[Another in a series of interviews from way back in the day I’m posting].
I met with Mr. Luzins in July of 2000 at a Denny’s in Gainesville. He currently works as an architect. We spoke about his experiences as part of the Florida Track Club, as well as his running career as a whole.
-To start off, do you recall your address or where you lived when you first came to Gainesville?
My address during those days? When I first came to Gainesville I lived at the Vizcaya Apartments. It was right up the street from the Publix, you know where 34th street is? Vizcaya is right down from the Publix on that side over there. That first fall we used to always meet right there at the Publix at 6 o’clock for our morning run. I don’t know why it grew, but when we started it was 6 or 8 people, but by the time November rolled around there were like 100 people. I always went back home, took a shower, a went back to bed for a while.
-What was your first year here?
’73. Fall of 73.
-[Reading] 3:58.1 for the mile and 1:45.2 for the 800 – are those accurate PRs, or have you surpassed those?
No, not recently. (Laughs)
-Any other times of note? 2 mile, steeple, or 3?
No, not really.
-Can you tell me what attracted you to Gainesville, and where you came from?
I came from Virginia. I was in the Marine Corps. I was running in the Marine Corps. I had gone to school at William and Mary in Virginia. I had kept up my running in the Marine Corps. In fact, that’s when I won my – no, I didn’t win any national championships then, but I was able to keep up my running. I wanted to come back to school – graduate school in architecture. I came to Gainesville for the first time for the Florida Relays, 1970 and just really loved it. We had left the Washington area and it was snowing in late March and got down here and everything was green and it was warm and beautiful. I said, ‘This is where I want to come to school.’ I got out in June of 73 and was all set up to go and came down here in the fall and started school and was in for 3 years. I got my masters degree and have been in town ever since.
-Is architecture what you currently do?
-Did you talk to any of the current members before you came down here?
Yeah. I knew most of them prior to that. Barry Brown, he was one of the – I’m sure you’ve got the whole thing on Barry. Byron Dyce was moving down here at the same time I was, and he and I were contemporaries. We ran against each other all the time, because he was (another good [?]) runner, too. Marty was here. Barry and Marty were down here in 72, they came a year earlier. I had spoken with Jimmy Carnes a lot. In fact, he was the one that really kind of prompted me to make that decision come down and run for the club. But by the time I got down here I was kind of split between the architectural school and running, and I had gotten married, also that summer. Everything had changed completely from what I was doing prior to that. Before that, running was it, 100 percent. Now running was like 33 percent. I was stretched a little bit further. The way I look at my career here in Gainesville was it was just kind of a nice way to go out and finish up. I never really achieved anything in Gainesville that I hadn’t already achieved. I could have retired before I got here and still have had as good of a career, just about. It was fun to run with the Florida Track Club. In the fall of 73 we had the national [AAU] cross country championships here in Gainesville and so running that was really interesting and fun. Then of course by 1974 I turned professional and ran in that professional league that was around for a couple of years. And of course after that I retired, because anybody that had run professionally — taken any money — couldn=t come back to the amateur ranks. It was about the time for me to retire anyways, because I was finishing up school, getting ready to go to work. The Florida Track Club had a great reputation and great standing in the running community and I really wanted to be a part of that.
-When did you get married?
June of 73.
-On your priority list, running came after school and family?
I trained everyday, and tried to do everything, but it was that much more difficult because of all these other requirements. You know, staying up later — to have to work, to study, those kind of things start to wear on you after a while. I wanted to be 100 percent for everything, but it wasn=t going to happen. I was getting older, too — older, hell, I was only 26 years old, but, it=s hard to say. There were just more distractions. You couldn=t really pinpoint, and during that time I felt that I was just as committed to running as I ever was. But in retrospect I don=t think I was because you only have so much energy and so much mental capacity to deal with things and I was just being spread a little bit thinner. I feel that to be running at a world class level you just have to be at 100 percent. You have to be committed to it, 100 percent focused on it, not being distracted by a lot of other things. I think I really came here thinking that I would be able to do it all. I really expected to improve and run better and possibly take a shot at the >76 Games because in >72 I was injured and didn=t really have a shot at the team. >76 was in the back of my mind, although I think it was like, AIt might be nice, but I may not be around to do it, but I=m in the best position I could possibly be in if I were to try — if I were to want to do it — because I really didn=t have to go to work right away. I had a little bit of money saved, so we could have kind of (bucked along), but when the professional thing came along, there wasn=t a lot of money in it, but the decision was made in the winter of >74 (or was it >75) that I would go ahead and run professionally, just take the money and run. The league didn=t do as well as they had planned, and it kind of petered out and folded in early summer of >76 and I graduated and got my masters degree in December of >76, so it was perfect timing.
-When you were at the University of Florida, did you have any financial help?
Well, I had the GI Bill, but not anything athletically or any kind of money from the University itself.
-With ITA (pro track), did someone approach you, or did you meet with someone involved?
They approached me. I had started the indoor season running really well. I ran like a 4:01 mile indoors for the first race, and I felt like I was going to have a good season, and that=s when they approached me. I don=t think I really won a mile race ever. Most mile races, even the 3:58 mile I didn=t win. I=d run 4 minutes, 4:01, a lot of four-flat-point-twos and I don=t think any of them were winning times. It was always like second or third place times. But they were trying to build the league and I was a recognizable name, so they approached me. It was a hard decision to make, because you knew you were throwing away your amateur standing. It wasn=t like you were going to do this and then come back. Nowadays, all your NBA basketball players play in the Olympics B and it=s ridiculous B but it was a tough one.
-What was your thinking in making the decision?
Running to me has always been me against the clock. As much as competition is important, I seem to always focus on trying to run faster, so it didn=t matter to me where I was running. If I had the opportunity to improve and run faster, that=s what really mattered to me. It was what that time was. I would much rather run second or third and run a fast time than win in a slow time B the obvious exception being the Olympics for obvious reasons.
-Did you enjoy running on the professional tour?
It was ok. I don=t really have any real negative memories of it. They took pretty good care of us. Travel and accommodations and everything were fine. We went to Europe once, so it was decent. But I was doing basically the same stuff I had always done. It wasn=t any different as far as the travel B getting on the plane, being away from home, going away for the weekend once or twice a month. I forget how many races we ran, but almost all the races were indoors, except for one in Atlanta, and in El Paso we had an outdoor race or something. It was just a lot of travel. I kind of did all of my traveling when I was younger. Then from about the time I was in my early 30s until just recently I didn=t do a lot of traveling. Recently my family and I have been doing a bit of traveling just for the fun of it, doing some family vacation things that we really didn’t do. My wife had children when I met her and we never had a chance to do that because we couldn’t afford it. It’s nice to just take off when you want B in June we spent some time in Maine. That was great, and my daughter’s 13 so we she’s really able to enjoy something like that. But the traveling aspect of it was tough. It was always exhausting. A lot of time we’d try to run 2 nights in a row so you=d travel not only the day before a race, but then in between races — the next morning you=re traveling and running again the next night or something. A lot of times you=d run 2 races, like in the Trials or championship meets, but you never really got on an airplane and traveled in between the two. It=s not quite the same thing. It=s more like a carnival or circuit act — you=re just trying to get through it. It was always nice to be able to go into a race where you felt like you were really on top of it. Totally. Everything was right. Then you had no excuses. If you didn’t run well, you didn’t, but it was just nice to have everything fall into place, and be ready and rested enough.
-What part did your wife play in running?
