talkers Eamonn Coghlan Matt Centrowitz sr.
Their topic Their sons
The content Exactly like you would hear in the stands at any HS meet when two random Proud Poppa's get to talking and chest puffing about the offspring.
John and Mathew would go on to join their fathers in the Sub Four Club. 40% of all fathers in the Father&Sons Sub Four in one conversation .
A brush with greatness--I've had a number of Scott Davis hugs and each one ranks as a brush with greatness in my book.
My life in the NYC restaurant business has given me the opportunity to become friends with a number of sports greats. One quick one- I'm out with a couple of NYC guys having dinner at Rusty Staubs joint on 73 st and Third ave when a fan comes to the table asking for an autograph. He walks away with a menu with Rusty Staub, Rod Gilbert, Joe Namath, Jerry Philbin and wineturtle's signature on it. I'm sure he has shown it to many of his friends. I often wonder what he says when they ask "Who's Tom Hyland"
Last edited by wineturtle on Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Old story (here): He was senior, I was a freshman (NE boarding school), I sat at his table (Srs were in charge) for 2 weeks and had to serve the food and then clear the table. He was one of the nicest Table Leaders. He broke all the Cross Country course records that fall. The next year all his records were broken by another boy, Julian Nichols, who continued to run well afterwards, but . . . didn't win the Olympic Marathon!
In the late 1970s and early 80s I taught in an elementary school in Northern NJ. I was an avid runner and discovered a 6th grader who was training with his father for the NYC Marathon. In those days there were no age limits. The boy told me that during the previous summer he was a spectator at a local little league baseball game. In the stands he spotted Lasse Viren. He approached Viren and began to speak to him. Viren was surprised that he was recognized. He quizzed the boy on what he (Viren had done). When the boy answered the questions Viren asked him where he had gotten the information. The boy answered Runners World. Viren added that he was rarely recognized and never in this town.But what really surprised Viren was that an American kid actually knew what he had done. It turned out that a woman who lived in the town came from Viren's village and he felt more comfortable staying with her family rather than in a hotel across the river in NYC. The boy later ran a successful marathon but by high school had lost all interest in running.
Local all-comers' meets can be great venues for lining up against some serious talent. At my local meet in Los Gatos, CA, I've run against (among others) Andre Phillips and Ato Boldon. Closest I've ever come to being lapped in a 400m race In the case of Phillips, it was only a few weeks before Seoul. He had the first 5 hurdles set up in his lane (everyone else was running a flat 400), and ran 47.0.
I was at the West Coast Relays at Fresno State in the late 1967 or 68 and the high jump area was jammed up close to the shot ring in front of the homestretch grandstand. Lots of greatness all around (Tommie Smith and Lee Evans and lots more...) but the closest brush was while my teammate and I were lounging around flaked out on the grass waiting for the HJ bar to be raised.
My buddy nudged me and said, "Maybe we'd better move." I rolled over to see that Randy Matson was standing about 3 feet away from us, throwing his shot straight up in the air (as in waaay high) and catching it in one hand, then repeating the process over and over. He seemed to have that 16 lb. ball under complete control but we still beat a hasty retreat.