The first of a batch of oral histories I did with a few members of the Florida Track Club. Recently resurrected.
This past January ['00] I contacted Dr. Jack Bacheler, an entomology professor at NC State, about talking some of his experiences relating to his running career and the Florida Track Club. I found Dr. Bacheler to be very modest and accomodating, and enjoyed the interview very much. Some of the names in this interview are no doubt misspelled. If you have any corrections, comments, or anecdotes as they relate to the following material (however loosely), please email me at lwinling@gREMOVEmail (dot) com.
Jack Bacheler Interview Tape 1 (1-21-00)
JB: You mentioned earlier that you wanted some occasional anecdotes. I played basketball in high school and started my senior year. I was about 6′ 6″, about 158 pounds – so I pretty much sucked. But, we didn’t have a very good team, so I was okay on the team; it was 4 and 12 in my senior year. Prior to my senior year in the early summer I had met Kermit Ambrose. You might know he had a very successful track and cross country team. Several state championships in each. I had considered running cross country, because running was something I could do a little bit. He looked at me and kind of laughed, and said, “Well, why don’t you come out for cross country, and I’ll give you some cross country stuff and some exercises.” He had been a basketball coach, earlier – knew a lot about the game, knew a lot about football even though his love was track and field. So he suggested some exercises and said, “You don’t need to be a part of this cross country team.” We had somewhere between 50 and 60 kids out for cross country in high school, so it was a pretty big program.
So I wasn’t sure. I thought I could run, perhaps, but I wasn’t sure about what to do. Then a couple basketball friends – happened to be named (Al Fried and Gene Schmidt) played basketball and ran on the cross country team and we were kinda friends. About midsummer I was talking with them, and I told them about my thinking about running cross country in my upcoming senior year. They were telling me about how it was really really hard – really tough. Anyway, I was kidding; I didn’t know anything about what it was about – it [didn’t] look terribly tough to me. So it came down to a run around the block – a race – the three of us around the block, which was about half a mile. I ended up beating both of them and I thought, “Maybe I’ll do this.”
I had come out, and Ambrose starts off the year with a time trial with everybody. Cause he’ll often run a varsity and kind of a junior varsity. Occasionally three teams, but often two teams to compete on the same day, or if you had two races in a week, he might run one team. They wouldn’t be divided evenly – he would have a main team depending on how everybody ran workouts – competed on the team. That would shift around some. So I had gone out, and he had the time trial, and I believe I finished 5th in that time trial of the 50 people or so who ran it. Then the first meet was I think against . . . – anyway, someone better than us, which didn’t happen much after that, but it did then. I remember having worked out for maybe 3 and a half or 4 weeks in my life up to that point. I took the lead at the half mile point, and I was thinking “Man, is this easy. This is the easiest thing. I hardly even run – I’m going to really do well in this kind of thing.” And when you’re kind of shy and tall and gawky, and you don’t date and stuff, it was a real high to finally be decent at something. I ended up near the end of everybody and there were of course 14 people, and then some kind of non-counters, and it was the most horrible thing. I considered quitting at that point. I continued to come out to practice, and gradually got better that year, to the point where I was probably our number one runner and had broken our course record there. It was a horrible first couple meets, but that first meet was just terrible. It was mostly on a bet that got me serious about it. Ambrose kind of kids at some of his talks that he still gives – I think he’s 88 right now. I don’t know whether you know much about Kermit Ambrose —
-Just his reputation. My own coach would sometimes mention him.
Well, if it’s helpful, he sends out a Christmas card where he goes over what he does the previous year – kind of a little travelogue thing. I had thrown the thing away, but I’d be glad to give that to you, because it’s a complete listing of what he’s done the previous year. It’s just amazing how many talks he gives, how many meets he referees and where he travels in his car to other states; How many consecutive championships he’s been to in track and field, and driven to most of ‘em. It’s quite a thing. If you’re interested in looking that over for whatever reason. It’s just kind of entertaining if you’re into running at all to see what this guy does. Looking back on that, he was just an exceptional coach, even though he did some things that by today’s standards would be kind of weird. If we had a cross country race, he’d want us to have some scrambled eggs and some meat, and milk in the morning. Have some good food before a race, whereas now of course you’d eat carbohydrates or nothing, or drink Gatorade and maybe have some toast or something. The first meet I had done well in – you’re familiar with Jack Purcell shoes? You see em even now a little bit, they’re kind of thick white things with a blue stripe on the front. That’s all I had to run in. Back then you’d see some of that but most of the kids, particularly at Birmingham high school, could afford good shoes. I was running with those. One day at practice, I had started to do a little better and Ambrose gave me a pair of adidas kangaroo skin things, and those things were so light. The first meet I used those I did better than I had before that time. We had won a meet against . . . against a team that often vied for our little league championship. So we went across the street and everybody ordered orange juice and I thought “Man, that was kind of strange.” I ordered a Pepsi and Ambrose got mad. He slammed down his clipboard and walked out of the little diner-like thing we were in. I said “What happened?” And they said, “You never drink soft drinks when you run with Kermit Ambrose.” You always had juice or something like that. He didn’t talk to me all the way back. It gradually got better, and I eventually apologized and said I didn’t know. He said, how do you expect to run when you’re drinking soft drinks? Some of his ideas were kinda far out.
We kinda knew where we stood in workouts and things. He had certain rules we didn’t break. He didn’t want anybody to date girls — he didn’t think that was good – or do unusual things. We had a fellow named Mike Geer, who coming into the season was our number one cross country runner and he went out horseback riding and was kind of stiff on Monday, and he was kicked off the team for that – for the season. So he was quite a disciplinarian back then. It was probably a lot of experience, and some of it was intuition, but the workouts we did in cross country I think were so well designed and so evenly progressive and he had such a feeling for what little groups of us needed and didn’t need it was – I honestly think he could coach some college runners now – distance runners – and do a good job. The circuits we ran and the recovery we’d take – oh, he had one thing where we would notice the point to which we ran, it might be 3 times 5 minutes or so and he’d fire a gun — we were on our cross country course – and he just had a way with the workouts themselves, and the way we progressed. He was just a real good coach. You know, real strict – we kind of kidded about him, drew cartoons of him even back then and stuff. During a race he didn’t yell. He would at practice sometimes – mostly he’d get mad at somebody goofing around instead of being serious about something. But during a race he’d say, [calmly] “That’s good. Take it easy in there.” Just real good relaxing advice even though the workouts themselves were anything but easy. I’d say they were probably pretty well measured, and at times real tough.
-For an individual coming in, was the training tailored to specific groups, or did everybody pretty much do a variation of the same thing? What kind of levels of training were there?
He certainly seemed to pay a lot of attention to the people that weren’t as good because in high school were you have some freshmen coming out. (I’m trying to think of whether we had three years or four years back then. I think it was four years of high school.) You saw such big improvement with some individuals. So as far as time spent on and encouraging, we all tended to run the same thing. Obviously a little bit slower for some groups. Some of it was in a big mass, some of it was broken up into groups. About 3 weeks before the state meet he pretty much knew who the top 7 scorers were going to be, but took a group of 10. The state meet was typically on golf courses in Michigan and he took a group of us out to a golf course and we trained there for 2 and a half or 3 weeks and did intervals that simulated part of the course at the state championship. Working on running up hills and keeping on going. Things that you’d kind of run into but that we hadn’t been exposed to very much outside of the races we had run occasionally run on golf courses. At Birmingham High School we had pretty much flat ground. He was really good at tapering, getting somebody ready for a big meet and comfortable going into it and not being intimidated.
-What amount of one-on-one discussion and goal setting did you have with him?
Not much. He would talk to us as a team. He occasionally would talk to some of us and it might be encouraging or something we might do differently. Sometimes it was concerns about whether we were getting enough sleep. I’ve never been very goal oriented. It was never goal-oriented like Mike Krzyzewski seems to be in basketball over at Duke. It was never “we’re going to win the state championship.” He might say “We have a tradition of really doing well in big meets.” I don’t think with us he brought up the fact that your brother did this, or I expect you to do this. It was mostly ‘you’re going to run as well as you possible can, and it’s good to see the way you’re improving,” even though he was a disciplinarian. He’d mostly get mad at kind of dumb things. I remember once there was a fellow named Jobeson went out, and he hadn’t run very much, and just had a lot of talent. He was running with his arms way up, weaving around lanes – fortunately it was outside the lane he was in, so he wasn’t disqualified. But he ran this first 200 meters — or first 220 yards at the time — that was not too far off the school record for that distance and he just died horribly in the 400 [laughs]. I mean really bad. His legs were real tight. He had to limp around – couldn’t run the mile relay. Ambrose just he looked like he was going to throw his clipboard and say “Damn!” He has this special way of getting real mad at things, but it was mostly thing like that. With some people he seemed to stimulate interest in doing well, whether it was running or it was something else.
- Did he ever reach a point where he took you aside and said “Jack, this is something you could really do well in. If you wanted to come out for track you could place well.” Or “Jack, have you ever thought of running in college?”
Now he might of felt that way. It was almost implied that he was kind of there to help. We didn’t have many runners that colleges would show much interest in but we had a number of runners that would run on cross country teams at some level. So there were very few of us that would get a recruiting call. I know in my case, he didn’t get involved in that, because it was marginal anyway. I think Western Michigan was talking to me and a fellow named Epskamp at Miami of Ohio, where I ended up going to school. We had a shot putter named Jack Harvey who went on to be a good college shot putter at the University of Michigan and I think was the coach there for some years. So occasionally we had some good athletes. There was Steve Jacobson, who was the, oh, best football player Birmingham had ever seen and I think he had a state record in the long jump. But you know way back in 1960 he was jumping over 23 feet, which was darn good for a high school long jumper. But he got blind-sided playing football. I can’t remember how many places he broke his leg in, but that kind of ended his potential to really be good in either track and field. To get back to your question, I don’t think Ambrose said much about, “I think you could do well in college,” or something like that.
-Did you just get a call out of the blue from a couple coaches?