I met her when I was at the peak of my career and she did do a lot of traveling around before I came down here. She was a fan of track, but she didn=t take up jogging. She and I were divorced 2 years later, and my present wife, she doesn=t jog, either. I=ve never taken up with a woman, who was a runner. It’s the total opposite of me. I run a little bit now. I don’t do a lot of running, but I still feel the fitness aspects of it are extremely important. I know when a lot of runners finish their career, they just bag it and they don’t want to ever think about again. But I miss running if I don=t run. I really enjoy it. Any time I=m injured, or I have too much to do, I get feeling bad about it. Anytime I run I feel better than I did beforehand, from the standpoint of feeling refreshed and ready to go take on the world.
-Do you still keep track of what you do?
No. I never really kept track of what I did before, when I was competing. I didn=t keep a log. That=s probably one of the big mistakes I made, because I could never really get consistent as far as what kind of training I needed. My training was modified as I went along. There was one point, where I felt like I was really hitting the training just about right, really optimizing things, but I never really kept a record of it. Then when I came to Florida I started training with all these other people so they may not want to do my workout. They had their types of workouts, so all the workouts got kind of melded together and changed a little bit. I know the first fall I ran I think 37th in the cross country championships but paid a real price for it when track came around. I tried to run the mile B that was in November B and tried to run an indoor mile in January and ran like 4:12. My legs were dead. I was running a hundred miles a week which was a lot for me, and I ran like 12 weeks in a row a hundred miles a week. Those six o=clock morning runs, 6 or 7 mile morning runs, double workouts, 6 days a week, and I really got myself conditioned for a 10k race. But I was more of a 60 mile a week guy with a lot more uptempo stuff. Whenever I ran faster stuff I improved. For 800 meters you=ve gotta have a sense of good tempo. The best kind of workouts were when Liquori and I would just bust 200 meters in 24/25 B just do a bunch of those. That was a killer workout. We probably took 4 or 5 minutes rest in between each one. To run a 1:44 you have to hit 26 seconds a lap, so to run 24 or 25 in a workout is nothing. You=ve gotta be able to do that all day long.
-Were there particular people you would match up with in training?
Yeah, mostly Liquori and I would workout together, and Byron [Dyce] would get involved in that, because he was a miler. He was more of a miler/2-miler, and we were more like half-miler milers. But we could do the quicker stuff together. He=d do some more distance-oriented stuff and then he=d run with Shorter or Barry [Brown], but whenever he wanted to run fast he=d drop down and run with [Liquori] and me and there were probably another half dozen half milers there.
-Did you ever hang out with any of the other runners socially?
A little bit, but not that much. Most of them were single and they were living a pretty free, loose life, you know, spend some time in bars — they had some favorite bars around town B so, being married, the whole thing was different for me — coming back to school when I was older, and being in school with kids who were like 8 years younger than I was. They all worked the same way, they=d spend a lot of time partying and then they=d try to work and complained about having to pull all-nighters and I=m going “Yeah, you=re out partying until midnight, and then you=re going to start working at midnight. Well, I=m finished working at midnight, and I=m going to bed. I just work a little bit different than you guys.” School was so much easier [being older]. You=re more mature, and you=re much more controlled. When you=re young, you just do crazy things. You don=t get enough rest or whatever for a few days, you do too much drinking and that just puts a big ol= hammer to you. Then you=re just trying to pull yourself out of that for the next week. But being consistent, taking care of yourself, all the things that go along with that. To me, it was being married, living a normal life. I thought that that was going to help me a little bit, that was going to be a positive towards training and trying to improve in running. It was, but when you get too many things going on, it=s just not the same thing. I guess maybe the real desire deep down inside may not have been there. I still did it religiously, but somehow it may not have been the same. I was moving into a new phase of my life. I guess that’s a natural thing, but giving up running was about the most difficult thing I ever did. It was really tough to say, “I’m retired.” I continued to run road races and things; I never just quit. But by the same token, I knew I was not going to compete again on any kind of a level, because I was a professional and I was branded, and there was never a thought of ever making a comeback, so to speak. By the time I reached 29 years old I think I had done all my running. Some guys can manage to run in their 30s and some very rare people can run close to 40, but I don=t think I was one of them. Not at that level, not punishing yourself that much, because it wears on you.
-How did you first get into running?
That=s an interesting question. I think I was a sophomore in high school. I imagine I was starting to look for avenues of self-expression or to fulfill certain things within my self. I was in Scouts at the time and I was doing a physical fitness merit badge or something which required running and it was a one mile run, actually. It was around the streets, and the guy had set up a little course. By the time I had finished B I don=t know how many times I had run that thing over a period of several weeks B I ran it like in 4:30. Obviously it was a short mile, but he said, AYou=re running pretty well. You oughta try track and field.@ Next thing I knew, I was on the high school track team. It was like BLIP! it happened, and I never looked back, because it was something I enjoyed. I had thought about other types of athletics earlier on, but I just wasn=t ready. Then I was 15 years old and I was ready then. The first mile I ever ran was a 5:01 in track. I can still remember that. I can still see myself putting on those shoes. I had to borrow somebody=s shoes; I didn=t even have my own shoes. They were big old black clod-hopper spikes. They were black with white stripes and they were monsters.
We ran on cinders. This was up in Norfolk in Virginia and we ran on cinders on the track, which required like 3/4 inch long spikes to get any kind of traction.
-5:01. How did that stack up on your high school team?
I was immediately the top miler. In a way I was fortunate that I was never in a big crowd, in any place where I would be pushed back to the rear because my performances B there weren=t a lot of guys better than me B so I was always at a level where I was kind of near the front or at the front, the best guy. Even later that spring I ran 4:43 that first year and finished 2nd or 3rd in the city meet, so I was accomplishing something B I wasn=t getting my butt kicked. I was getting some encouragement from that. My encouragement always came from improving my times. I was always time-oriented. If I knocked 5 seconds off my time, I came back for more. I was ready for more. If I could knock off 5, I could knock off 5 more, keep going at that, and I gained a lot of satisfaction from that. I think I was just very lucky to a great extent that everything fell into place. I went to college and got a scholarship. I ran 4:26 as a senior, went to William and Mary. I ended up running 3rd in the NCAAs my senior year, outdoors in the 800, making all-American. Things just clicked. I=ve always said, in anything else I do in my life, I will probably never accomplish as much as I did in track and field when I was 20. I peaked out at 20 (laughs). Now I=ve gotta settle for just being back in the pack.
-So it wasn’t so much to do with a coach?
