20 Great Moments in Running Journal Region History
By Pete Rea/ZAP Fitness
The South is rich in its middle distance and distance running history. From the high school ranks to masters and professional running as well as organizational highlights and anniversaries, the Running Journal region has seen hundreds of memorable highlights; below are simply 20 of those great memories for you to enjoy.
July 4, 1970 Peachtree Road Race is Founded
On this day 110 runners came together at the corner of Peachtree Street and Roswell Ros at the old Sears parking lot to compete in the first Peachtree Road Race. The race has grown from its’ humble beginnings to become the largest 10K road race in the world with over 60,000 runners.
Todd Williams US 15K Record -- 1995 Gate River Run
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Todd Williams is one of our country’s true greats, twice an Olympian in the 10,000m (’92/’96) and a top 10 finisher in the World Cross-Country Championship. Williams’ greatest performance, however, came at the 1995 Gate River Run 15K where he (only weeks out of the pool for injury rehab) broke the American Record with a time of 42:22. For you 5K folks that is 14:07 x 3 times back to back. The American Record still stands.
1986 - Mark Nenow breaks the American 10,000m record
In September of 1986, University of Kentucky graduate Mark Nenow shattered Alberto Salazar’s 10,000m record by running 27:20.56 in Belgium. The record stood for nearly 15 years before Meb Keflezighi broke it in 2001.
’84 John Tuttle ’96 Keith Brantly Make Olympic Marathon Team
Atlanta’s John Tuttle had a storied career as an All American at Auburn University and a six- time Olympic Trials Qualifier in events ranging from the 3,000m steeplechase (PR of 8:35) to the Marathon. Tuttle shocked the field at the ’84 Olympic Marathon Trials by taking the lead at 22 miles and holding on for third place and a berth on the Los Angeles bound team. Tuttle went on to break multiple American Master’s Road Records including the half marathon (1:05.11) and the 8K (23:25). Florida’s Brantly too had a storied career having finished fourth at two prior Olympic Trials, he at last grabbed a top 3 spot with a gutsy mid race move in Charlotte.
Georgia’s Gayle Barron Wins Boston Marathon
Gayle Barron is often called the “first lady” of the Peachtree Road Race having won five of the first six races held. She is perhaps best known for her victory at the 1978 Boston Marathon.
’72 The State of Tennessee Goes 1-2 at NCAA Men’s Cross-Country
The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University are two of the most storied NCAA distance running programs. In the fall of 1972 the two teams came into the NCAA Championships as the top two teams in the country. When the dust had settled UT had won by a narrow margin 134-148. The individual champion was East Tennessee’s Neil Cusack, running 28:23 over the quick sixmile course in Houston, TX. Cusack, a native of Ireland, went on to win the 1974 Boston Marathon.
2008 RRCA Celebrates 50th Anniversary
The Arlington, VA, based Road Runners Club of America was the first group to put together a cohesive network of national road running clubs, assisting them in organizing races, promoting wellness and increasing awareness of our sport.
1996 and 2000 Columbia, SC, Hosts Women’s Olympic Trials
Columbia, South Carolina played host to two excellent women’s Olympic Marathon Trials in ’96 & ’00. In each a Running Journal resident finished in the top three. In ’96 it was Anne Marie Letko (then Lauck) and in ’00 it was West Virginia resident Kristy Johnston.
1984 Johnson City, TN, named #1 Running City in America
In 1984 The Runner Magazine bestowed upon Johnson City, TN, a great honor by naming it the top running city in America. At the time East Tennessee State was home to many of the top American and international distance runners, all drawn to the sleepy East Tennessee mountain town for its’ rolling hills and dirt roads.
Charlotte, NC, hosts men’s Olympic Marathon Trials in 1996
In one of the most riveting races in recent memory, Dartmouth graduate Bob Kempainen made a bold move amidst gastrointestinal “issues” to win the Trials and secure his second Olympic berth. Florida’s own Keith Brantly finished third.
1962 Beatty becomes first man to break a 4:00 mile indoor
Jim Beatty was an All American at the University of North Carolina where he graduated in 1957. Following graduation Beatty upped his performance level running a stunning 3:58.9 indoors in 1962, becoming the first man under the magical 4:00 barrier indoor. That year Beatty was the ABC Wide World of Sports Athlete of the year and in 1990 he was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame.
1979 Mary Shea Breaks US High School 10,000m Record
Shea, who went on to become the US National Cross-Country Champion, ran 32:52.5 for 10,000m during her senior year at Cardinal Gibbons high school in Raleigh, NC. That record still stands as a high school best 34 years later. As a collegian Shea joined her sister in guiding NC State to a collegiate Cross-Country championship.
