I remember watching Dave Wottle win the 800 meters and Frank Shorter win the marathon in 1972 Olympics in Munich on our black and white TV. I was almost 10 years old and loved the Olympic Games. I collected every Coca Cola bottle cap (actually the plastic seal inside the cap) where they printed the Olympic rings and the date and place of every proceeding summer Olympic games. I was so inspired by Shorter’s victory and the idea of running 26 miles that I immediately went out and ran around our neighborhood block six times as fast as I could (probably close to 2 miles). My Dad told my Mom I was stupid crazy, but my Mom appreciated that I was running outside instead of using all of her sofa pillows to make a high jump pit in our basement.
In the days that followed the ’72 Olympics, I would to run around our block several times each day replaying Wottle’s and Shorter’s victory in my mind. Neighbors thought I was nuts and made fun of me. Together with some of my buddies at school, I organized an Olympic games for my fifth grade class. The final event included a marathon race that took place on our playground during recess. While many started, only two of us finished. Unfortunately, I got the silver when my friend edged me out by cutting my line in the finishing sprint. However, I never lost the desire to run long and hard.
Some years later in High School, I was a sophomore varsity basketball player. My B-ball coach demanded that we run two XC races to improve our endurance. I had never run a XC race. In my first race, I finished 11th overall while wearing Converse high top basketball shoes. The XC coach immediately asked me to be on the team, and I have been running ever since.