No, it was a lot to do with coaching. I had a coach who had gone to William and Mary and he had run track and he kind of helped recruit me for William and Mary. In high school I ran probably 30 miles a week, and never ran during the summers. I was just running to tolerance, basically. Thinking back on it, I could have run a lot more, and could=ve probably been a lot better in high school. But it=s all water under the bridge B I could=ve also blown up. I squeaked by. The guy that recruited me for William and Mary was a very good coach. He was a hard taskmaster. When I went to college, the training ratcheted up. Unbelievable. I was running 2 or 3 times more than I was in high school, just like that. So I just hung on by the skin of my teeth. I always had to run cross country. All half-milers had to run cross country. I ran ok cross country B I was on the traveling team B but I was never going to win any cross country races. The training was tough, because we=re talking distance training for 3 or 4 months. It gave me some pretty good background to go into the track season. I think by my junior year I was 5th indoors in the half at NCAAs, third outdoors, third indoors in the 1000 and third outdoors my senior year. So I gained some consistency, got to be one of the top-level finalists in those events, so I felt like I accomplished more than I would have ever thought. I always wrote down silly numbers, doodled times of what I think I could run. I had written down 1:43 as my goal for 800, which I never accomplished, but I think if I had had things go a little bit differently and done things a little bit differently, I would probably have been close to that. I really do. When you run that fast, you can=t believe you ran it. When you run 1:45, you can=t believe you ran that fast. That=s like going out in 51, and coming back in 54, or 53-point. So you know you can do that once you=ve done it, you just can=t believe you ran that fast. It=s just awesome. Things have gotta be just right, the pace has gotta be right B 800 meters is a long way to run that kind of pace. Most of my best races were when I ran against the clock, when I took the lead and led the whole thing, not get into a lot of traffic, because I was tall and lanky, and when I got into traffic it kind of hurt me a little bit. You get bounced around and that kind of throws you off, and your race goes down the tubes a little bit. There was just a lot of good breaks. I think coming to school here, joining the Florida Track Club. Everything was just good breaks for me, all along the way. I can=t complain.
-Was your HS training interval based?
Yeah, more interval-based. We ran a little bit of distance, but the first 10 mile run I ever ran was my senior year in high school with this coach from East Carolina. He was visiting and recruiting, and we went out for a 10 mile run and it was my first 10 mile run, as a senior. So I didn’t have a lot of distance background in high school. When I got to college, we were running a lot of 10, 12 mile runs fairly hard. At least one a week. Cross country races went from 2 miles to 5 miles, so it was quite a jump.
-When you were in the Marine Corps, did you keep the same kind of training regimen as you had in college?
Yeah. I had some fairly good guys to work out with, so I wasn=t running by myself. We maintained a certain distance regimen, where we would do up to 15 mile runs during the fall or early in the track season once a week then after that it kind of tailed off and we did just one ten mile run a week. You know during track season, just an easy 10 mile run.
-So you didn’t have the conflict that you had in Gainesville of Cross country vs. indoor track?
No. I may have run a few double workouts in college, but I didn’t ever get on a consistent double workout schedule, because it wasn’t what I needed. Some people really thrive on it. I got kind of caught up in it because when I got to Gainesville I was running with Frank Shorter and Barry Brown and all those guys and you just get pulled along by that, not thinking about what I was really doing. I was feeling pretty good for what I was doing, getting ready for a 10k race. I was feeling great, never thinking that by January 10th I was still going to be flat as a pancake, my legs were going to be just dead. But I can=t remember what I did in December. I probably didn=t do a lot of real good uptempo stuff. Or take a couple weeks off completely. I was always a big believer in resting. Resting was very important at the end of the season, if you took a week or two off it wasn=t any big deal. You probably ran better; I know I did. I always ran better if I did. Most of my rest was forced because of injury, but damn, it paid off. There was one thing about the Florida Track Club B the mentality here. Everybody worked very hard. It was go, go, go B nobody took time off, nobody rested. Everybody was driving everybody else, it was like a big engine, just pumping away. We had so many animals on the team that they could handle that, but nobody gave themselves the chance to really peak. I don=t think any of those guys really allowed themselves to peak. Marty, he always peaked at the right time. He peaked in the summer, when all the hard work was done, so he would go to Europe to run. That=s where you want to run your best races, and he always managed to do that. He set a couple of American records while he was over there, ran personal bests all the time. He knew what he was doing. He was well coached in college and knew himself well. He was a good man to run with, because you knew you were running against someone who was in full control of himself. You might be able to beat him, but the guy was getting the most out of himself. That was good to absorb; good to be a part of.
-Did you have any rivals after you got out of college?
Not really. When I was in college, it was a whole different thing. Then it was this big competitive thing. [In the FTC] You’d never really run against the same people very often, because if you did some traveling you didn’t run into the same people, except maybe in some of the invitational meets – Wottle and Wolhuter, who were just coming up. This was back right after the Olympics in >72. They had just made a big splash. These guys hadn’t done much before hand and they just were there at the right time in ’72 and made the team and of course retired right away and Wolhuter went on to dominate the 800 for several years. I mean, he was a good high school runner, I think B was probably about a 1:52 guy in high school B but he really came into his own after college. He ran a 3:53 mile for crying out loud when he was just a half-miler. He was more of a pure half-miler/600 meter guy. He was almost a quarter-type guy B a speed guy, and he ran a 3:53 mile, so he was doing something right.
Of course, nowadays, there are so many guys out there running so fast, that if I was trying to run today that I=d even be able to maintain my mental stability, to hang in there, because all the 800 meter runners are superfast 400 guys. Their speed is just unbelievable. I was like a 48 second quarter miler for my top speed. It was a 48 second relay carry for 400 meters. Even Byron Dyce had 45.7 carry and Jim Ryun ran 46-point. Sebastian Coe — a 46-point guy. So on the speed end of it, I was missing it; I was missing it on the endurance end of it too. I never ran under 14:20 for 3 miles. I ran with Byron in a time trial, we had time trials out here sometimes. He ran 13 fifty-something for 3 miles, so he had a lot wider ability range. If I had my druthers B I knew what I know today and I was 15 B I=d be training like a quarter miler. I=d be a quarter miler and then I=d move up, once I got my speed down a little bit; while I=m developing and growing I=m doing the speed stuff, which is probably the toughest to develop. You get that while you=re in your growth spurt and then after that you can start running distance and building on top of that speed, but once you=ve got the speed you=re going to keep it. The muscles are there, the fast twitch jobs.
-Since you have retired from running, have you done any coaching?
I never had any desire to coach. I mean, I think about it, because I feel like I have something to offer, but I just don’t have the time or the inclination to do it. But I see people training, and I know what worked for me. Like I’m telling you right now about developing an athlete say from age 14 or 15. An athlete that wants to be good and is willing to commit to a 10-year program. That would be interesting to be able to do that B to see if those theories really pan out. I often think about it and if I had different circumstances, what it would have been like, because a second in the 400 is all I would have needed I think, to run 1:44 or better — be that first guy under 1:44. I remember when that time fell for the first time, I thought, “Damn! Now I can’t do it.” (Laughs) But the guy that did it was a 44-point, or 45 second quarter miler. That’s when it first really dawned on me, that it was going to be a quarter miler’s race, when Fiasconaro ran 1:43.7. Because before that it was Ralph Doubell, and Dave Wottle, and Wolhuter and myself running 1:45 or better with mediocre speed — 46 to 48 second speed. Then all of a sudden a 44 second quarter miler steps up and he runs a world record — “Uh oh, things are changing. The world=s a different place now.” So I=m glad I finished up when I did (laughs). You go back to the mid 60s you get guys like Peter Snell and people like that B he was the world record holder in the 800 and mile, and he wasn=t that fast. He was probably only a 47 second quarter miler B he was just such an animal. I think my forte was just anaerobic endurance. I could run a pretty good tempo for a little bit longer than the next guy, or I could go out a little bit harder and hang on a little bit longer than the next guy. That was basically it in a nutshell, there wasn=t any magic about it, you just go out there and do it — hold on. Of course, the best races I=ve ever run, my fastest times, none of those races really hurt. You hurt a lot more in races when you=re not ready and you run slower, but you seem to work harder. It just messes you up a lot more. In your best races, you just turn right around and you=re ready to do another one.
-Did you have any favorite meets, whether they were particularly successful, or just that you appreciated?