It turned out to be kind of lucky, but in Michigan we had two heats of 16 people in the state meet [in the mile], presumably based on times. I had the fastest time in the slow heat, so technically I was number 13 [ed. - he probably means "17"]. A fellow named Lou Scott, a black fellow from I-can’t-remember-where-he-was in Detroit and Dick Sharkey, a fellow who ended up going to Michigan State in my state meet, which would have been the spring of ‘62. The better milers were running in the mid-4:20s or high-4:20s and they ran together the whole way and they ran 4:13 they were way ahead of everybody and some people had gone out with them and died. Anyway, I ended up being 3rd in the state because I won my heat and everybody was slower than 4:28 flat. So I was pretty lucky. Being third place in the state wasn’t any big deal – particularly with that time. You know, it wasn’t bad, but nothing to shout about, so I had a few coaches call. I was pretty much all set to go to Albion College in Michigan. I had considered Adrian, and had gotten turned down academically at Michigan State, I couldn’t get in there. Miami of Ohio was better academically than Michigan State is, but fortunately they didn’t look as much at your grades as your SAT scores or Ohio National . . . – whatever test we had back then, and I had done well on that, so it wasn’t a problem getting into Miami, which is where I went. So it was mostly being unexpectedly flattered that anyone would even call at all. So that was kind of neat.
-You were considering a couple of colleges, so what sealed the deal for Miami?
I had gone to Western Michigan and seen the campus and stuff. Once I talked to Epskamp, he was just a good recruiter. He made everything sound so wonderful, he was just magical. My father and I went down there for a visit and he took us through the campus. We went out to an airport and he showed me this plane that we would take to go to college meets in. We ended up flying one way to the Drake Relays one time in all that time, but it sure sounded good. I don’t know if you’ve been to Miami’s campus, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful campus. Epskamp was really good. He said, “Jack, do you date any girls yet?” I said, “No I’m pretty shy.” He would say things like “Well, that might change, and you ought to see what we have here at Miami!” Kinda things like that, and it could be about anything. He said, “The students here are pretty serious students down here, but boy, they just all seem to love what they do, and they get down here and they’re just so happy.” He was just GOOD. He was good, and it was pretty convincing to a buffoon from Michigan. My dad liked the campus, and they were going to come through with a modest grant-in-aid, that made it about the same cost as it would have been to pay our own way at [a school in] Michigan. I think they could get the equivalent of an out-of-state tuition waver – you know out-of-state tuition was a little bit higher. So Epskamp pretty much sold me on the program, as well as the freshman class that he had equally talked into coming.
- Did you know any of those freshman going in? Had you known of them from running or from the visits that you had made?
He had talked to some people that I knew. Whether you were real good or not so good, he would talk to a lot of individuals. So there was another guy in Michigan that I had known, who came to Miami. Just a fellow I didn’t know very well through running against him. Our class president, Murray Stewart from Birmingham, went to Miami. The guy that was the #2 guy on our cross country team my senior year went to Miami. So we had 3 guys out of the maybe the top 8 on our cross country team who went to Miami from of Michigan. The other people I didn’t know. I had heard of an Andy Schramm. There was an Andy Schramm that was the best distance runner in Ohio that was way above anything that I could run. I just heard about him from the Mansfield Relays. There was a big meet called the Mansfield Relays that we used to go down to from Michigan. It was cold, but it was a big, big thing and Andy kind of dominated that for a couple years. So I had known about Andy Schramm. And Epskamp would send us all a book on training. Richard Hedelman, I think the guy’s name was, but it was schedules of interval workouts and I followed that really closely. Every single day I ran and I ran these schedules. It was repeat miles and 200s and 400s. I thought that was pretty neat, but I didn’t really have any expectations of how things were gonna go at college.
-At this point . . . where was running on your list of priorities?
It was probably far and away the most important thing in my life. I think it had to do with being kind of gawky and not particularly good at anything and wanting to be good at something. I would write down the workouts I had run during that year and try to visualize how I could run faster. It seems so easy when you visualize something [laughs]. You know you think, “My gosh, I can run almost 2 minutes in a half mile. Surely I can run a lot faster than I have run.” High school had gone so well – maybe it’s a matter of your self-image wasn’t as high as it could have been and running had gone better than I thought it would probably go. So I definitely wanted to run but didn’t have any high expectations of how it would go in college, knowing that most of the people there were going to be better than I was.
-How did you stack up your freshman year? Let’s start with Cross.
(Whispers to self) Let’s see, Andy Schramm . . . Well, first of all, we couldn’t compete with varsity, so we had a freshman team. I was probably third or fourth at the beginning of the cross country season and then second to Andy Schramm by the end of the season. Although that one fall was pretty difficult. I was admitted to Miami on the late side. I had to work — not that it’s any big deal, like walking ten miles through the snow or something just to get to school. The grant-in-aid required we did work, so I had to work in Periodicals in the library and I had to what they call “answer bells,” which is to say people would call the dorm, and you’d answer the phone. In our case, the system didn’t work for buzzing individual rooms, so I had to get the call, walk to the room – it was a three story dorm, though of course the first story wouldn’t be any big deal — knock on the door, see if they were there, and tell them they had a phone call. Then they would come down and get the phone call. So one of them was “bells” as they call it, and one was working in the library. Then since I was admitted late, I slept in — oh, there was probably about 60 of us that slept in the basement in one of the dorms. It was a little bit hard, between that and being homesick, and working out harder than I had in a while.
-So you didn’t have your own dorm with two or three other guys? You just had [rows] of bunks?
Oh yeah. It’s like what you’d see in an Army barracks . . . some of them were double bunks. But the beds were spaced — you know you had to put your stuff in duffel bags and suitcases and things like that. It wasn’t a lot of fun. I had considered quitting school.
I thought it was pretty serious at the time. I had mentioned it to my parents, that I wasn’t very happy and they were kind of understanding, but it started getting a little bit better, particularly moving into a dorm room. But that was a little bit hard. I ended up rooming with a fellow named Rockefeller who ended up flunking out. They would go out drinking beer at night and come in at 2 or 3 . . . We had an individual called the Sangy Man, who sold hamburgers and fries and greasy stuff that tasted wonderful. So Miami was fairly fancy in that we had to wear a coat and tie for evening meals — it was kind of sit-down stuff. The portions were kind of set, and I ate a lot. Almost a pathological amount of food at one time. So I would hit this place even though we didn’t have much in the way of money. They would come in with fries and hamburgers at 2 or 3 [am] drunk sometimes. That wasn’t ideal. That guy and his two best friends ended up flunking out of school. Fortunately they flunked out the first fall semester (laughs) — then you get better a roommate situation.
-Did you say “avian meals” or “A.V. meals?” [Ed. - I misunderstood him say ‘evening meals.’]
Oh. Sit down meals that were served.
-Were all meals served this way? [Ed. - I still didn’t get it.]
Oh, no. This was just at dinner. Lunch, we’d go through a line. Breakfast, we’d go through a line. So you could eat more at those times, and at dinner they had milk machines. I used to drink, pretty much through college 10 glasses of milk a day. 5 with breakfast, 5 with lunch, and say 10 with dinner. I wasn’t kidding, I used to eat a lot, to the point where I was the cross country designate occasionally to have an eating contest with a football player when we had access to going back for more food.
Anyway, the first semester I wasn’t doing well academically. I had all season a D in German. Technically that puts you on probation, a 1.7 or whatever it was. It went considerably better after that, but between cross country workouts, being in the basement, and being homesick, and that kind of stuff, it was pretty tough.
-How did your social life fit in there? Was it a change of scene like the coach had said?
Yeah. I think I met my wife toward the end of my freshman year. Mostly we had a good bunch of guys, as you can in situations like that. That was our whole social life, whether it was going to cross country meets on weekends — actually, between studying and running and going to races, there wasn’t much time. Most of us were pretty much regulars at football games and basketball games. I think most of us did not date. I think most of the people on the team had at one point in high school or something, but it was a pretty socially backwards group I suppose?
-If you couldn’t compete, was there also a freshman squad for track?
Right – yeah.
-Is that when you got introduced to the steeple?
Huh. (Whispering to self) When did I learn the steeplechase? . . . I don’t think I ran that till my sophomore year. For one thing we couldn’t compete in the NCAA as freshman. As a sophomore, the steeplechase — back then, particularly — was a somewhat easier than some ticket to get to the NCAA.
-The competition was kind of soft; is that what you mean?
Yeah. The steeplechase and the javelin used to be regarded as a couple things. . . — say as opposed to the hundred or the 400 or the mile. You know, those things were pretty well [stacked]. You had to be pretty good. So I ran the steeplechase in the NCAA in my sophomore, junior, and senior years.
-What were your academic goals going into college? Pretty much these days, everybody has a major, mentally – what they want to do. Had you any real idea?
No, I didn’t have any idea whatsoever. I started out in math, changed to psychology, and found out when I was a junior that you could be — . I’ve collected insects all my life. I found out that you could actually take some etymology courses through the zoology curriculum, which is what I did. So that was kind of a neat thing to find out. I finally heard there were a couple of etymology courses and I think it was probably toward the end of my sophomore year where I switched my major to zoology from psychology and from math before that. That was a lot more to my liking, even though I didn’t set the world on fire.
-Was it that you finally enjoyed [it] – something you were already interested in?
Yeah, by and large. There are some things that go along with a B.A. in zoology that I wasn’t enamored about, like 2 years of a language and courses in classics and other things. Some of those were part of the so-called common curriculum, but there were other things you had to take. Certain chemistry courses, certain physics courses, certain this and that. Some of those were less than fun. But the general biology courses, whether it was insect courses or comparative anatomy or an ornithology courses or some of the zoo courses we had to take, those weren’t too bad.
-By the end of your freshman year, do you think you had gotten over the homesickness?
Oh yeah. Yeah, completely.
-Was it getting a routine established, and getting involved with campus life?
It was probably kind of a gradual thing. I suppose it’s like having a bad stomachache that you just want to go away, then after a while you notice you just don’t feel it as much anymore. Things were just slowly — running was going better for one thing. The group that we came in with was very competitive at the very beginning. Everybody was feeling each other out in terms of how good they were, and that became a little bit more known. We had one person — the first workout we ever did, we ran 400s on a golf course there. We had a golf course that was right in with the dorms and stuff, it was real scenic. The first thing we did was run slightly downhill around the edge of a green and then we stopped and we jogged up this slight hill for our recoveries. And this one guy, Barney Olson, we kidded him years later that the best workout he ever did at Miami in four years was the first workout out there where everybody was trying to impress each other (laughs).
So it was still very competitive, you know, when running is your life you know, you kind of measure yourself by how you do in things like this, and I certainly was no exception. We became generally better friends. Barney probably knew he wasn’t going to beat Andy Schramm at every workout, or at least if he did he was going to pay the next day. So there was some of that sorting out that probably helps. Although, it was kind of a funny, good-natured group. The cross country group that we had as a unit I don’t think the group ever had less than a 3.0, so there were some good students in there. Being less homesick, and getting used to things down there and some of the other kids were a little bit the same way, you know a lot of us were away from home. Some, it was a relief for them. There were a lot of cut-ups on the team, which made it better. And, too, we raced against the varsity team and put six people in front of the varsity’s number one guy. So there was a little bit of camaraderie there with our group. We were able in some open meets, where you can kind of compete against varsity, we were able to beat a couple of Big Ten varsity teams.
