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The Running Revolution

Here is the first chapter of Galloway’s Book on Running, “The Running Revolution:”

RUNNING is nothing new. The ancient Greeks had foot races at least as early as 776 B.C., the year of the first Olympics. The famous runner Phidippides, in 490 B.C., covered 300 miles in four days to solicit help from neighboring Sparta against the imminent invasion of Athens. In pre-industrial England, footmen were sent running ahead of horse-drawn carriages to warn their lords of danger. To this day, the Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico compete in foot races and cover 150–200 miles a day — kicking a ball along the way. Running as a sport has existed for centuries, from informal test of ego and will, to high school track meets, to the Olympic games, but only recently have people from all walks of life taken to the roads en masse.

The reasons for running are diverse: to lose weight, become fit, feel good, reduce stress, compete, or share the experience with others. It may also have something to do with the advanced state of technology. Most work formerly done by hand is now done by machines. While our distant ancestors led physically active lives, covering long distances to gather roots, nuts and grains or to pursue game; while our grandparents or great-grandparents tilled the fields for food and handcrafted everyday necessities, we now find ourselves in a largely sedentary economy.

In increasing numbers, people are seeking to regain the health, fitness and leanness that was once natural to our physically active predecessors. A new spirit seems to have arisen. Perhaps when a society attains a high level of industrial and technological efficiency, those people who have long neglected their physical nature react and begin seeking ways to reestablish harmony between body, mind and spirit.

I was running before it caught on in America. Then in the late ’60s I began to see a trickle of other runners out on the roads I once ran alone. By the early ’70s, there were more and now, millions are out running regularly. It seemed to have been a natural evolution, but in retrospect I can pinpoint a few key people who helped propel running into the revolution we now see in our towns and cities: three teachers — Arthur Lydiard, Bill Bowerman and Dr. Kenneth Cooper; and three runners — Amby Burfoot, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. There were many others of course, but these six were catalysts, reflecting and magnifying the spirit of the times. They were at the right places, at the right time, with the right inspiration for the new outlook that was crucial to the birth of fitness running.

Running in New Zealand

In the 1940s, Arthur Lydiard, a former rugby player, now overweight and working on the line at a New Zealand shoe factory, decided he had to make a change in his own life. Playing rugby weekends had done nothing to deflate the spare tire around his middle, so he decided he’d try to run off the excess weight. But watching the local runners of the day was discouraging. They sped around and around the track at full speed until they collapsed. “No pain, no gain” was the philosophy of the day.

Arthur wanted to get in shape, but not that way. Instead, he took to the open New Zealand roads and embarked on a conditioning program of long, slow runs Over the months he lost weight. Over the years he became addicted to running and discovered a long-hidden competitive spirit. He began to wonder how he might fare in a marathon and soon Lydiard the jogger became Lydiard the racer. He eventually came to represent New Zealand in the 1951 Commonwealth Games.

A few local youngsters had begun running with Lydiard and eventually they asked if he’d be their coach. Lydiard agreed and developed his own program, emphasizing long slow runs, into a sequence of running workouts for his students. In the 1960 Rome Olympics, three of these neighborhood kids — Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee — won distance running medals. Lydiard became an acclaimed public figure and a national hero.

You might say Lydiard invented jogging. After the Olympics, he was frequently invited to speak to groups of sedentary men and women in their 30s, 40s and beyond. The people he talked to began to sense that they, like the formerly overweight rugby player, could run gently and improve their physical condition. Running not only could take off the weight, but could be fun. Lydiard transformed the public’s image of running from an intense, tedious, painful activity into a social, civilized component of the active New Zealand life-style. The credibility of the Olympic medals gave Lydiard a platform from which to reach millions. He got them out of their chairs and onto the roads in the early ’60s, and the underground running movement began.

Jogging in America

Bill Bowerman is one of the most successful track coaches in the United States, but his role in bringing jogging to America is of even greater importance. In the winter of 1962, shortly after his University of Oregon four-mile relay team broke the world record, an invitation came for a match race with the team from New Zealand, the previous world record holders. Bowerman and his team were the guests of Arthur Lydiard.

”The first Sunday I was down there,” Bowerman recalled in Bill Dellenger’s book, The Running Experience, “Lydiard asked me if I wanted to go out for a run with a local jogging club. I was used to going out and walking 55 yards, jogging 55 yards, going about a quarter of a mile and figuring I had done quite a bit . . . . We went out and met a couple hundred people in a park — men, women, children, all ages and sizes. I was still full of breakfast as Lydiard pointed toward a hill in the distance and said we were going to run to Two Pine Knoll. It looked about l-l/2 miles away. We took off and I wasn’t too bad for about l/2 mile, and then we started up this hill. God, the only thing that kept me alive was the hope that I’d die. I moved right to the back of the group and an old fellow, I suppose he was around 70 years old, moved back with me and said, ‘I see you’re having trouble.’ I didn’t say anything — because I couldn’t. So we took off down the hill and got back about the same time the people did who had covered the whole distance.”

Bowerman, then 50, spent six weeks in New Zealand and ran every day. He lost nearly ten pounds and reduced his waistline by four inches. By the time he returned to Oregon, he had learned to jog — slowly and comfortably. As soon as he arrived home, he got a call from Jerry Uhrhammer, a sportswriter from the Eugene Register Guard. Uhrhammer wanted to know how the team had run, but Bowerman was much more excited about what he’d learned about jogging. Uhrhammer, who later became a jogger after open-heart surgery, published several articles based on Bowerman’s revelations. Bowerman began staging Sunday morning runs and Uhrhammer publicized them.