Oh, sure. My consistency in any race was kind of up and down. Occasionally, I=d win, but I=d place second B but I like indoor meets. Millrose, LA, there was always a big crowd. But outdoor meets, outside of Europe, outdoor meets were poorly attended. Whereas indoor meets always seemed to have good crowds, they=d fill the arena for an indoor meet, no matter where you went. But for some reason outdoor meets just weren=t the same way. So just having all that crowd around you and all that action going on in a small venue was pretty damn exciting.
-Breaking the 4 minute mile, was that a big deal for you?
It was a big deal. I remember consciously working for it. The first time I really thought about the four minute mile was when I ran 4:05. I thought, well, it’s going to be within reach here soon. I worked hard and whittled away at it very slowly. I ran 4:05, 4:03, 4:02, 4:01, 4 flat. I ran a lot of 4:01s. I think I went from 4:01 something down to 3:58, then I ran a bunch of times in the 4 flat-point area. I never really trained as a miler. I probably could have done a lot better in the mile if I had trained as a miler, but I don=t know that that would have helped my 800. In college by my senior year I had decided I was going to be an 800 meter runner. Anything I ran in the mile was just for fun. I guess it was good to make an excuse – “I=m not a serious miler. If you kick my ass it doesn=t matter.” (Laughs)
[The 3:58.2] was in the Modesto Relays  and I was second. There was a guy from South Africa who won and ran 3:56. I was 3:58 and I think Duncan McDonald was 3:59. I was pleased with breaking four minutes. You know, “God, I finally did it. Yaaaay!” But the guy just kind of walked away from me and beat me by 2 seconds. It was kind of disheartening. I=m sitting there thinking, “What can I do? What can I do to change that?” Because I felt like everything was on track, but boy, it just wasn’t there. So it was kind of a mixed thing – I got a sub-4 mile, but it left me with more doubts than answers about my ability to run a mile. I had jumped in a couple of big-time miles with world record holder kind of guys and I could tell when the move came I wasn’t ready to move. Milers usually finish the last 200 faster than an 800 meter runner. So when they took off, it was like, “Aw, darn it.” Their legs move that fast. I was in a race in Los Angeles when I ran 4 flat point zero zero. Ryun was in it, and I finished 5th. Everybody was in a group with a lap to go, and going down the backstretch it just turned into wide open sprint. I never really figured out how I could do that. (Laughs) I got into a mile the year before, late in the summer. I was in Berlin. I got into a mile there that was probably the hottest mile I=ve ever been in. Kip Keino was in it, Ben Jipcho, a couple of Germans, Fiasconaro from Italy. It was like the top milers in the world were in this goddamn race, and I was in it. They didn=t even ask me to rabbit the thing B I was just in the race. I don=t even think they had a rabbit. My best mile up to then was like 4:03. I ran 4:01.2 and I just ran myself out. I couldn=t run any faster if I had to, and that was my fastest time up until then. That was like September, and it was like next May that I ran 3:58.
-How did you get into that type of mile race?
I didn=t want to run the 800 or there wasn=t an 800 there or something and they invited me to be in the mile. They just happened to have B of like, 12 spots B one that I would fit into. I was just lucky. Normally you wouldn=t find that. They were just short a couple milers.
-At the time, how did you view the other runners in the race?
I was like Wow. Here’s Kip Keino, the Olympic Champion, who=s run 3:52, Jipcho’s run 3:52, Fiasconaro=s run 3:53. The top 5 guys have been under 3:55, and I was like, AIf I=m ever going to do it,@ I’m thinking, maybe this was my night to do it, to go under 4. I knew that I had run an optimal race, I wasn=t going to run much faster than 4:01. It wasn’t a bad benchmark; it was my fastest time, so what the hell. Most half milers I think struggle with the mile. [Mark] Winzenried went under 4 once. We all have to do it just to say we=ve done it, for what it=s worth.
-When you were amateur, did you see any of the payments to runners?
Oh, sure. When I was running, there wasn=t a lot of big bucks. There may have been 2 or 3 athletes who were making anything of any sort of money. The money was just beginning to be there. Even I could get myself a first class airline ticket and I=d cash it in and go coach and have 2 weekend meets in a row and stay out in California and get 2 airline tickets. And get expenses paid for the whole week, because each meet pays you about 3 or 4 days expenses so you have the whole week covered. But that was just kind of paying for the lifestyle. At least you didn=t feel like you were scraping by. You could afford to go out to eat and have a good time.
If you were one of the top 10 or 12 athletes in each event, you got your shoes free and stuff like that. I was running in adidas and adidas always supplied me with all of the shoes I needed. In fact they had a rep over in California – Mike Larrabee, who was the Olympic 400 meter champion in >64 B and he was the adidas rep in Santa Maria, and he would always show up at meets with bags full of shoes. So we would always come home with a brand new bag with 6 pairs of shoes. That was a given, that was no problem. The airline thing I=m sure could have gotten people in trouble, but everybody was doing it. If you were invited to come to a meet and they were going to pay your expenses, the meet director expected to buy you a first class airline ticket and what you did with it was your business, and nobody ever questioned it.
-Do you think that situation had any effect on your decision to run with ITA
In a way it did. I just felt like everybody should be getting more money anyway, that ITA was the kind of situation that should exist for everybody, like it does today. It just took a few extra years for them to get to the point where they recognized that an athlete needs to have a source of income if he=s going to continue to compete and improve. He doesn=t need to have to worry about a job, because that=s detrimental to your athletic performance. We were kind of a fledgling situation, and of course were battling the International Olympic Committee as far as the mentality they had. Even when money started getting paid to athletes, they had to put it into trust accounts and could only draw on it for their personal living expenses and that kind of shit. Now it=s kind of whatever you make you keep, and no one=s the wiser.
-To kind of get back to Gainesville. . .
Yeah, let=s get back to Gainesville! (Pounds table for emphasis) Have you ever met Dave Milliman? He came to Gainesville about >74. He was a marathon runner, probably the fastest 200 pound marathon runner ever. He weighed a lot, he ran under 2:30 and he was over 200 pounds. Pretty incredible, because marathoners are supposed to be efficient little guys, little wisps — like Frank Shorter. If his shoes get wet, he=s done in by the extra weight. But Dave publishes the Track and Field Coaches magazine, so he deals with NCAA stuff a lot. He still knows what=s going on. I looked at Track and Field News and said, AGod, is that how fast they=re running now?@ Because I have lost contact completely.
-Do you go to the Florida Relays or other meets in the area?
I sometimes do, but I really don=t make much time for it. I thought about going out this next weekend to Sacramento for the Olympic Trials. I decided not to, because we had just gotten back a few weeks ago from Maine, and we=ve already been skiing this winter so I=ve been traveling a lot, spending a lot of money, so I just decided, hell, I don=t need that. I really enjoy that, though. There were times in the 80s, I=d travel to several meets, I went to the Olympic Trials in 88, TAC championships, just because I enjoy it. TAC in Knoxville in 95 was really the last championship meet I went to. The longer you=re away from it, you have other things going on and you get distracted, and you don=t think about it. I haven=t forgotten track and field, I=ve just neglected it.
-What do you think you added to the Gainesville training group?
I think I contributed in a positive way. It=s hard to measure. The training we did out there, everybody was working extremely hard. Any time you have people working that hard against each other it=s going to benefit the group. I=m talking about the group as a core 6 or 8 athletes that are running together in a workout. I don=t think I contributed to the club itself that much. I never held any office in the club, never really involved in any of that kind of stuff. I went to the meetings a lot, and was a regular fixture so to speak for quite a few years. I think it was in kind of a passive capacity, but I think during the time I was still competing I benefited a lot from my association with everybody and I think their association with me was beneficial, too, because I think we all were able to help each other out quite a bit.