- This is just the freshman group?
Yeah, just our freshmen. Because again, our number six man was better than our varsity’s best person. Epskamp had been there one year before our recruiting class came. Not that by today’s standards, with foreign athletes and some good people that it was that big a thing, but we had a group that was pretty good through six or seven. The freshmen for example — and I wasn’t even on that team — broke the national four mile relay record for freshmen. So they had some pretty decent, particularly for a little school like that.
-So you guys were really looking forward to sophomore year, finally getting to compete.
Yeah, by and large, and we’d write each other during the summer, some of us to some degree to see what we were doing workout-wise. I know in my case I wouldn’t tell the others just exactly what I was doing.
-Did you run pretty much the whole summer?
Pretty good – I worked for the city. Some of that by running wouldn’t be any big deal, but we had to mow lawns and drag trees into chippers, or branches into chippers and stuff like that. I probably ran 5 or 6 days a week one time [per day]. I’ve always had a thing, even now, “Five days, no matter what, I’m going to run.” So if I was sick, I’d get up and run even if it was a two-mile token thing. Because I found — at least before the running bug got me — if you wuss out of something, you would kind of do it again. So I was pretty strict about that, kind of these internal things that you kind of set up that you follow. Maybe kind of obsessive-compulsive or whatever.
-What kind of communication was there between you and the coach throughout the season and also during the summer?
Not very much. We had a coach that we didn’t care for a whole lot. He was very smooth — he was an orphan. Real bright. I think he knew a fair amount about distance running but he was always making deals with runners about I’ll get you shoes and do this. You know the budget wasn’t very big and he didn’t come through with those very much.
We went to this really nice Polynesian restaurant outside of Columbus after a meet, and Epskamp was negotiating with the manager there and you could tell it wasn’t going particularly well. But then they started bringing all these things to the table. Really happy, we were eating these things. I was kind of holding back, waiting for the main course. Well it turned out that was the main course. These hors d’oeuvres things. Here we’re waiting for this nice big dinner, and I guess his negotiations kind of covered some hors d’oeuvres we could get. Gage Cooper, our shot putter, came out of the restaurant and Epskamp said, “Boy, I don’t know about you guys, but that was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?” [Cooper] said, “Man, coach, I am really hungry!” There was a Burger Chef back then, so we went across the street to a hamburger place, and the coach would kind of hang his head. So he pulled a lot of stuff. I didn’t get involved exactly, but my brother was on the team, too. He was kind of so-so as a college runner. He would come out there and work out, and occasionally would do fairly well, but Epskamp would promise he and others that weren’t quite on the top seven or so — or top five — shoes and never come through, because it was always a bit of a problem. You know, we didn’t have a big budget.
As a sidelight, if I could find it, if you’re interested, there is a history major by the name of Wes Patience that was two years older than I was. And he wrote a book-like thing that he never published called One Too Many Mornings and it was a series of chapters about track and Epskamp and recruiting and promises. I’ve got a copy of that somewhere in the attic that I could probably find. He ran off mimeographed copies — about 15 — for those of us that wanted it. He was looking into publishing it at one time. I don’t know what ever came of that, but Epskamp had talked about suing him for it because it wasn’t very flattering. It was fairly accurate and Wes had a sarcastic wit. Wes was very perceptive and a good student, but he wrote this whole thing with chapters. Some of it was very funny, some of the Epskamp things. He had an operation; he had some kind of infection and he ended up going to the hospital. He had to have his navel removed. Bob was kind of big and pink and he didn’t have any hair anywhere on him. Obviously nothing against Epskamp, but the team really gave him a hard time about “Naval battles,” and “Hairless Bob” was his nickname. Just all kinds of stuff, though I guess it was a semi-serious thing at the time. But, he would just do some strange things.
This Andy Schramm was a very good runner and he [Epskamp] wrote an article that was accepted for publication in a coaches journal. It was an article about him and the success at Miami University. I think there was a picture of he and Andy on the thing and he talked about what he did as a coach to help the team be successful. He said, well one thing we have that’s kind of innovative at Miami University, we have these things called Three Big Chiefs — it might be 3 times a mile. Three Braves might be 3 times 400 or something like that. Well he never did that, he made it up. But for about a 2 week period he was doing that at practice. HE’d say, “Well, let’s do Three Big Chiefs, okay, you guys — run 3 times a mile now.” Obviously it was just for the purpose of this journal thing he was writing. There was just a lot of kind of strange stuff like that. But if I could find that thing of Wes’, you could glance through that and get a really good feeling for the relationship between the runners and the coaches. But he was wow, what a recruiter. My parents — or my father just thought he was wonderful, because you take him at face value initially. Not that he was devious — I don’t think he ever did it to intentionally hurt anybody, even though that was the result sometimes.
Again, in college, it was just a neat group of guys that were — maybe that’s just about the way it always is, but occasionally you could have a [guy] like Ambrose. Even though we were never buddy-buddy with him, there wasn’t a person on the team that didn’t really respect him or what he could do. He was kind of a heavyset guy, and he would always criticize the football coach. The football coach, Carl Lemley, was despised by the cross country runners because the football players would make fun of the cross country runners. Lemley, the football coach — in Ambrose’s presence — would say, “Look, if you guys can’t play football, you can just go out and run cross country.” He would always say that, and Ambrose would get so mad. He’d say, “If that guy had any idea what cross country, or even work, was like. . .” The football team wasn’t very good. The cross country team was. At one point Ambrose was out — cross country and football were often near each other. We’d finish our course right down by where the side of the football field was. There was a great big guy that Lemley said something about. Ambrose said something like, “If you could teach that big fat-ass tackle to block, maybe you could win a few games,” and the football coach fumed. So he got this big guy over next to Ambrose. Ambrose was like from Nebraska. Anyways, I forget whether he was an All-American football player at one time — you wouldn’t think so by looking at him. He and Ambrose faced off. Ambrose, this kind of squat guy — you know, not tiny, maybe 180 pounds maybe 5-9 or so, but big shoulders. He put that great big tackle on his back three times in a row. The tackle just kind of walked off, shaking his head and boy, the cross country team was just cheering and that was pretty cool. That was one of those things that happen in your life that you don’t really expect, but that was just really neat. Anyway, I would look to Ambrose as someone, even now if I saw him — and I saw him a couple years ago. You know, you want him to stop some time so he’ll talk about running and workouts and this, and how they’re doing this wrong and that wrong. I remember one occasion where I was fortunate enough to make the high altitude training thing for ‘68. They had supposedly the top 15 athletes in each event, done through competitions and times and stuff. I was kind of on the bubble whether I would make it up to train for ‘68 and Ambrose was at the meet. This was kind of a — they had two Olympic Trials. One of them was at low altitude and the winner of that meet was an automatic onto the team and then they’d choose the next two runners at Lake Tahoe after a summer of altitude training. They ended up kind of canceling out the first thing, which screwed some runners obviously, because they had to “show shape” in the second meet at altitude, which they defined as being in the top three.
Anyway, Ambrose was up in the stands, and this is the national championship. He comes hollering. He said “Wait! Wait! Wait!” They were starting a 100 meter heat. He came down and he showed them that the 100 meter finish was off. He was a real student of things like that, and there was not much that got by the guy.
As far as motivation, with Ambrose it was always kind of a quiet understated thing almost. You knew what he expected of himself and how he drove himself and I would be out there in the morning and he had a little tractor. We had cinder tracks of course back then. He had a mat that he would drag around to get the track just right, and put nails in and get the lines just so. He really cared about stuff and doing things well. Ambrose — certainly in my case, and people I’ve talked to since then — and one way or another he had a lot of influence on people.
-Did you keep in contact with him while you were running for Miami?
Yeah, somewhat. He would always write a Christmas card and we’d sometimes get together when I’d be home. We’d correspond some. It wasn’t a lot. He kind of let us go a little bit. Now he has friends all over, which you could probably tell if you read that Christmas card thing of his. He’ll stay with this individual or that individual when he’s traveling around. In his notes he’ll say, “I stayed with Class of So-and-So, Dr. So-and-So, a brain surgeon,” or something. Birmingham at the time — I assume it still is — but Birmingham and Connecticut one year were two of the schools that had the most merit scholars. That’s probably changed with some really good large private schools. I think everybody but 3 people in our senior class of over 400 went to college. I told my parents and I still tell them that between high school and undergraduate college and masters and PhD stuff, I thought Birmingham High School was the hardest of all that. It was hard to do well and get a good grade in high school. Other people didn’t find it — probably — so difficult, but it was pretty hard.
-At what point during your college career did you start looking beyond, “What’s going to happen once I graduate?”
Hmm. I don’t think I did until my senior year. I just had a hint then that I could probably run better than I had and was trying to find a situation where [I] could both start doing something where [I] could get a job and continue running. I was going to stay at Miami for a master’s degree in zoology, but then when you’re from Michigan, Florida has a kind of nice allure to it, particularly to go to graduate school and have an assistantship and so on. If it’s not getting too far ahead, at the NCAA when I was a senior in ‘66 I had met Jimmy Carnes who was the coach of the Florida Track Club — which is to say he had three athletes, 2 from Furman, where he had just transferred from. He had just gotten the job at Florida [that fall]. And then one potential athlete. There was a distance runner by the name of Frank Ligotic who was transferring or dropping out of West Point and going to Florida. The Florida Track Club originally was just a name under which non-eligible runners could run and there were 3 at the time. Anyway, I talked to Jimmy Carnes and he had told me — it’s in one of the Track and Field Newses; he had put a little advertisement in that he was starting something called the Florida Track Club. So as a senior really, I was probably going to go to Miami to pursue a masters, but that was when Florida became more [my preference]. I thought, “Well, entomology. . . Florida. . . It’s going to be really nice down there,” which turned out to be a mistake on my part. It was during the winter, but it wasn’t a lot of the rest of the year. That sounded pretty neat. And then Jimmy Carnes worked with the fellow in the Zoology department to get me an assistantship down there. So I got a call from Bill Eiden [sp?], the department head of entomology, that of course subsequent to that time I got to know well. I was offered an assistantship and came down there. So just outside of a I-think-this-is-the-best-thing-to-do type masters at Miami, maybe could run a little bit, maybe not. But the Florida thing — running was going to be more front-and-center. Obviously you wouldn’t worry about the snow in the winter and stuff. And then, looking back over what I did at Miami even as a senior, I was running between 32 and maybe 48 or 50 miles.