Interest in the Sunday runs grew and Bowerman was asked to hold classes and clinics for neighborhood groups in Eugene. He did so, using some of his great Oregon distance runners as instructors. Before long Bowerman was overwhelmed with requests for information on this new phenomenon, so in 1966 he wrote a 20-page pamphlet — Jogging — with a Eugene cardiologist, Dr. Waldo Harris. The following year he published an expanded version of Jogging, which eventually sold over a million copies. The seeds of the jogging movement had been firmly planted in American soil.

Aerobics for Fitness

By 1960, more Americans were dying of heart disease than any other malady. A generation of Americans had leaped too quickly into the “good life.”

People worked relatively hard until the mid-1940s. Finances kept meat consumption down and vegetable consumption up. Postwar prosperity, however, ushered in more leisure time, sedentary jobs and the funds to buy meat, cream, butter . . . The rate of heart disease climbed rapidly.

The Air Force became concerned when its pilots started dying of heart failure, often bringing multi-million dollar planes down with them. Air Force officials showed great interest when one of its young doctors, Kenneth Cooper, suggested a study to see if exercise could influence the risk factor in heart disease.

Cooper had been doing his medical residency in Boston when Bill Bowerman returned from New Zealand. A high school and college track star (he ran a 4:18 mile), Cooper had high blood pressure and had gained 40 pounds after medical school and internship. One day, as he recalls in The Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being, he decided to go water skiing. Having been an expert skier in his youth, he “ . . . put on a slalom ski, told the driver to accelerate immediately to almost 30 miles per hour, and prepared to have a great time, just like in the old days.

”But I was in for a surprise.

”Within three to four minutes I was totally exhausted, and I suddenly began to feel nauseated and weak. I told the boat driver to stop and get me back to land as quickly as possible. For the next 30 minutes, as I lay in nauseous agony on the shore, my head was spinning — and I honestly couldn’t put a series of logical thoughts together.”

This experience had the same effect on Cooper that the Sunday New Zealand run had on Bill Bowerman. He embarked upon an exercise and diet program that brought his weight down from 210 to 170 and reduced his body fat from 30% to 14%. His enthusiasm about exercise and the heart disease factor in airplane crashes convinced the Air Force brass of the value of his proposed testing program The results of his studies were published in the landmark book Aerobics.

Cooper’s book was a popular explanation of the facts that were beginning to pile up — that the good life would be cut short by poor eating habits, and that exercise could overcome many of the risk factors. Americans were receptive to these ideas. What good was a fine home, family and income without the good health to enjoy them?

Cooper’s aim was to counteract the great lethargy and inactivity of most Americans by demonstrating the benefits of regular exercise. Most important, he showed how to do it. His point system gave even out-of-shape beginners a guide to exercise. Millions of today’s fit Americans owe their good health to Aerobics..

The Final Push for Runners

Just as the Olympic medals provided the fuel for Lydiard’s fitness wildfire in New Zealand, Olympic success by Americans showed fellow countrymen that they, too, could be distance runners. Prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, there had been only one gold medal won by an American distance runner since 1908 — Horace Ashenfelter in the 1952 steeplechase.

All this changed in the Tokyo Olympics when Billy Mills, a complete unknown, upset Australian star Ron Clark and Tunisian Mohamed Gammoudi to win the 10,000 meters. Four days later, American Bob Schul won the gold medal in the 5000 meters and one second back in third place was Bill Dellenger, a 30-year-old high school track coach from Springfield, Oregon.

After years of small fields, the number of entries in major U.S. road races began to increase. In 1964 the Boston Marathon, the country’s oldest road race, topped 300 entries for the first time. In 1967, it went to 479; in 1970, 1150. San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers showed a similar growth. From a field of 15 in 1963, there were 124 the following year, 1241 in 1969 and 75,000 in 1984!

Although there were more racers each year, Americans had still not won the country’s most important marathon — Boston — since 1957, when a schoolteacher from Groton, Connecticut named John J. Kelley broke the course record. After Kelley’s victory, the Finns and Japanese dominated the event until 1968 when another New Englander, also from Groton and coached by Kelley, won. The now historic victory by my college roommate Amby Burfoot inspired thousands of recreational runners to take up the burgeoning sport.

Then, in the early 1970s, Frank Shorter, a Yale graduate and law student, developed into a national-class distance runner while a former track star in Oregon — Kenny Moore — moved off the track onto the roads and finished second in the 1970 Fukoka Marathon.

In 1971, both Shorter and Moore qualified for the Pan Am Games Marathon, which Shorter went on to win. Kenny Moore was a writer and went to work for Sports Illustrated. He wrote some inspiring accounts of world-class running that appealed to millions of readers.

The force of the American fitness revolution was magnified in 1972 at the Munich Olympics by ABC Sports, which selected the marathon as one of their feature events. That Shorter beat one of the greatest fields ever assembled by more than two minutes was final confirmation that Americans could indeed be successful distance athletes.

Further proof was provided a few years later when Bill Rodgers surprised everyone by winning the 1975 Boston Marathon. He went on to win it in 1978, 1979 and 1980. The likeable Rodgers had a young-kid-like energy and openness so different from the cocky professional athletes of the day. He was accessible to the countless fans who lined up after the races to talk to him and he seldom refused an autograph

Just as Lydiard, Bowerman and Cooper were teachers who awakened an interest in the benefits of regular exercise, so Burfoot, Shorter and Rodgers (all from the “baby boom” generation) provided inspiration at key times to the country’s growing group of runners. Americans knew that physical activity was the secret to their future health, and that running, for many, was the common denominator.


Excerpted from Galloway’s Book on Running, ©2002 by Jeff Galloway.
Shelter Publications, Inc., Bolinas, Calif.
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