-To what extent did University of Florida athletes try to work out with the top guys?
It was funny, early on in the 70s [the club guys] were out training at the same time as the university guys. There came a time that that was stopped, because the coaches felt like the elite athletes and post-grad athletes were causing more problems than good, training with the younger guys. So they set up a schedule I think so that the club guys couldn’t get on the track until later in the afternoon when the university guys were finished. That to me was kind of a silly thing. Maybe we were running too far above their ability and that could be a problem, but I don’t really remember training, except for a couple times, with the university guys. You have to kind of train in a group that you=re comfortable with and that has a similar ability. A lot of these guys we didnt consider training with, because it wouldn=t be good for them or us.
-Do you recall where the morning route was? [Ed. – I pulled out a Gainesville/UF map]
We started at the Publix here. Im drawing a blank, but it went around the campus, I=m not sure in what direction. It was about a 6 mile run. I would take us about 40 to 42 minutes to make the run. I would head back to Viscaya [Apartments], take a shower, and go back to sleep. I didn=t have class til 10 o=clock so I was back in bed by about 7:30 til about 9. An hour and a half. And I would fall asleep just like that. Every single time. Never did I not fall asleep when my head hit the pillow. I was gone in 5 minutes. It was great.
-Is this 6 days a week?
No, just 5 days a week. Sunday runs, I didn’t get into the Sunday runs. A lot of runs originated at Barry Brown’s, because Barry was the distance guru. He lived off of 16th Avenue, right here [indicates point on map] on Maple Hill. A lot of runs originated from his place here, came out, and went — . There was one that we haven’t run in a year. Last year we didn’t run it. It was the Barry Brown Memorial Run, which would start back in here near where he lived and we’d come out and we’d do this loop down to 13th, then we’d come over, cut through, and come around back by west side park. That’s like a 7 mile loop and that was one of his loops, so that became the Barry Brown Memorial loop for several years. This past year, I don’t know, we just never got it together. I kind of envisioned this thing growing into a road race at some point and it never has. We were going to make t-shirts one year for the “Barry Brown Memorial Race.”
-Was this the older guys in the club?
Actually mostly younger guys, like Dave Milliman and myself, Marty’s been there a couple times. He doesn’t run much any more. We’re probably the oldest guys in there. There were a couple other guys — I’m drawing a blank on some of these names, I wish I could spit out some of these names for you.
[I pulled out a list of some of the old FTC guys]
Boy, I tell you. I can’t believe I’m on a list with those guys – that’s great. Frank Lagotic. John Parker. Byron. Dick.
-Do you keep in touch with any of the former club members?
I might run into ‘em, like if I go to the Florida Relays, people like Slaven – he’s a coach; he shows up – maybe Parker. Of course, Byron’s in town. I can’t remember the last time I saw Shorter was probably ten years ago at a meet someplace like Indianapolis or someplace like that. Mizner, I don’t know what he does. Jeff Galloway, I occasionally see him, because he’s in Atlanta, I guess. There were just so many other people that I wish I could [remember]. Dave could remember a lot of other names. We had some good runners. He had a roommate before he got married, years ago. He lived with this guy that wound up running like 3:55. There was just a bunch of good guys. That list [~12] should be . . .
I think the club started to change, started to become more of a local, jogger, marathoning club probably like in the mid 80s. It really took a drastic turn and there were no more elite athletes coming to Gainesville and joining the track club. There are still a lot of elite athletes coming to Gainesville to train – a lot of foreign athletes and all that – and there’s probably a load of really world class athletes here in the winter time not too many people know about. They’re just here. But as far as actually being the Florida track club . . . – and I don’t even know what condition the club is in right now – how many members they have, how active an organization, if they still meet once a month, that kind of stuff.
They’re more like into promoting races now. When I was in the Florida Track Club, we didn’t promote any races, there were no races. There were no road races. The road racing thing was something that happened after ’73. Road races started happening in the late 70’s and all the sudden people started coming to the Florida Track Club. Anybody that wanted to put on a fundraising race or something, would come to the Florida Track Club for advice or help or administrative coordination and the club had some equipment – timing equipment or whatever. SO they were able to get into that kind of line. Maybe that helped kind of raise money for the club, too.
I don’t know if you’ve got anything in there about Dr. Cade. He’s the guy that developed Gatorade. I think he’s a very instrumental person in the club that nobody knows about because he always works behind the scenes. And he’s always supported the club financially and just been a big booster. [He] pretty much funds the Junior Champs track and field program. He pretty much kicks in the money for that, whatever they don’t make from . . . [entry fees]. They only charge like ten bucks for a kid to come to that, so all the money spent on the people, staff, t-shirts, all that stuff – Cade’s the one that pays for all that. I think he’s one of the biggest behind the scenes guys. I don’t know if he was that instrumental in the club back in the 70s. Probably not, but I think he slowly started to influence the club over the years. He’s kind of the unsung hero. He just enjoyed doing what he’s doing, never looked for any kind of praise or anything for his effort. He’s a very unselfish kind of guy – just accomplished so much. Jimmy Carnes basically started the club with Shorter, Bacheler, Galloway, and Mizner and Slaven and those guys. Those guys were like the nucleus of the team that won the national championships in the early years. Personally, I think Dr. Cade – if the club were ever to give away a lifetime achievement award, I’d have to give it to Cade.
He’s a nephrologist, a kidney guy. That’s how he developed Gatorade. In the late 60s he was working on trying to figure out some kind of fluid replacement for athletes here in Florida because of how much they were losing – fluids, electrolytes, et cetera. That’s how he hit on Gatorade, developing that. He’s a PhD, and MD, and a kidney specialist. He figured out what needed to be done and he sold it. I think he still gets some money for it, but the University makes a lot of money from it, too, still. I don’t know exactly how the development of it came about, but I’m sure that when they first started making it they were feeding it to the football players and the track people and all that before it ever hit commercial production. I remember the first time I ever had Gatorade was in ’69 and I’m sure it was probably just out on the market the previous year. Now, of course, it’s in a zillion different flavors and it’s become a designer drink. Back then it was just purely fluid replacement and electrolyte replacement. People drank it only when they were exerting themselves heavily in athletics. Now people find that it’s very beneficial if you’ve been sick, if you’ve got fever, if you’ve been throwing up. It replaces potassium and sodium so easily that there’s no excuse for people to get dehydrated anymore and cramp. A big problem of people getting muscle cramps is because of a loss of potassium.
-How has Gainesville changed since the days when you were running?
I know just by looking around that Gainesville has grown tremendously. When I came to the University of Florida there were 26 thousand students. Now, there’s like forty-five thousand, so we’re talking about almost double enrollment here. But, back then the University seemed big, seemed crowded, just like it does today. Sitting right here, looking out here [a Denny’s across the street from the campus], nothing’s changed. Everything you see here was here in 73. But if you go out past 34th street – once you get past 34th street you start seeing where things have changed. But you know things have changed very gradually and it’s gone through an evolutionary process and you don’t even notice it sometimes and it becomes part of your life. You just kind of meld with it. If we could go back 30 years, and see what it was like you wouldn’t believe how much change there was. Now you have to think about it and what’s changed. There’s the obvious, like the Oaks Mall. I remember when that was a pasture with horses. All the shopping centers further out, all the subdivisions further out. There used to not be hardly anything out past I-75. Now there’s just all kinds of stuff going on. From a running standpoint – the one thing that I think Gainesville is kind of lacking is a lot of really high quality running places, you know – trails. We did a lot of running on the roads and sidewalks. We had that loop down by Lake Alice back through the woods by married student housing. That’s kind of changed a little bit because they’ve built some stuff in there – the Baby Gator Nursery and all that. Past the law school, and back into the woods and all, is basically the way it was. (Werber’s) is still there, just like it was. That hasn’t changed a bit. It’s funny, you can point to things where the difference is night and day and some things that are just exactly the same, so maybe it averages out. There’s a perceptible change that’s occurred, but it’s nothing drastic.