-This is each week?
Yeah. That wasn’t a lot of mileage. The workouts were based primarily on running interval workouts twice a day. Of course, Bob Schul did that to a gold medal, so it wasn’t necessarily a wrong thing to do. Not very many people would — wiser heads would probably prevail now, but obviously we were pretty attuned to speed. So I thought, “You know, I could probably run more than that and hopefully do better.” And I was kind of curious to see — not how far I could take it, really, but to try to improve and run better than I had. When I was a senior I was second in the NCAA [steeplechase] and hadn’t quite expected that. With me, whether it was high school or college, things had gone better than I thought they would because I would always prepare for the worst. I wasn’t always saying, “You’re going to really dominate this thing.” I was more worried about things and trying to take care of those worries than I was [thinking], “This is really going to go well.” “I want to warm up on time. I want to get my shoes on just now and run strides a certain way and get really loose.” So in a way that makes it kind of harder before races and maybe during the week because you’re not really enjoying yourself, but the results of races always seemed to be pretty satisfying, because by and large, they were better than what [I] had anticipated. That’s probably not a way that most psychological trainers would have you look at things, but maybe with some people it’s human nature, I guess.
-Can you put into context for me Track & Field News at that time?
It was a big thing, because Ambrose subscribed to it. We started looking at it to see what times people had run. Of course it seemed incredible when you’re kind of a so-so high school runner. Even in college, I’d have to say honestly that if Runner’s World and Running Times and these other things were available back then, we might have looked at the pictures, but I think we would still be more attuned to Track & Field News. Particularly in college — just getting that thing and looking at meet results and seeing what people were running and seeing how you stacked up, particularly if you could get in Track & Field News, that was. . . I suppose if I had more time I would still subscribe to it. I think I stopped about 10 years ago. I was not coaching NC State’s distance runners, but just people that work and run and if you’re coaching women who, say, that run 18 or 19 minutes there’s not really much point in it. Once you no longer have colleagues running, the names don’t make as much sense. And of course the American scene’s slipped somewhat. Certainly us compared to Kenya and some places. Maybe we’d be as strong as we were in a dual meet against Great Britain, but you know how the world has come on, whether it was Djibouti a couple years ago, or Kenya, or just Morocco. So it’s not as though you’d recognize a lot of familiar names in the U.S. when you’re looking at distance, outside of people like Kennedy. Anyway, Track & Field News was extremely important. Certainly in my senior year in high school when I started running, all the way through college, and somewhat after that in graduate school. Frank and I would get a Track & Field News — if we hadn’t heard already — to see what Prefontaine had run and how we compared to him. Always how [we] stacked up, because sometimes there would be some surprises.
-Since you had such a bare group at that time, what did Jimmy Carnes say that the Florida Track Club had to offer?
I think it was mostly a vision of what he hoped it would be. That is, he would get a lot of successful college runners down there and get something started. So there wasn’t much in the way of specifics. He always let us use the locker room, which was a big help — there was a central place where you could change, go out and run, come back and get a shower, get a towel there and the like. I don’t think any of us lifted weights. I don’t know whether there was a weight room or not. But we were kind of on our own. My second year I ran barefoot because I couldn’t afford track shoes and I had a fellow named Dieter (Gebhardt) who was an 800 meter runner for the Florida team, had lifted a pair of black shoes with hexnuts on the bottom, which were even old by those standards. I ran like a 4:04 with those babies on (laughs) — I ran a PR! So we had a locker room, you know, a place to change and run from and from Florida was a nice place to run. We ran a 3 mile cross country course for warmup. But when I got down there technically there was a Florida Track Club, but there wasn’t a functional one. Jimmy coached the track and cross country teams. When I got a little bit better I sometimes would go with them on trips and I was more or less on my own if they went to a movie or something like that. But that was still a pretty big help, because when I got there, or when Frank Shorter came, he wasn’t Frank Shorter when he got there, and I wasn’t Jack Bacheler when I got there. You know what I mean? You don’t know how things are going to go, so what you look back on as maybe being on the paltry side at the time wasn’t that bad. Having run in college, we were kind of being accommodated, to that extent, but he was mostly full-time coaching the track and cross country teams. He was always a bit of an entrepreneur, showman, kind of visionary individual, so he didn’t do much in the way of hands on — virtually nothing hands on with the Florida Track Club.
-Who and how had they influenced your training since college?
I think it was a matter of starting with a pretty blank slate and just seeing how things went, so the evolution to higher mileage came because it seemed to work. For me, or for probably anybody, graduate school still leaves some time to do other things, so it led read right away to running twice a day. I had done that some in my senior year in college, but I hadn’t much. So right away was running twice a day, and that kind of adds some mileage right there. And then in the afternoon, pretty much with graduate school I could go over to the track at 3 o’clock and run, so there was already a fair amount of time for that. I’d say it was mostly something that just kind of evolved, because I’d mostly I didn’t have a sense of . . . — I did a little bit. I knew I was going to run more, but you know, outside of a sense of you know you’ve got to run more volume, there’s how many intervals, how long should they be, the recovery to take, just all these things that constitute an individual workout or a series of workouts. I just knew I was probably going to do more, because you want to get better. You either have to — I guess — do more mileage, or do shorter recoveries, or do higher intensity intervals, or really high quality long runs, or try to do all of them, or some combination, so something had to change. In my case, the easiest thing to start increasing was mileage. By the time the next spring rolled around I had tied my PR at three miles in college and bettered it by a second in the mile. In college my best mile was a 4:08, and I had run a 4:07 by that spring. Then I found out from my department head that part of my masters work was to go down to Homestead to work on a particular — they had something called a Carribean fruit fly that was a problem and I was going to do my masters research on that. So I went down to Homestead that summer and I pretty much had to stop running, because the research was pretty intense, so I just stop running cold. I went from 160 to 206 pounds, by the way, because I had this eating thing. I wouldn’t call it a disorder, but I ate a lot of food. It wasn’t all junk food, but I would just eat a lot of food, so I gained a lot of weight over the course of that summer, because of the research, and the fruit fly colony that I was working on, somebody had dropped a gallon of (technical malathyon) — an insecticide that’s very active against fruit flies, that had wiped out my colony, so I had to start my whole masters research on something different, which turned out to be a little flower bug thing. It turned out to be ok, but I just didn’t have any time to run at the time.
-How did you view that?
Believe it or not, it wasn’t a worry, because getting enough research for a masters degree was pretty important. [I] couldn’t very well afford to go to homestead, live for the summer, come back and not have this stuff. So that had to be done, and I wasn’t particularly worried about the weight. It turned out to be difficult for a couple months in Gainesville. The first workout I did from married student housing was down this main drag called Archer Road and I ran 2 miles and threw up I felt so bad. It was like 95. I had to hitchhike back home. I didn’t want to walk back just out there all — I was big back then, of course, a lot bigger than I am now. I was a little bit sick getting back into shape, with diarrhea. I didn’t throw up anymore, but just didn’t feel very good, so I lost the weight pretty fast. One nice thing about Florida, in the summer and fall it’s just awful hot, but you could find yourself getting into cross country shape as the weather gets cooler, so you’re getting in shape along with things getting much more comfortable and if you’re in a track club situation, you’re really pointing toward the national cross country meet, which at the time was called the national AAU meet, the non-college thing where everybody could run. Even though they didn’t select the national team from that at the time that’s what you point toward. And if you’re pointing toward a race that’s sometime around Thanksgiving, there is a lot of time, so that was a nice way to do it. But it was a tough couple — say, 3 or 4 — weeks getting back into it.
-When did you get married?
After my senior year in college. This would have been in June of ‘66.
-How did marriage affect your running?
I’d say she [Jeanne] initially was pretty happy about it in college, but it did take a lot of time. It took a lot of time away from her and our kids — at least our son. I think she kind of tolerated it and was hoping it would be over pretty much (laughs). I think in graduate school it was kind of a mixed blessing, you know it did take a lot of time. On the other hand, it was probably fun in that it was going well for everybody. Once Frank got there he started running pretty well almost right away and there was a group of people that ran [garbled] (practically every day. There) were a lot more I guess, but I’d say it went from mild support to toleration. That was just kind of my life. In graduate school I’d go to graduate school, I did some biological illustration, running twice a day, eating . . . didn’t leave a lot of time for other things, which I don’t say proudly in a family context, but when you are trying to run 120 or 140 miles a week and you’re a full time graduate student and you’re doing some illustrating stuff it really does take a lot of time.
-Was Jeanne ever interested in running or taking it up herself?
No. I’m trying to think of the girls down there then. Frank’s first wife, Louise, who was down there at the time, was pretty decent. I mean she would go out and run 4 or 5 miles and as far as I know she runs to this day. But most of the other women didn’t happen to run. Jeanne, my wife, ran some when we got here to Raleigh with another woman for a while.
-Did you consider to have yourself to have a specialty — cross country or track?
That’s a good question. It was pretty close, comparing ten thousand meters cross country to ten thousand meters on the track. I was probably a little better cross country runner than I was in track and field, I guess. I kind of liked them both. Some people think of football, for me if it gets to fall and the leaves are falling down even to this day — I haven’t run in like 7 years — I still think of cross country and kind of miss it. There’s just something a little different about cross country. I think some of that has to do with high school and some of that has to do with running in some of the national meets and ended up turning out pretty well, I guess.
I think that was the initial. . . — Kenny Moore kind of had the same thing, but he grew up kind of shy as I certainly did. I remember particularly in cross country, once I was in a race and running hard, [I wasn’t] introverted anymore. At least during the race and right afterwards you kind of feel like you’re the same as everybody else. At least if it’s going well, you do. And maybe that’s part of the memory that makes it a little more — I don’t know if it’s the old oak-and-bucket theory, where you remember things as being more fun than they actually were at the time — but there’s something kind of satisfying about a race going well. I have a stronger feeling for cross country, even now trying to think back on it, than track and field. Cross country, you’re more concerned about competition than times of course, because obviously times would vary from course to course. Occasionally you’d run track races, sometimes you’d run fairly big ones and the time would be essentially gone, especially if you knew you were in a certain shape and you came out there and in Florida, if it was 95 degrees or if it turned out the wind was 30 miles an hour, it would just blow a [potential time]. There was more variability in track, but I liked cross country a bit more.
-Is there anybody in particular who, in joining the group, had a greater affect on the group or one you, than any others?