New Orleans ’92/Atlanta ’96 Olympic Track Trials
The South played host to two consecutive Olympic Track & Field Trials in the 1990s. The ’92 New Orleans Trials saw great racing by Southerners including Mark Everett (Univ. of FL) and Jose Parrilla (University of TN) going 2-3 in the men’s 800m and Clemson graduate Terrance Herrington grabbing third in the men’s 1500m (the race was won by Georgetown graduate Steve Holman). Todd Williams of Tennessee won the 10,000m as well. In Atlanta organizers did a dry run for the Olympic Games later that summer. Two Southern men made the team in the 10,000m (Williams and Univ. of FL grad Dan Middleman) and UNC graduate Joan Nesbit grabbed third in the women’s 10,000m.
1972 Frank Shorter Wins Gold
Shorter, often credited for kicking off the first running boom in America, is best known for winning the 1972 Olympic Marathon in Munich, Germany. A member of the Florida Track Club along with Olympians Jack Bacheler (’68 5,000m Olympian/’72 Marathon and Jeff Galloway ’72 10,000m), Shorter won the inaugural Peachtree Road Race in 1970 and finished second at the 1976 Olympic Marathon in Montreal (in this writer’s opinion Shorter won two Golds as ’76 “champ” Waldemar Cierpinski was later found to have been a part of East Germany’s systematic Doping program).
HS Dominance -- St Paul’s & Westminster Are Dynasties
Virtually every state in the Union has a high school cross country program which is dominant. Two of the most dominant in modern history are St Paul’s Episcopal School of Mobile, AL, and Westminster Academy of Atlanta. St Paul’s won 18 girls state titles between 1976 and 2000 and Westminster has garnered 24 girls’ state titles and 22 boys’ in the last four decades.
2001 Alan Webb breaks American High School Mile Record
Alan Webb is the current American record holder in the mile -- 3:46 -- and the 2004 Olympic Trials Champion in the 1,500m. He will almost assuredly though be remembered best for breaking Jim Ryun’s long time high school mile record at the Prefontaine Classic. His time of 3:53.4 broke Ryun’s record by almost two full seconds.
Southern Teams Win Four Straight Women’s Collegiate Cross-Country
After NC State victories in 1979 and 1980 (under coach and Olympian Jack Bacheler), The University of Virginia won the ’81 and ’82 collegiate titles keeping the title in Dixie for four years. Since then only two Running Journal region teams have grabbed the women’s team title --’88 Kentucky and 2011 Georgetown.
Fast Times Across the South -- Our Roads are Quick!
Road running in the South has seen some amazing performances from road miles to the marathon and even ultras. A handful of performances have even been world records. Among the notable “blazing” times run in our region are Sammy Kipketer’s World 10K Record at Crescent City in 2002, Joseph Kimani’s “aided” 27:04 World 10K Road Record at Peachtree in 1996 (sadly Kimani passed away this past year) and Lornah Kiplagat’s 2002 win also at Peachtree of 30:32! Peter Githuka broke the 8K World Record at Crazy 8s 8K in Kingsport, TN, in ’96 with a time of 22:03 and Grete Waitz broke her first world road record at the Gasparilla 15K in Tampa in 1980. Greg Meyer broke two world records also at Gasparilla and Colleen DeReuck had one of the best runs in Southern history breaking the world 10-mile record at Cherry Blossom in 1998 with a scintillating time of 51:16.
The John McDonnell Era at Arkansas
John McDonnell began coaching at the University of Arkansas in 1972 and retired in 2008. During that period McDonnell’s Razorback teams won 42 NCAA Championships including 11 Cross-Country titles, 19 indoor track titles, and 12 outdoor track titles. McDonnell produced 185 All Americans during his tenure. Put simply no coach has ever been this successful in Division I Cross-Country and Track & Field.
Florida Leads the Way with Most Runners per capita
Road Running Statistics are no often viewed as exciting, however, the 2011 data which showed that there are more road races per capita and more road race finishers per capita than any other US State brought excitement to the Sunshine State.
The story of Southern distance running is an ongoing story. What will come next? The Florida State University women’s distance program is emerging as one of the nation’s best. Will they be the next dynasty? Furman University and Greenville, SC, are making investments to be a player in the national running scene. North Carolina’s Bobby Mack has won multiple USATF titles in both Cross-Country and the roads -- will he be our next southern distance Olympian? Will Peachtree go to 75,000 runners? 85,000? As lovers of this sport it will be exciting to watch. What did I miss? Undoubtedly much -- please send me your memories of highlights of racing in the South.
ZAP Fitness is a Reebok Sponsored non-profit facility which supports post collegiate distance runners in Blowing Rock, NC. ZAP puts on adult running camps during the summer and is available for retreats all year. The facility has a state of the art weight room, exercise science lab for testing and a 24-bed lodge. Coaches at the facility include two-time Olympic Trials Qualifier Zika Rea, 2007 USATF National XC Champion Ryan Warrenburg as well as head coach Pete Rea. For more information go to www.zapfitness.com or call 828-295-6198