Most of the growth and most of the really drastic changes have occurred on the periphery of the city, not necessarily in the center. If you go down University Avenue here all the way downtown – virtually nothing new along that street that wasn’t already here in 73 when I came here.
[Pointing at the map again] All these subdivisions were here, and some office buildings and stuff like the rural park area I think was already there in 73. Of course Scotty’s is new and the Oaks Mall. The hospital was there, but all these restaurants like Red Lobster, none of those were there. There were a few doctors’ offices here but most of that has been developed since. This road cutting through here and all those apartments, all that’s new. All the apartments along here are new, and when you get past I-75, all that shopping center here and the stuff on Tower Road, Home Depot – that’s only 10 years old, 12 years old. When you get out to here – Sunnydale, Buckingham, (Hilliman Heights) back here – I lived back in here – that was here, but once you got past this road here, that was 98th street. There’s a red light here. There was virtually nothing here, so all the growth – the urban sprawl – is right here. Not much happening here except a couple [unclear]. The airport’s changed a little bit, it used to be a little terminal way over on this side, and we used to fly back in there all the time. That terminal was no bigger than half of this whole restaurant. That was about it – it was just a little dinky thing. The new terminal: it’s been 20 years almost since that was built. I’d say running wise – 16th avenue was only 2 lanes. It had a lot of sidewalks and a grassy shoulder, so that was a little bit better running until they widened it. Now it’s all sidewalk. This section of 23rd pretty much has stayed the same. Santa Fe community college is there [__________]. Then this whole area across from Santa Fe, where the retirement village and all that stuff is, that whole area was undeveloped and that’s where we ran our cross country meets. That was the course for the nationals in 73, was around this area right here – a big loop around that field. Now it’s all just totally built up.
-What was the track like at UF?
It was a synthetic track, when I first got here. It was called a Chevron 440 surface. It was rubber, and it had like little strings embedded in it. It was kind of a green color, like a finish coat of green, with little strings of stuff lying in it. It was a pretty decent surface, an early version of Tartan, the first real serious synthetic surface, used in the [Mexico City] Games of 68. Then after 68 everybody started getting them. Florida didn’t get their first Mondo or Rekortan till about 85, then they redid it again 7 or 8 years ago. It’s about ready for another facelift, because there’re some bad spots in it. As they go along they keep improving some things that add to the life of the track, like drainage, having concrete edging around it for the material to adhere to. You can’t have a free edge, because that will peel up eventually. They’ve still got to do a little bit with putting in some concrete and I think the drainage needs to be improved, but it’s always been a great facility to work out at, even from the beginning. It was fairly easy on the legs. Not too many people ever really complained about injuries from training on that track. Now what we’re up against is that Santa Fe had a synthetic track and they dug it up because it was in bad shape. They re-asphalted the thing but now they evidently are just going to leave it asphalt. So there’s no other synthetic track anywhere in the city. All the high schools and middle schools have asphalt ovals, and they’re making these kids run on asphalt. Nobody on the school boards is smart enough to realize that that’s not good for them. They don’t want to spend the money to put down any synthetic surfaces.
-They’d probably be better off with a cinder track.
In California, clay [was the thing]. It probably wouldn’t work here. I ran my 3:58 on clay [Modesto Relays, 1972]. It’s a composition of more of a yellowish, slightly orangish clay composition. Not like a pitcher’s mound or the clay you see on baseball fields. It’s a little bit less red. It just had good consistency. They dragged it, they rolled it, they wetted it. And every time when that was done, the track was just in perfect shape, and they were fast tracks. People ran fast times on clay. There was no doubt about it, it was a good track. Even the track in the Coliseum on Los Angeles – 1969 – was clay. They didn’t get their Tartan track in there till about 70-71. Back in the old days.
-Do you think clay was on a par with synthetics?
We didn’t run on that many synthetics to really know. We didn’t worry about it. We didn’t think about synthetic track/clay track – a track is a track. Now, you know, everybody’s brought up on synthetic tracks and that’s all they run on now. You put somebody like that on a clay track and they’ll just freak out. They won’t be able to run.
I remember when we went to Europe, a lot of the smaller places in Europe were cinder. The first time I ever ran in Oslo it was cinder. The first time I ever ran in Stockholm it was cinder. An old cinder track that had been there for years and years. Then they all got synthetics – in the early 70s they all got synthetics. There were still a lot of old ones. During the summer in Europe, like in Finland and Sweden, there’s track meets everywhere, and they try to attract even just 4 or 5 milers. They love to have Americans come over and run. They just want to see them compete. But all these cities, it might be a city of 5000, and they have a clay track with a little bit of seating and people can stand around, and they have a track meet there and 10,000 people show up. It’s great. They just love athletics over there. The summer’s so short, they’re trying to get all the input, as much as they possibly can in the few months they have. They really enjoy athletics and anything outdoors. They’re so appreciative, and they know so much. You’re probably in the top 1 percentile of knowledgeable people about track and field because of your interest in it. There are more people like you in Europe than you can imagine. They all like to keep autograph books, and get [track] people to autograph them. I had somebody come up to me once in Italy and show me my autograph that I gave her two years earlier, someplace in Germany. She said, real proud, “Let me show you something,” she flipped [the page] over, and showed me from two years earlier. It was really amazing, that that kind of interest exists, whereas, in the United States. . . Gainesville still is a very running-conscious, -oriented type of city. Eugene, Oregon is, of course. Those are the two places that I’ve always thought of as being real track Meccas, but those are small cities. A place like Los Angeles has always had scads of top athletes live and train in Los Angeles, just because it’s Los Angeles. You go out any day to [the track at] UCLA or the coliseum at Southern Cal and anybody who’s anybody is out there working. But for a small town, Gainesville had some pretty good athletes. Of course, the summer was always the negative, but anybody that was running world class would be gone to Europe, so it really didn’t matter that the summers were that hot because we weren’t here.
-Did you prefer running in the United States or running in Europe?
Oh, I enjoyed Europe, because that’s when you were at your peak and you had better conditions, weather-wise/climate-wise, to run in. There’s no hot summers there, and when the sun goes down. . . the days are real long and it stays light late, so you’re running at 9 o’clock at night and it’s still broad daylight, or even if it’s starting to get dark, you’ve got the lights on. Those places have all kinds of nice facilities. But you had to be here and do your work here so you could go there.
-Is there any memory from training in Gainesville that really stands out for you or anything particularly special that you look back upon?
There’s not any one particular thing. I just think that my tenure as an athlete here was – I have no regrets whatsoever; a very satisfying conclusion to my career. It’s always nice to run into people from back then or that know who you are. When you get 25 years out from something like that, that’s a long time, and when you have people still remember you, it’s really nice. It’s interesting.