By and large, in the first early years there wasn’t much influence by anybody coming in until after ‘68. Up until that time, there was a fellow by the name of John Parker that was there. You’d get a kick out of this, but it’s kind of an aside. He ended up coaching the cross country team on a graduate assistantship there and the issue of hair length came up at the time. John was kicked off as coach of the cross country team at Florida because he wore his hair long and he wrote for the school newspaper and was kind of critical of the football mentality, which was literally the case, because the head football coach, Doug Dickey at the time, and his assistants would kind of make of some of the cross country runners that had their hair in a pony tail or had it long. But John was literally fired and he sued the University of Florida and whoever you sue in those things — the athletic director, and whatever, and it got as far as some district court of appeals in Louisiana. I don’t know whether they didn’t hear it, or if it turned out against him finally, or the school could do what the hell it wanted, but at the time it was a pretty big thing.
Anyway, up until ‘68 John ran and I ran and Frank Ligotic, the distance runner from West Point, and Frank Sayer, who was a high jumper, and John Morton, who was a shot putter. The last two were individuals that came with Jimmy Carnes when he came from Furman. But there wasn’t anyone else around to speak of. I had made the ‘68 team and it was at that point that some other people started coming down to the thing. But Jerry Slaven was the first person who came down, probably a name that wouldn’t make any . . . I remember going down to Miami, and they had a meet called the Orange Bowl Invitational. Like hot dogs do, I guess I had my Olympic warm-up stuff on and he was warming up. Jerry had come down the previous couple years. He was the high school coach at Melbourne High School in Florida, and he had won the thing [previously], and saw me. We became friends later, and he said he started getting the dry heaves. [Laughs] We ran, and I think we were pretty close to each other. I was a little bit ahead of him I guess. And he talked to me after the race and we became pretty fast friends and he was talking about coming up to Florida to pursue a masters degree. So really John Parker and Jerry Slaven were the first people that got involved in the Florida Track Club as distance runners, even though Frank Ligotic technically was the first one doing some running while waiting for his eligibility. He would have a year of ineligibility before he could run for Florida.
So there wasn’t any structure to it. It was really just a bunch of individuals who just started forming and just started training together. Sam Bair, I think is PR is something like 3:56 indoors. He ran for Kent State. And a fellow named Juris Lucens who ran maybe 1:47 or so for 800 meters. A fellow named Byron Dyce who ran on several Jamaican Olympic teams, who’d run 3:58 or so and maybe 1:45 for 800 meters. Some of the people would see each other occasionally. It wasn’t as though there was a structure and we had meetings, or anything like that. Probably the first structure came about maybe 1970 or so. There was a professor there called Jack Gambol and he got involved in the structure of the track club and the constitution and he was kind of a shot putter-discus individual. He still competes as a masters runner. So by the time ‘71 or ’72 rolled around before the Munich Olympics there was fair amount of people down there. They had a constitution and we’d meet every so often, but by and large, it was driven by a collection of individuals who would meet a couple times a day to train together. We were all kind of proud of our identity, and certainly we would get teams together for cross country. We had a couple years where the cross country team did fairly well. And the fact that we were the Florida Track Club bunch, there was a pretty strong affiliation even though it was more symbolic or organizational. The Boston Track Club I assume was better organized and you had [Bill] Squires or whoever it was kind of central to the thing. The track club had a personality, a collective personality of the individuals who ran, more than an organizational entity that influenced things like training and so on.
-Was the idea of the Olympics a concrete goal of yours when you moved down to Gainesville, or still a far-off dream?
Probably still a far-off dream. It had occurred to me, but probably not very seriously to be honest. It would occur to me every so often, but again, it wasn’t —. Bob Schul came back to Miami. I think he had flunked out, joined the Air Force, got real mature, and became a good distance runner. 8:37 at the time I heard, and thought “He can put two miles together as fast as I can run a mile.” He came back in my junior and senior years at Miami, but just ran for the team occasionally. He didn’t want to run for the team and there was an old coach by the name of Rider, who everybody respected, talked to Bob Schul. So Bob ran in a couple of big meets. Here was a guy that we saw every so often — he liked to train by himself — there he was winning the [5k] gold medal in Tokyo. I remember my roommate had a big banner up when he ran that said, “Beat Schul.” [Laughs] We were watching this thing that they showed at some ungodly hour but it was on TV. It wasn’t just a highlight. It was pretty exciting to watch him run like that. It’s kind of unfortunate that we didn’t try to get to know him and find out some stuff from him, because he was obviously a really good runner. He ran a 3:58 way back then as a distance runner just off all these quick intervals he used to do. He didn’t really mix with us. Of course he was a little bit older than we were, and we considered ourselves a little bit better academically or something, but there was this distance between Bob Schul and the rest of us. I’ve met him since that time, and he seemed pretty nice. He’s trained some pretty good distance runners — I don’t know whether he’s got a coaching job there, or whether he coaches as a hobby — out of the Dayton area where he’s always been from.
-As you progressed, were your goals still more immediate than long-term?
Yeah, certainly that’s the case. I remember when I went up to altitude and they took the top 15, I was just thrilled to be able to do that and train up there. Part of that thrill was we knew that altitude was going to be a little different ballgame, so that became a little bit more potential to do something. Whether I’d fall on my face or do better, there was the potential for a bit of a change up there, because everybody’s in a little different situation. Still I don’t think I took my chances to make the Olympic team very seriously until maybe a month into the training up there when I could run with some of those guys.
-Had there ever been a meet or a race or a series of races where you came out of it with the realization that you had moved to a different level?
Yeah, there was two races in particular. Every Olympic Team could have one member, irrespective of time, if there weren’t more than one. It may still be that way. You could have a guy from Angola that might be a 43 minute 10k person, for example. In the US if you had more than one person, they had to make the Olympic standard. The Olympic standard for 5k way back then was 13:50. My PR was like 14:03. I think we had 4 or 5 people that had a 5k qualifying time, so you [had to] go up there and take 13 seconds off your time on a given meet, because we got to down twice from altitude as a team, where it was all taken care of. One of them was Eugene, Oregon, and one of them earlier was Mt. SAC, where I ran the 5k and ran 13:48. So that was a pretty big thing — to get the time, number one, and then to run a fair amount faster than I had before. At that point it got scary, because then I was one of the 6 or 8 people that probably had a chance. I suppose if you were dominating fields or were way out of it, there’d be a little less pressure, but it was interesting because I got pretty nervous after that. I realized “maybe there’s a chance.” Probably from that day on — after all, that’s why you’re up there — but when you’re way back, whether you’re up there or not, you don’t take your chances very seriously. So that was a bit of a change at that point. There was one guy in the race who had a qualifying time who tried to slow everything down. [Laughs] A fellow named Steve (Stogover) from Georgetown got out and took the lead. People were yelling at him to pick up the pace and he didn’t. [Still laughing] So I’m glad that came out the way it did. There were a few people that — obviously, if the qualifying time is 13:50 and your time is 13:48 point something it’s pretty close. And then I knew from how things were going that I was running harder than some people up there were. I was running twice a day and was running more mileage.
Jack Bacheler Interview Tape 2 (1-21-00)
To some degree you could see how other people were working out and so you’d start to get a better idea of how you would stack up cause you’d be testing each other in workouts. You could see how people were doing. And either some people were forthcoming – you knew what they were doing in workouts – or you could see how they were doing in workouts, and I knew it was going to be pretty close to whether I was going to be in the top 3, particularly as the weeks progressed.
-Is it fair to say that you were self-coached during pretty much all this time – from the end of college?
Yeah, certainly – with one exception. At altitude there was a fellow named Pete Petersens who was from the Los Angeles area and I did some of my workouts with his bunch. I really liked him. I thought he was real good. He was funny and real encouraging. I don’t know where he was from, whether he was part Romanian or . . . He was from somewhere in Europe I think. He would do things in workouts that -. We’d run a lot of things very quickly, some things quickly but real relaxed and we’d do things – I had done the next part, anyway – but we’d do things in sets. Some of it was more relaxed than I had ever done. And we’d put on spikes for every workout, and I had never done that before. So I ran with his bunch some. Initially, I had come up to talk to Bowerman. Of course he was just up there as one of the invited coaches – this was in ‘68; he was going to be the head coach in ‘72. He said “What’s your best mile time?” I said, “Oh, 4:04,” which is what I had run. . . He seemed to be somewhat surprised by that, it was a little bit quicker than he had probably guessed. I think I ran one workout with some of the people he was coaching up there, and I just didn’t feel a part of the thing. I just ran the workout, and it was kind of a standard – 12 quarters or something like that – and I just started doing some of the workouts with Pete Petersens and sometimes I’d add my own stuff at the end. Another guy and I moved up with our wives into a cabin so we could stay at higher altitude than the other people (laughs). So some of the athletes were placed in cabins, and some were down at 6200 feet in South Lake Tahoe and some stayed in trailers right not far from the track. Anyway, we got this cabin-like thing, and I don’t know – it probably wasn’t an advantage, but the track itself was right at like 7280 feet, which was the height of the track at Mexico City, and this was in a ski valley. I don’t know whether you’ve seen any pictures of it, but it had big Douglas firs and stuff right in the middle, and it was pretty neat.
-Did the trees inside the track affect your races?
It did – or it could. Because in some of these races where they’d spread out a little bit, you’d go around a curve – and some of these trees weren’t bunched up right in the middle – you could lose contact a little bit at the track, which no one ever experiences. Yeah, that was a bit of a – sometimes there was a little more distance there – you’d be behind a tree and you’d come out or you’d try to pick up where no one could see you. That got involved in stuff a little bit. It’s funny you ask that, because that was actually the case.
-I’ve seen old pictures, and you can see if you’re just going around the curve and you look ahead, and you say “that guy’s got 100m on me, but he’s coming back” and if you didn’t have that kind of visual relationship with other runners, it could totally throw you off – it could really assail your confidence.
It’s kind of strange, because most of the track you could see around the other curve and it was pretty open. But just having the trees in this one area that might have taken up a third to a quarter of the whole thing. And distance races, where things were spread out, maybe because you weren’t used to it, maybe more than the actual thing, or maybe it was the fact that you couldn’t see at times. But it lent a little bit different flavor to the distance races. I remember, definitely when I was in the finals, trying to make the team in the 5k, Bob Day had gone out real fast. And a lot of us were way far behind, we were trying to catch up, but it was a bit of a gamble, you know, do you want to get out by yourself away from the group, you know, and is that group going to catch you and stuff. I remember going after Bob Day, and I would get around the trees and I would pick it up – at least I thought I was picking it up. That was a factor.