I’ve gotta break out my scrapbook. I’ve got this real nice scrapbook. My daughter’s 13 and she hasn’t even seen it. I’ve never shown it to her, it’s back in the closet somewhere. I keep threatening to show it to her.
-I know Ken Swenson’s son, who goes to William and Mary, and he says his dad never talks about track.
Right, he’s like me. I don’t talk about it either. The way I look at it was — . Well, Ken ran real well in 71 – no, 70. 1970, he ran real well. Then he didn’t run real well in 71. In 70 I went in the Marine Corps and I didn’t run at all, except for indoors. I ran an American Record indoors and then I went into the Marine Corps, which shot the whole rest of the year and he ran like :44-point over in Europe someplace. Then he made his comeback in 72 and made the team, which was quite an accomplishment, because that was a tough race – that 800 in 72 at the Trials. Ryun wanted to make the team in the worst way, and he took it out and ran a great race. [Ed. – I may misunderstand, because if memory serves, Wottle, Wolhuter, and Swenson made the team. Perhaps he means, ‘Ryun took it out, and [Swenson] ran a great race.] If I had not been hurt, I would have had to run a PR to even make the team. I think Ken ran [one] 44-flat in 3rd place. I imagine I’ll run into him. I get back up to Williamsburg every once in a while. I still have association with the track team. My coach, who coached me my senior year, was the athletic director, and he passed away about 5 years ago from lung cancer. He was the coach here at Florida from 78 to 85. John Randolph. So I still am good friends with his wife and his family. I know people there that went to school there [in Williamsburg] and never left. They’re big track and field supporters. I do support track and field, come to think about it – I send money to William & Mary for the track program every year. I contribute to that. William & Mary has been doing well. Matt Lane is setting the world on fire.
-That’s pretty impressive for somebody who doesn’t follow track.
I don’t even think about that [as track] because I’m following William and Mary. I’m not following track – just the accomplishments of people at William and Mary.
[Ed. – I had thought the interview was winding down, because we had pretty much covered Mr. Luzins’ career in Gainesville. However, we kept going back and forth, so I put another tape in that is the reason for the gap here.]
If you just worry about beating the guy – trying to run some kind of tactical race – I guess I’ve never had the confidence in my kick. I was looking for the best possible way I could beat people and that was by running my own race and hammering and doing the thing that I thought would optimize my performance. That usually meant not sitting back and waiting for a kick; doing it early and making them pay the price. I always thought about times. “Get that time.”
-Did you plan a certain time to go for places at races? How much would you apply the time thing to tactics in college meets, or IC4A?
I ran IC4A. I don’t think I ran them till my senior year. There was always a lot of thinking, and there was always a lot of concentration and stuff like that. There were a few athletes now that I think about it that I could see run and I was awed by them. I remember this guy from Villanova named Frank Murphy, watching him run indoors on the boards. He was kind of a big guy and just kind of thumped. God, he was scary. He was scary as shit. When I finally. . . I was in a race in the Garden, probably — I don’t know if it was the Millrose Games or not, but I got in this race in the Garden. I’m in this race with Frank Murphy. He and I lined up on the friggin’ line together. This is the guy that’s kept me in awe. I really – the times I watched him run I just couldn’t imagine myself being able to run with him. I guess I was just trying to a little bit analyze it too much. I think in that race I beat him, and that was like the first time I ran under 2:10 for a thousand [yards]. I remember I had 2:10 as a – ‘cause I didn’t understand the relative value of certain times – but 2:10 was one of my goals on the chart, and I ran like 2:09, like 2:09-eight. “Knockin’ that thing down.” And then the next weekend I ran 2:09-three, and by NC2A I ran 2:08-two or something like that and thought, “Great!”
I remember when I was a 1:55 half miler, watching some of these guys run, just amazed – ‘How can they run that fast?’
-What was your half coming out of high school?
:59. I ran 1:55 as a freshman [frosh only competition]. Then I ran 1:51.9 as a sophomore, 50-point something as a junior, 49.5 as a senior in conference competitions. It always seemed like – I guess it was coaching, to a certain extent – I got that good time at the conference meet. I won the conference each time with a faster time and there was good competition. Jim Kidd, he was at East Carolina; there was a guy at the Citadel that was pretty good. But Frank Murphy. . . Villanova – anytime you saw Villanova, you were like (mouth agape). Those guys go out there in cross country and annihilate everybody over at Van Cortland Park and we’d be sucking wind, going up and down those hills – up Heartbreak Hill.
-How did you look at cross, as an 800/mile guy?
I had pretty much taken it in stride, pretty much accepted it as part of my life. I was always going to run cross country, and I was going to try to do the best I could in cross country. The coaches kind of emphasized that as part of your training. It was part of my training. It wasn’t the end-all – obviously I was pointing towards track. It was an important part of the whole program. It was for Groves, I know and Randolph, too. Cross country I think is a philosophy that’s carried on at William & Mary. Cross country has always been important.
Harry Groves [now at Penn State] was at William & Mary. He’s the one that recruited me at William & Mary and then he left in ’68 to Penn State. That’s when Randolph took over. He was the assistant coach at the time.
-How did you find the contrast between the two? And where had John Randolph come from?
He was a William & Mary grad. Graduated in ’64, was in Viet Nam. He was in the Marine Corps for 3 years and got out and came to W&M as an assistant coach, working on his master’s degree. That’s when I got to know him. I think ’67 was when he first got there.
I’d say they were different. Groves was more of a distance oriented type guy, that kind of training. Randolph really turned it into a more of a speed-oriented [program], because he was more of a quarter-miler himself. I think that was the difference between 1:50 one year and 1:45 the next year was the switchover to a lot more speed training. Not necessarily real heavy volume, but what we started doing was we started every workout after we warmed up, jogged, and stretched with 10 hundred meter sprints and finished every workout with 10 hundred meter sprints. That was the only thing I can think of that I really did much different than what we had always done in the spring. We’d run 52 or 55 second quarters and stuff like that, but it was those “accelerators.” It wouldn’t be all out sprints except at the end. You would start out and then you would just try to accelerate all the way through that hundred meters. I tell you, after a 10 mile run, you go out and run 10 of those things, you don’t even feel like you’ve run 10 miles. Your legs are bouncy, you’re up on your toes, and you’re feeling really good. I felt that was probably one of the keys to it (my improvement). I couldn’t prove it, but it was the only thing we really did different. We just had that quickness – a little bit of acceleration. Just a good feeling.
-Did you have any sense of loss when Groves went to Penn State?
Oh, yeah. I was scared. When the head coach leaves. . . I thought that I was really dependent on him. But I came back to school in 68 after spending the summer in California, and I was like, “oh, shit.” After the first week of training I ran – we always had a 2-mile time trial on the track – and I ran like a 10:05, and I was hurtin. Randolph was looking at me, thinking, “Oh, man, what a disaster you are.” I was about a 1:50-flat 800 meter runner. That summer, early in the summer, [I] went to the NC2As and I ran like 1:50-flat and that was the Olympic year. The Olympic Trials were in Sacramento. Groves said he could get me into the Trials with my 1:50. I figured I was running my maximum and that I wasn’t going to break through and run 4 seconds faster and really be competitive.
-Was this the LA Trials, or Lake Tahoe?