-You mentioned at about this time you were at a little over a hundred miles per week. For example when you came back from Homestead – coming back from basically nothing, were you more the type to make the jump, to take two weeks to get back in shape and then make a big jump, or was it more of kind of a gradual thing?
I think it was gradual, but pretty steeply progressive. I’ve got the workbook here – I was just trying to look it up. We’re talking about probably 1967. We’re talking about after the summer of 1967, aren’t we? I’m just showing you a thing here where it leaves off in February and I stopped training pretty much from March through September of ‘67. Weight, about 200 pounds when I came back, so we’re starting the races again. So September starting off was about 42 miles averaged [per week] over the month. October, about 63 miles averaged over the month. November, 74. December, 77. January, 76. So again, that wasn’t much more than – February, 86. March, 85. April – still in Florida – 79. May, we’re at 83. June of 68 maybe around 90. I think I was in Florida then, and then traveling. July, 88 miles averaged over the thing, with 2 races. Toward the end of July there was a 108 mile week, and a 93 before that. August – ok, that was that big race, so that we cut down some for that – that 13:48. Then 110, 75, 96, so we’re in probably in the range of close to 100, with 2 races in there. September – 100, 100, 118, 84, so it probably averages a teeny bit over 100 miles.
-Did you have anything else to supplement this [logbook]? Or when you got done, did you write this down, and that was it for the day?
Yeah, this was pretty much it. This was exactly how things were written.
-Did mileage take on a greater precedence once you started increasing? Was it how you gauged your fitness?
That’s a good question. I think to a slight degree it did. I don’t think we would go out and run 5 miles on a Sunday evening because we wanted to get 105 miles that week or average 105 instead of 103.8 for the month, but yet I kept track of it. I must have, because I used to graph it. I used to draw graphs of my mileage. I know in one case – it’s probably skipping way too far ahead – but I’ll show you in 1972, when Frank [Shorter] and I were both going to try to make the team. We were up at Vail Colorado, training at 8200 feet and mileage was definitely a factor then, because we both decided we would train 3 times a day for a month and really put in a pretty hard month. [Showing me his training log] This particular thing we ran – these lines are like running three times. Here’s a Saturday, we ran 12 on the first run, 9 on the second, and 6 on the third, for 27 miles. That was our biggest week, it was 180 miles. That month was 160 [average/wk] at altitude. So it was a pretty big – this week was 74, this was 130 miles with a race at the Drake Relays. 180 miles, so all the days – 28, 20, 28, 24, 26.5, 26.5, 27 – you can see most of the workout days we were going to be running 3 [times].
-What is “hamstring ~7″?
That’s my pain thing. It goes from 0 to 10. It means I was hurting there. (Laughs). Hamstring goes down to 4 and 4 here. But that’s how I keep track of it. We were trying to get stronger, too. I’ve never been much of a weight lifter, but I couldn’t do regular push-ups. So this says “175 girl’s push-ups,” in other words I was doing it from my knees so I could do more. “27 men’s pushups” – I didn’t know I could do that. I would write little things like, “sore behind left knee, about 6″ and so on, but pretty much we’d just do it on pretty much whatever piece of paper we had around. But you can see that was a pretty hard effort, because you figure the trials coming up and that was going to be our big push and all actually that’s all you had to do, were eat and sleep and running, like a lot of people do. But probably by some of today’s standards people look at 160 and figure that we were at 8200 feet and figure we must be absolutely nuts to do that.
-How regimented was your day? You had several different situations, like when you were traveling, and when you were still in Gainesville, but did you have a set time of day you always ran?
Yeah. The thing that took a little bit of thought was that every workout was not planned the day before. We didn’t say, “Let’s come up on Tuesday, we’re going to run 16 400s at so-and-so time.” Every workout was kind of made up right before the workout. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, but that’s just the way we happened to do it. The times were kind of set, like whether it was in Gainesville or up at Vail. In my case, I had to go to school, so we had a group that met in Florida. So I would get up at 6:15 and the group would come over to married student housing where I was, and we would run 9 miles around campus, so that was kind of a set thing. Barry Brown would meet us along the course, so he’d keep running where we left off and so there were some people. . . So it was regimented in that manner, where we’d meet at say 3:30 at the track in Florida, warm up together and do interval workouts. Now, Frank was going to law school, and Frank ran more in the range of 11:00 or between 10 and 11 o’clock normally – we had a break between classes – he would run a little bit less distance, but a little bit quicker. I remember one time in Gainesville – this was before ‘72 – and it was clear that Frank was getting pretty good. I had pretty much handled him up until that time, but he had won the Pan American games marathon the year before in ‘71. The Pan Am trials always precedes the Olympics by a year. So I started doing a little bit of 3 times a day running; I hadn’t done it very much. Of course that time had to be like at 8 or 9 o’clock and I was out running one night and I saw another person way down the road running toward me and it turned out to be Frank [laughs]. And we didn’t say much about it, so I don’t know whether he had been running or he was just out there, or he didn’t know whether I was just out there, but you know I had just been trying to add a few third runs on the day. I guess Frank had done the same thing.
-If it wasn’t a workout, or something on the track, was it just “run comfortable” – just do the miles – or did you time the splits or take the whole time? Did you really keep track of that?
To some degree. We had a lot of runs that weren’t timed, but were pretty brutal at times. They were almost always at what I’d call a moderate pace, but even before our distance runs – which tended to be like 7 miles on non-interval days – we would do a 3 mile warm-up and then do strides (a mile of those), usually on the grass, then we’d go out and do 7 miles. And then sometimes we’d do either a mile or a 3 mile warm-down after that, so that 7 miles at times was pretty quick. Sometimes we’d pick up that the whole way, but often it wasn’t timed because if you pick something up you just destroy a potential time by easing into it. So a lot of the things were untimed. Certainly a lot of the runs – which wouldn’t be any big deal, we’d come in at 5 minute miles or better for the last 3 miles or so. We’d string out some pretty decent runners. And then occasionally we had – there was kind of an understanding in workouts. Dick Endris was a little bit quicker than we were over shorter distances. I remember one interval workout we were running together – Florida had these big grassy fields that we knew the distances of, so we tended to workout on that, the track less. I remember one particular workout we ran and apparently we were getting near the end of the workout and we just ran like 4 or 5 quick 200s, and Dick was burning us on those things. But, they’d always wait, and they’d say “Well, that’s probably enough,” and I said “Well, we’ve got one more set to do, Dick. We’ve gotta do 3 times three-quarters now.” So, we did that [laughs] . . . and let’s just say Dick really suffered on that. So, occasionally we’d do things like that, and we had another similar thing with Dick – who was the greatest guy in the world, by the way – but he picked up — oh, no, I know what — we had another occasion. It was the same kind of deal — we were running some 400s and Dick picked it up again and that was the end of the workout. So the next day we were probably going to run something kind of medium-paced and I was . . . anyway — whatever I was, we had these shoes back then called Tiger Oboris that were strictly spike-lasted shoes — quicker — they were what Frank won his gold medal in and I had worn in the ‘72 Olympics; real quick shoes. And I was putting those on before the workout. We’d never do that, because we were going to run pretty fast that day, and Jerry Slavin, who was kind of really the team’s heart and soul, looked over and said, “Dick, you asshole.” He knew what was coming [laughs]. We ran real hard and it was kind of a cruel thing to do, but the pace just gradually picked up the whole way, til halfway through we were just screaming through the thing, so it was just like a race. And these are all good runners that had some pride, you know, and we strung out and Dick came in — he started turning red. He started getting a little bit sick, and so on, and so it didn’t turn out that he had any real medical problem, but I wasn’t feeling too good, and I know that Jerry and some of the others weren’t. I can’t remember whether Frank was there. I don’t think Frank was on that particular run or he would — or maybe we were both out there, but there were just some instances like that, where we’d kind of have fun.
We had some people that would come down and run for a while if we were into 120 miles a week, they’d run the miles and then about a week later and wouldn’t — and everybody was welcome and people would come, and some people would kind of flourish or do better, particularly if they didn’t try to jump into the mileage right off the get-go. We had a person by the name of the Don Schmidt who came down from Illinois who was a pretty good college runner and he ran with us, and after a while — and this is a guy who moved down to get better and run with our bunch down there — after a while he stopped showing up, and we didn’t know why. Occasionally we’d see him in the heat of the day, well that was crazy in the early spring – or late spring, early fall or during the summer he’d be working out at two or three o’clock and it turns out — I think that was when Star Trek was just starting up as a series — and he didn’t want to miss that, so he’d work out by himself, at two or three in the heat, just so he didn’t miss Star Trek. And so we didn’t see him much. So there was all these strange things that would happen from time to time.
-Did you or any of the other people in the club do any recruiting?
-How would you approach someone?
That happened in several cases. Jimmy Carnes, to some degree and I would talk to Barry Brown. It was a two way thing, because Barry kind of wanted to come down. He had – he was living in Albany at the time, he had a law degree, and was practicing in New York. It took about a year to convince him to come down, which he did. John Parker thought it would be a good idea – he had met Frank Shorter, they were competing against each other – Frank for Yale and John Parker for the University of Florida – on a distance medley. I think they were both anchoring it with a mile. [aside] (Distance medley – that’s right – 800, 400, three-quarter, mile.) They kind of became friends, and I remember John called me over and – he mentioned in one of his stories – I think we kind of talked over a fence and played a little ping-pong later, and we kind of talked Frank into coming down some – you know, Frank thought it was a good idea. I can’t remember the details. If you end up talking to Frank he certainly would, but he was drafted. He was going to run for the US Army team. But he also was a conscientious objector and had kind of a shadow on x-ray of his kidneys. Apparently it didn’t turn out to be anything, but there was always a possibility that there was something to it. So he ended up getting a deferment and coming down, but not without a lot of – he was pretty much ready to run for the military team. This was – you know obviously every time it’s before some Olympics coming up — and I think this was around probably early 1970 or so. They had a pretty good military distance team. Team in general for that matter – the Army did. And of course, you know back then they were putting some people on the Olympic team. So that was pretty tough for Frank. He was considering going to medical school at New Mexico State, I think it was. So John Parker, and maybe to a lesser degree myself, was responsible for getting Frank – saying “come on, you’re welcome down here, and it’s a nice place to run.” And Barry Brown was a matter of time. And other people like Sammy Bair and Byron Dyce and Garris Lucens had kind of heard about it and come down.