Actually it wasn’t the trials, it was the TAC, the AAU meet was in Sacramento. The NCs were in Berkeley and a week later the AAUs were in Sacramento. I told him I didn’t want to run, but I was out there. I stayed out there. A friend of mine met me out there and we went to Tahoe, stayed up there for about 6 weeks, worked and just hung around, but with no eye towards running. I didn’t run a step that whole time. Groves couldn’t talk me into going to the TAC. I probably should have run the TAC because I might have popped one down to 1:49 or something that would’ve been good for my head. Right then everybody was pointing for the Olympics and there were guys out there who were running 1:46s, 1:47s and I don’t want to mix it up with them. I had just gotten my doors blown off in the NCs in my trial heat and I’m ready to lick my wounds and take it easy for a while. I just worked in a restaurant and took it easy for a while and lived there. Then we went down to Southern California for about a month, stayed down there and headed back east, so obviously I hadn’t run a step all summer.
So after one week of running to run a 10:05, that wasn’t too bad. And that was just the beginning of the buildup to the senior year. I was in great shape by the end of the spring, ran like a 4:11, 1:52, 48 second triple in one day, that kind of thing. I was running everything, relays, 800, mile – everything.
It’s funny to think about and talk about, and start seeing all this stuff so clear, it’s like it just happened yesterday. Weird.
-Did you have a philosophy of racing, a preferred frequency?
Let’s line up! No, I didn’t have a preferred – I never had a philosophy about that. Even if I had, sometimes you can’t do what you want to do. I didn’t even think about it, although I did realize and learn that if you run too many races you start running like shit. That was easy to figure out, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that. We doubled and tripled a lot in collegiate meets, and that’s good training. You start taking races almost like workouts, situations like that where there’s not necessarily a lot riding on it, and you can run 1:52 and win and you’ve accomplished what you needed to do and run multiple events in the process to get more points. Ideally, if I had my druthers I think I would have pointed to half a dozen top-flight races that you were pumped up for. That kind of stuff, with large crowds, things like that is what it takes, and that’s where you get your best performances.
-Did William & Mary have a lot of dual meets?
We had a few duals. Like we had Notre Dame come down my senior year. Wolhuter was on the team. They had a guy named (Quigley) who had run a 1:46 relay leg in the Drake Relays right before that. We had a good dual meet there. Miami of Ohio came down one year. The Marine Corps team would come down and compete against us. But we had the conference meet, the state meet, and we had the relay meets that we went to. We had the Colonials, the Penn Relays, and there were a couple of other lesser meets, and that pretty much filled out the spring. Spring season was pretty short. It started after spring break when the weather was still a little chilly. So you’ve got about 8 weeks and you don’t have a meet every week and then you’ve got the IC4As, the USTFF, and the NC2A, and that’s 3 weeks right there.
So now you know everything there is to know about my career, from the very first 5:01. My first race was a 5:01 and that was a mile and my last race as a competitive athlete was a mile and I ran 4:12. That was an outdoor ITA mile in El Paso. My training was so shitty by that time, I was just doing some strides. Doing a little straightaways and jogging some. Of course, 4:12, that was probably an altitude race. I think El Paso is at 2500 feet or so. I’ve never run well at El Paso. I tried to run an 800 there and choked up, too. It’s something to do with the dry air. It’s so dry out there, if you’re not used to running in that it can affect you.
-Do you still have your Penn Relays watch? Do you keep any of your old stuff.
I don’t even wear a watch. I’ve got boxes of stuff that I have stashed in my closet. That’s where my scrapbook’s at – in the closet. All my medals and trophies and watches are stuffed in the closet. In fact, last week I was in Carnes’ office and he said “Bring all that stuff in and I’ll have it mounted.” I don’t know if you saw, were you in his office? The framed thing with some medals and watches like he’s got on his wall, he said I’ll have that done for you.
-When I talked to Mr. Carnes I mentioned that I was going to interview you as well, and he said, “That’s my guy!”
Yeah, right. I do a lot of work for him. I just finished building a house for him, an investment property and I’ve been doing stuff for him over the years. He’s probably my most long-standing client. And he’s always interested in doing stuff. I’m trying to talk him into building some more rental property and stuff like that. He used to be heavy into sporting goods. He used to be an owner of Athletic Attic. So he owned a few of the stores himself apart from the franchise business, then he got into discount clothing stores. He still has a couple of stores that his daughter and her husband run down in Titusville, but he’s pretty much gotten out of the retail business. But he’s always talking about getting back in, he’s always looking for opportunities.
-He’s always talking about his ideas, past or present.
He’s had some ideas. He’s probably had more ideas –. He’s turned a lot of ideas into something. He’s done a lot of things I don’t even know about. He’s been involved in a lot of things and gotten things started and growing that I don’t even have any idea about. He’s also had a lot of ideas that have kind of stayed in the idea stage, because he generates so many ideas. There’s some ideas that he can really take and run with, and there’s some that just kind of escape him. Whether it’s too far out, or there are just too many uncertainties in it.
-He said one of the reasons he got out of coaching was because he wanted to start with an idea but didn’t want to have to implement it, so he could hand it off to a partner.
After a certain time, if you’re a good idea guy, that’s what you should be able to get. Just generate the ideas, and be able to delegate the responsibility. He tries. He was involved in the Sunshine State Games until Jeb Bush was elected, and he fired him and put in his own people, because [Carnes] was back from the Bob Graham era. He and Bob Graham started the Governor’s council on physical fitness and the Sunshine State Games and he was in there for a long time, but Bush just kind of cleaned house and put in his own cronies. But a lot of that stuff was Carnes’ idea. The Sunshine States Games were his idea.
It’s like an Olympic format, and it’s like a weeklong thing. I don’t know what age group it starts at, but it’s all age groups, up to masters and senior stuff. All different kind of events, so it’s a pretty complete sports festival Olympic format thing. It’s probably the biggest in the country. I think some other states have things like that but Florida’s is by far the biggest.
-Byron Dyce said he was officiating in some capacity this past weekend.
His daughter’s a runner. She runs at GHS. He’s managed to get his daughter to run. My daughter played soccer for a few years, but now she thinks she wants to play basketball. I tell her, “you’ve gotta run in every one of these sports, and the better runner you are, the better basketball player you’re going to be, so get it through your head that you can run because later it will be that much more beneficial for you.” She took the basketball camp over here a couple weeks ago, at UF, the women’s basketball camp. She went there last year but this year they worked them harder I think. They ran their legs off. She said, “I didn’t know basketball was so tough. I thought it was just shooting hoops.” They had them there from 9 til 9. They’d feed them twice. They had movies, they have all these activities, but they play games twice a day, they have all kinds of skills, all kinds of routines they go through. She was exhausted. She got her butt kicked. In fact I just put her on a plane yesterday to go up and see her sister on Long Island and she was still sore. [Laughs] That was over a week ago.
She said she got sore from sitting on the floor. I think it was more that in combination with all the exercises. They’d do a lot of crouching down, defensive stuff, so she was doing a lot of thigh work. She said her thighs were sore for like 4 or 5 days afterward. But she’s gotta learn. The reason she was getting out of soccer is I think she didn’t want to work that hard. She was pretty good at soccer, but she’s gotta get over that. If she doesn’t want to work hard she oughta go play golf.
Everything she’s done till now has been just fun. We don’t talk about really trying to focus and be good at it, but next year, the year after this – in a year she’ll be going into high school. If she wants to play any kind of sport in high school that’s when it gets serious, you really get serious, and she’s got to — she likes to lift weights, does situps, and all kinds of crazy stuff but she just doesn’t like to run. She’ll ride her bike until she can’t pedal any more, but she won’t run. She just doesn’t realize.