-In meets, could you or other members of the club – if you were going to a meet and were one of the marquee names there – did you talk to a meet director and cajole them into taking someone else who they weren’t really looking at? I’m getting into pooling of resources and things like that within the club.
To be honest there wasn’t much of that. If it was a meet like the Kennedy Games in Berkeley that Frank and I would fly out to, or the Martin Luther King Games. Those were like some specific invitations. And maybe that would have been a possibility — and probably do-able because we weren’t paid anything, you know, to run these meets — to just request somebody else to come along. It probably would have been a good idea. But in some of these invitational things it might be Gerry Lindgren and Frank Shorter and Kenny Moore and so-and-so and probably if we had brought someone along they would run the risk of — not being lapped — but being maybe half a lap behind in a 5k, so I don’t know that it was seriously considered. It wasn’t as though . . . In some of these meets, if you took Frank to a person who would come along there would be a pretty good gap, because some of these meets were real specific. The 100 meter field might have six people. You know, maybe Evelyn Ashford and so-and-so and so-and-so and so-and-so, so in some cases it probably wouldn’t have been appropriate. Now, we did that in some — Jimmy Carnes did that some with indoor meets. In some cases I helped a little bit, like he had helped me before that. Like for taking me along to meets and say, at the Millrose Games “Jack will come, and we’d like our two-mile relay to compete.” There would be a little bit of that, but he had a two-mile relay team for a couple years that was good enough to go to some of those meets outright. But there was a little bit of that in indoor meets. On those occasions where we’d run, our cross country team would kind of run as a group. And I think we would typically take an eighth person, but even in cross country we were mostly focusing on the last meet, so it wasn’t as though we’d do these semi-high profile meets during the season. So there wasn’t much of that.
-As it was a loose grouping of individuals who had their own events and own goals, was there any kind — of course in cross country — of team tactics. Even in local meets would you kind of set up for each other, or was it every guy for himself, based on what you could do?
In the bigger meets certainly it was. We had a couple smaller meets where we would kind of run together some. We got criticized for it real badly once, and I can see the individual’s point. We ran a meet at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It was a tune-up meet for us, and the Puerto Rican national team was supposed to be there. Well, there were some Puerto Ricans there, but they certainly weren’t the national team and we thought it was going to be a real good competition, so we were taking it kind of lightly. But the South Florida cross country team, that wasn’t bad locally, was there but not exactly [in] the Florida Track Club’s league. So we had one group of 4 tie, and another group of 3 tie, both groups of whom were ahead of everybody else in this invitational cross country meet. The meet director, who was giving out ribbons or whatever he was giving out, was pretty critical of us. He said, ‘Well our team was back there today, but at least they were competitive with each other.’ We were all friends, and it wasn’t the meet we thought it was going to be and so on, so occasionally we’d run some early season meets, and we’d run with somebody else. But again, that was a nice thing about, as an individual, being for a track club. All you had to do was get ready for the national cross country meet. I remember the year that I had won it, and had won what was then called the national federation meet the week before that. (It was just another organization.) I had just done one cross country meet. It was a University of Florida dual meet that I had just ran as an extra individual. There wasn’t really the need when you were coming off a track season and so on. I think some of the other individuals, other than Frank, would run a few more meets because it was kind of a semi-season a little bit. We would go up and run in a race called Calloway Gardens, they had a pretty big invitational thing in Georgia outside of Atlanta that we would run in. But I can’t really recall much — we didn’t have a whole slate of cross country meets.
-For the rest of the runners, what kind of influence do you feel you had on them and their training or their approach to competition, or their running goals? Do you think you had any that you realized, or did you see it as “we’re all here together, everybody makes up their own mind, everybody has equal input.”
I think as far as specific workouts went, I would run a workout and we’d just all run together. As far as influence, I suppose if there was anything it was a collective thing, and that’s that everybody was accustomed to running high quality workouts twice a day. I mean the morning run was pretty relaxed, but running consistent workouts for a long period of time without really questioning it. Most everybody seemed to be pretty well motivated and I think it was just a group thing where you come to accept workouts that were fairly high quality, fairly high volume. I wouldn’t say it was a philosophy, but just a sense just pretty good training. I think the tactics would make things more complicated. Most of it was a function of how fit everybody was or wasn’t. Whether it was our cross country team or our track teams it was still more in terms of setting PRs or improving as opposed to winning. Now obviously when we went to nationals as a team, that was all about winning. For a couple of years we had a chance at winning the national championship. So that was always kind of neat. We had this one redneck guy called Carl Hatfield from West Virginia. He officially ran for the Florida Track Club. We would get together and probably see him one time and that was in the fall, and he was a pretty gutsy cross country runner. I don’t know – I think if there was any influence on me I was probably influenced as much by other people. Outside of injuries, that weren’t a lot of fun, that could afflict most of us at one time or another, I think everybody just got used to following everybody’s example. Like Jerry [Slaven] — if I was going to get up every morning, he was going to get up every morning. I think he came over and ran with me in the morning — driving eight miles — for like three years in a row without missing a morning. I read at some point that Frank had a streak of — and this wasn’t just to keep a streak going. It was just that in Frank’s case or Jerry’s case that they were just real consistent. Frank had a streak of 700 and some days. I think I had read that somewhere. I’m not terribly surprised, cause you know you just didn’t miss. I suppose under the circumstances, if you’re going to give yourself the time and be consistent everything else is going to be determined by if you’re talented or not or maybe how highly-motivated you are. You know at least it took care of that. Everybody was, I’d say, pretty fanatic. Jerry Slaven, John Parker and I went up to run our first marathon. It was the Atlanta Marathon. I recall it was pretty cold, maybe it was in December. We each ran that and jogged down afterwards. We drove back to Gainesville. It was about 7 hours, and we ran 15 miles. You know — kind of nuts. We did that because we wanted to get in our morning run. We had to drive back through the night and so we ran 15 miles so we wouldn’t have to run that far the next day to get our 20. After the marathon in Munich I have to say I was so beat up I had to kind of crawl up stairs in the village the next day. But you know, we didn’t question it. Maybe we were kind of stupid and naive and we should have jogged a couple days or stayed in a sauna or something, but that was kind of the mentality. Whether it was right or wrong, we were just going to do that unless we knew otherwise. And a lot of people did — Frank would have done that at the time.
-Did you have any other training rules, other that the consistency thing?
Yeah, kind of. We didn’t have any rules, except everybody kind of would do the same — I don’t know if you would call this an example or not, but it was just more of a mentality. Pretty much we ran intervals every other day, which would mean Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday — like that. I think at one point it got so we were doing some longer runs on Saturday so it gave it more of a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but it was three and a half interval workouts a week. In other cases it would be Monday Wednesday Friday. So it was pretty heavily interval-oriented as opposed to say doing a day of hard intervals and maybe a long relaxed run and a tempo run here, and maybe some hills on another part of the thing. It was more intervals every other day. And the interval workouts, as you could see if you wanted to some time, would be typically — well, it might be different sets. Sometimes it might be very short recoveries; often they were fairly high quality. But the distances might vary between repeat miles and 200s. We did repeat miles — say in Frank’s and my case — it wasn’t like 5 or 6 strength miles say in that kind of shape might be 4:40 miles with a 400m recovery. It would be more like 3 or 4 at 4:16 or something like that. It was almost like a time trial thing, a really high quality thing. And then again we’d run say 800s on the cross country course and we might run 12 of them with 2 minutes in between and those were all kind of moderate — that be more what people today might consider a decent-duty strength thing. But the workouts were fairly variable. Normally we’d have some pretty good quality in there somewhere, often short recovery. But it wasn’t quite the way a lot of distance runners would do it say today. Wear a heart monitor or do something different to try to quantify it a little bit more physiologically. It was more by feel [back then]. Have you read Jack Daniels’ book on training? I was going to say he was another guy out there in ‘68 that was pretty helpful. Because about half of us were part of his study group and about half of us weren’t, so there was that comparison. There was a Carl Stow up there from Yale University that we all thought was kind of a pile of crap. But he was teaching relaxed breathing techniques and he had another sub-group that was fairly large of distance runners that were learning to run and breathe from their diaphragm and stuff. I pretty much kicked their asses. I don’t think that’s a result of what he did or didn’t do but more the results of the kind of people that would look for something like that. Without a lot of comparisons, or sampling things the way you should sample for things like that. But I had kind of forgotten about Jack, but he was pretty helpful. He was practical and sharp. At the time he was working on his PhD from University of Wisconsin — exercise physiology of course. He had his car up there and they’d do their VO2 max by blowing through the tube with the car going around. But he was a guy through the summer who impressed me as being pretty sharp. Although he learned some stuff, too. He had trained at altitude with Jim Ryun, who had broken the world record the previous summer, run 3:51 and had Jim do some time trials at altitude to in a sense calibrate altitude, to find out what people could run. Here you had a guy breaking the world record and he would go up to altitude and run and that would kind of set what you could expect a distance runner run, because he was the best in the world. We met, the people who were going to work with Jack during the summer and provide this information and he was going to tell us what he was learning about training at altitude and so on. He went over this mile stuff to the group, and that mile time was equivalent of about a . . .[aside] (what was the meter time?). . . anyway as it turned out at the Olympics Kip Keino ran about 10 seconds faster than what Jack Daniels had told us was possible at altitude (laughs). This was real early. And then Jim Ryun was of course quite a bit behind him but if you looked at it I forget whether it was 5 or 6 seconds — whatever the time was, it’s certainly a matter of record that you could find in any Track & Field News — at any rate, it was much much faster than what he at least was saying early in the summer. But he was a good guy to have around — real laid back and kind of funny even though it got pretty serious up there in terms of who was going to make the team. Now I probably drifted onto that from something else.
-Training rules and philosophies.
Oh, yeah. It was really just a bunch that would pretty much show up to do workouts I think. Now, maybe some of the individuals that may have been influenced to a greater of lesser extent, like Jerry Slaven or John Parker or Dick Endris or somebody like that may or may not see it differently. I was going to say, if you wanted to get some other people to talk to, certainly those individuals. . . — There’s a fellow by the name of Roy Benson who gives coaching advice now that became more involved after ‘72 and directly coached Dick Endris and Jerry Slaven. My guess is he probably would see his role as a little more prominent than it probably was, because it was more or less a group until after ‘72.
-I was going to ask what his involvement was. But he came later on once the club became more structured with the constitution?
We had a little bit of structure, because before we left to train in ‘72 we had kind of a banquet thing but from a distance running perspective there wasn’t much, or we weren’t involved with it. In the case of Roy’s coaching there wasn’t much or any of that until after ‘72 but having kept up with Dick and Jerry a little bit I’m pretty sure that Roy coached them and could have coached others. Frank would have done his own thing, certainly. And Jeff Galloway really lived in Tallahassee during all of this, so he did his own workouts. There’s a fellow whose name you may or may not run into by the name of Ken Mizner that ran for Florida State, that was one of the Florida State cross country runners who was pretty good. And of course, he was also in Tallahassee, so they did their own stuff. But if it were important later to get up with I think Jack Gambol was probable closest to the early organization. Roy was hired as an assistant coach for Jimmy Carnes when he came along. My guess is that would be — it might have been as early as ‘69. Of course he later became coach of the University of Florida when Carnes left.
-After you got your degree from the University of Florida, where did running fit on your list of priorities?
This is like leaving after ‘72? Yeah, that’s a tough one. It was pretty important for the first year but I developed an injury thing I still have. It actually turned out to be the beginnings of arthritis and subsequent to that some knee problems. It never was at a level where it was down there [Gainesville]. I guess I got in decent enough shape not the first fall here, but the next fall here they had the cross country nationals and I was in decent enough shape to place sixth in that. Then that winter I had run like an 8:39 two-mile indoors which was about as fast as I had run indoors. I gather I was probably in pretty decent shape then. By the next year, I was coaching the men’s cross country team and that was kind of nice because I’d run workouts with them and could still make things hard on those guys. I kept track of some of those workouts during those years, and I gradually was doing less and less. Partially because of injuries, and partially because it was time to get a job. I had a PhD, and this was a post-doc, with no guarantee that that would lead to employment, either, and we had two kids. But my guess is if I had been uninjured and unencumbered, I still would have pursued it. I don’t know if that pursuit would have lasted another four years. The last Olympics I was in I was. . . — when I was 20 I got to try out for the team in the steeplechase, 24 was Mexico City and when I was 28 it was Munich, so I would have been 32, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but you start seeing your odds as being a little bit longer. But the way things had gone I was still — believe it or not — fairly confident there would be a fair chance to make the team probably in the marathon or 10k, but realizing it would have taken in my case getting back to 140 miles a week and going through a whole cross country season and stuff. With this gout-like thing, that started to become at least a minor thing. Actually, I never had an injuries serious enough to require surgery through ‘72 but beginning in ‘75 I’ve now had — it’s no big deal compared to Mary Decker — but I’ve had foot surgery once and knee surgery 6 times. Maybe it’s an accumulation of other things.
-Did you have any regrets, or did you figure “It just happened, and I couldn’t really run anymore.”
No, I wasn’t terribly philosophical about it. My guess is, to be honest, I think if I hadn’t been injured I’d have still tried to do that even with these responsibilities, and just try to accommodate the responsibilities. I’m sure of that, because it still bothers me, having to stop way back then — to this day. So if running were going well I were uninjured I would probably try to do what I could do despite responsibilities, and family and stuff. Unless it were just too big of an obvious thing. Certainly when your whole future hangs on getting a job that’s a little bit different. Just like when I quit competing about 6 and a half years ago now, the kind of gout I have — psuedo-gout — in my hips requires hip joint replacement surgery, and it’s a question of whether you have it done “X” years or a few more years than that in the future and that puts a whole new light on things. This was when I was between 47 and 48 years old and I’m 56 now, so when you hear things couched in those terms it’s a little bit different. But back then — had I been uninjured — I’d be at least trying to see if I could do it under the circumstances, ‘cause in my marathon in Munich I had a cold and a sore throat, and I relive that race to this day trying to —. You know if something bad happens you think, “Goll, if something had been different, maybe that person wouldn’t have died.” Or something like that — if this car had been two seconds earlier or later. Well, I still replay that Munich race and wonder how it could have been had I not been sick like that.
-Illness also kept you out of the final in Mexico City. What was the situation there?
That wasn’t as bothersome as Munich even though it was more dramatic in a sense. I got dysentery. I got into the prelims, got it down I think to the top 12 in the world, so I was really happy about that, cause it was really easy. I said, “Man, this is going to be pretty neat.” Then the next day I got pretty bad dysentery. I threw up and had diarrhea, and as skinny as I was back then, which was pretty darn skinny — being 6-6 probably 160 pounds at the time — I lost about 7 pounds from throwing up and diarrhea. I was pretty weak and dizzy. I went over to warm up, which was the following day — there was a day between the prelims and the finals. I had been given something to stop throwing up. I warmed up, and it was kind of a joke, so. . . That was pretty tough at the time, just because that’s another thing I relive a little bit even now, you just wonder what could have happen. Not that much would have happened, but still you’re down to 12, and Finley didn’t run very well, or was kind of outclassed. I don’t know, you just never know. Obviously, looking back, maybe you give yourself more credit in the race that was never run than might have been the case, but you still wonder.
The coach was name Payton Jordan. He came over and sat with me in the stands. He knew I was pretty down about it. He was real nice. Oddly, about at that time they ran the 200 meter final. That’s where Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the thing like that [raises fist]. And Howard Cosell — which, I guess you shouldn’t speak ill of people who are deceased — kind of came up in the stands and put the microphone in Payton Jordan’s face. He said, “Well, what do you think of your athletes now?” or something like that. He could be obnoxious — obnoxious on camera sometimes, even though he was a perceptive individual. He said, “I don’t have any comment,” because he didn’t know what to say about that. Do you say, “Well certainly I support the plight of blacks,” or do you say, “No under the circumstances this isn’t the place”? The guy could of gone anywhere with it, and Cosell wanted his comment and he put the microphone in my face. “Well now, as a white athlete, how do you feel about all this?” I said, “Please, I’d rather not say anything.” Anyway, he started swearing at both of us, this string of profanities. Then he went on to the next thing, and I suppose this something that you could edit things in and out of. I’m not saying he tried to stage anything, but they could get their film clip of somebody they had interviewed, and of course I didn’t know. That was pretty big time coverage, because it ended going back to the United States after a few days.
I had been — the distance runners and the weight lifters and some of the sprinters would kid each other that previous summer up at Lake Tahoe and that was always kind of fun. I remember one of the guys whose last name was Woods — George Woods I think his name is — he was a shot putter and one time a bunch of us were hanging around and he said, “You know, I could throw you like a javelin.” He kind of picked me up and took me around my waist and back of my legs, and he started running with me a little bit. It scared the bejesus out of me. . . [aside] (there was a reason for saying that and I can’t remember what it was now). . . Oh, yeah! So we got to know John Carlos and Tommie Smith and John Carlos was a bit of a wild guy, kind of a rebellious guy, but pretty nice, humorous, and Tommie Smith was a kind of laid-back, very polite, articulate individual and you know you get to really like —. Well, some of the sprinters were arrogant, and I guess it’s part of their aura, but you know you get to know some of these individuals and you don’t know the circumstances under which they had grown up. Anyway, I didn’t know quite what to make of it. It was kind of strange, being verbally assaulted by Howard Cosell and not knowing what to say. He really let us have it.
-He just wanted a comment and was angry that he didn’t get a response?
Particularly with the head coach and that made him very angry apparently that he didn’t get a response. I didn’t see any of the news — being right there — what was broadcast back over here, but it had to have been a big thing over here. I was just a little bit surprised. You know these were things that he wouldn’t get — this probably wasn’t live, sticking a microphone in, but if Payton Jordan had made a statement of some kind, it probably would have been on tape for viewers. So I was just a little bit surprised at his profanity and how that whole thing went.
-Do you think the Olympic experience was all it was cracked up to be, regardless of your performance?
I think for me it was different in Mexico City and Munich. In Mexico City, maybe being younger maybe not having been through that, it was an amazing experience. The athletes from the other countries, being in another country like that and the circumstances. . . Now you probably recall there were some sobering parts of it, like some students had been killed not long before that for protesting something. Obviously something even bigger in a sense happened in Munich. Maybe part of it was the Mexican people, too, but there was something really wonderful about it. I was collecting some insects at the time, too, some of which I understood later I probably shouldn’t have brought back even though they weren’t the kind of things to get out and breed or cause a problem, but collecting the insects. . . The dysentery was a little bit hard, but some of the stuff was just wonderful for me. Another guy by the name of Bill Reilly, a steeplechaser, and I rented a Volkswagen and we drove to Acapulco through this real tropical country and saw people living in cardboard boxes. Then Acapulco was both, just really opulent in places and then there would be women breast-feeding babies in front of really nice hotel, maybe. So you know the whole collective experience. . . We got down to Acapulco and we got to stay in a hotel for free because that’s where the yachting and boat people had been but they had gone up to be with the Olympics back at the city, so we could have what we wanted to eat. . . But I just thought the Mexican people had to be part of it cause they were just so spontaneous and the whole thing was real colorful. We were next to a lot of Jamaican fans and they all had these loud things and bongo drums, and some of our athletes — the sprinters, like Carlos, I think even before his race — they were just being loud and getting in with the crowd. Just a lot of nice things that — I don’t know whether it was because of my age, or because I hadn’t been exposed to it — that were just really neat. I had beaten the Russian fellow that I had heard of — I can’t remember his name now — in the prelim of the 5k where they took the top 4 from each heat and we couldn’t speak each other’s language, but we got along well. His parents were in the stands and they gave us some tea that was pretty strong. But it was just neat.
Then in Munich there was the slaying thing, which was right across from the U.S. compound that was pretty sobering because you may recall, there was a day in which they weren’t sure whether to cancel the rest of the Olympics because of the possibility of more terrorism. There was the big memorial service in the full stadium. In my case I thought I had a chance to really do well in the marathon. The German crowds were a lot more sedate than they were in Mexico. And then in Mexico, the track and field stuff was first. In Munich, it was the very last thing. Jeff Galloway and I were gonna stay in Europe and run in some meets and I had this post-doc opportunity to come to NC State so I had to go home, go up to Michigan, pack and come down here. So I think with the expectation of having the marathon over with and if I had been looking forward to staying another three weeks to stay over in Europe for the first time. I never could because I had to work on my masters and PhD research during the summer, so I never got to go over and compete in Europe. I regret it a little bit now, because there was that opportunity if you place a certain way in the AAU meets you could go over in Europe on one or more of the — if you were to win the thing, you could go on all the tours. At the time, there was a USA vs. Russia, USA vs. France, USA vs. British Commonwealth, and then you could go on these other tours to compete. There was one to Africa that year that would have been kind of neat, that Jeff Galloway went to. So I’d say overall, there was still something very neat about the Olympics. You know, all the people and so on. I guess enough things happened so that experience was kind of clouded in ‘72.
End of Interview