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Marilyn Bevans — August, 2023
Marilyn Bevans is the first American woman of African descent to win a marathon, run under three hours, run under 2:50, represent the U.S. internationally in a marathon, and be on the podium of the top three finishers at the Boston Marathon. Truly one of the pioneers of women’s distance running, she raced at a time when young women had little opportunity to run, and she did not train or compete in high school and college. Marilyn began running in her early twenties and started training with members of the Baltimore Road Runners for the 1973 Maryland Marathon, where she finished in second place. Her three marathon victories were the 1975 Washington’s Birthday Marathon and the 1977 and 1979 Baltimore Marathon. Bevans had five finishes in the top six at races that are now Marathon Majors. She finished fifth at the 1975 New York City Marathon and second at the 1977 Chicago’s Mayor Daley Marathon. Marilyn’s five Boston Marathon efforts include fourth place in 1975, sixth place in 1976 and second place in 1977. She raced her personal best time of 2:49:56 at the 1979 Boston Marathon. Marilyn represented the U.S. internationally in Germany and Japan. She won the Caesar Rodney Memorial Half Marathon in 1974 and 1978. Bevans won the 1979 Catoctin Mountain 10k and President Jimmy Carter presented her award. Unfortunately, exercise-induced asthma forced a premature end to her competitive racing. Marilyn taught school and coached both cross country and track and field for over thirty years. She was inducted into the National Black Marathoners Association's Distance Runner Hall of Fame in 2013, RRCA Hall of Fame in 2021, Springfield College Athletic HOF in 2023 and named as one of the 2014 Heroes of Running by Runner's World. Marilyn resides in Baltimore, Maryland and was gracious to spend over two hours on the telephone for this interview.
GCR: When we look back at the eight years from 1973 to 1980 when you were a highly successful marathon racer, how unlikely was it that a young, black girl from Baltimore, Maryland who attended a high school and college without a track and field team and no opportunity to run would ultimately be the first American woman of African descent to win a marathon, run under three hours, run under 2:50, represent the U.S. internationally, and be on the podium of the top three finishers at the Boston Marathon?
MB I had no clue. I was clueless and just enjoyed running. In high school, I wanted to run but, at that time, there weren’t many opportunities for girls to run. When my father did find a small track team for me to try and run, they didn’t know anything about my potential as a distance runner. I wasn’t a sprinter. I ran a race that was a hundred meters. My father said, ‘You can beat those girls.’ There were six chubby, white girls who beat the heck out of me, and I was dead last. I ran the eight hundred meters and came in third of three girls. I wouldn’t take the third-place medal when they said, ‘You were third.’ I said, ‘Well, I was last.’ So, I did not know anything. I only knew that I liked to run.
GCR: For anyone under the age of 45 or 50, it is difficult to fathom the lack of opportunities that girls and women had to compete in sports until sometime in the mid-1970s. I’ve interviewed top women distance runners from your era like Bobbi Gibb, Cheryl Treworgy, Gayle Barron and Kathryn Switzer and the opportunities weren’t there. What it was like for you as a youth in the 1960s with limited athletic endeavors available for girls and when did you start being attracted to the sport of track and field and specifically to distance running?
MB Honestly, I just liked to run. I didn’t have any talent. My mother sent me to youth camp for many summers. She found a camp where kids could go for two months. We left after July the fourth and came back before Labor Day. I was in camp all summer. There was a lot of walking and running and playing. We were in the country and had to walk everywhere we went. We walked to the mess hall. We walked to outside areas. We walked to the playground. We got to swim. So, I did a lot of walking and that was a tremendous help. As far as running, I watched track meets on television when I was in high school. I watched them run and watched their form. I saw runners doing the mile and half mile. I did go out to where there was one small team and the man told me to run around the track eight times. This was a two-hundred-and-twenty-yard blacktop track. So, that would be a mile. That was the whole workout. So, I started clueless and nobody around me knew about distance running.
GCR: When you went to college at Morgan State, even though there was no track and field team for girls, did you run on your own?
MB When I went to Morgan State, they had a men’s track and field team and had produced some Olympic athletes who did well. The track coach let me wear one of the Olympic jackets. I was only running because I wanted to run. I went out and jogged a couple times a week when I was in college because I wanted to.
GCR: Though there was no women’s track and field team at Morgan State, they did offer field hockey. Did you find that your endurance was stronger than most of your teammates and opponents as the games went on because often in field hockey, basketball and soccer, the good runners tend to do well as others become more tired?
MB I loved field hockey because I could run. I would run up and down the field. We had field hockey in college, and I played club field hockey after I graduated from college. A couple of my girlfriends and I played for that club team up and down the east coast. It was an important thing. I was quick going up and down the field. In one game, the women on the other team decided they had to get me out of the game. They probably meant to hit my chin and, when they did, it felt like I had the field hockey ball attached to my chin. The coach told me, ‘Marilyn, that’s bad. I can’t put you back in the game.’ The running up and down the field when I played field hockey did pay off.
GCR: How tough was it in women’s sports back in the 1970s and what are the main differences and advances up to the present day?
MB Women’s sports were a hard road. The guy’s team would have a bus and the girls had a station wagon. Now women have full scholarships, shoes, and everything that goes with it. In graduate school, we did a documentary on how women in sports were treated. In that story, we showed eleven girls on our field hockey team going to a match in a Volkswagen. I remember being asked one day, ‘Marilyn, do you have the first aid kit? I answered, ‘Yes,’ and held up one Band-Aid. All the women couldn’t stop laughing. There were black and white women, and we all had the same experiences. There was not much for women. Everything was limited. Years ago, when I started officiating basketball and volleyball, all they gave us at halftime to eat were slices of oranges. That was it. The girls played in uniforms that were short-sleeved blouses and skirts. For running, the girls wore men’s shorts and men’s shoes. That’s all we had. The race photographers only took pictures of the pretty women. Now the teams get colorful running shoes and there are many attractive women running. What they tried to present way back wasn’t fair. To see the beginning and where we are now is such a big move forward. At Boston, now there are many very fast women. There are so many that I wonder, ‘Is everybody that fast? Or is there something we don’t know about?’ A black women ran 2:33 at Boston and I would like to meet her. We’re coming.
GCR: How did you start running distances with the men’s team and Coach Vern Cox while in graduate school at Springfield College and how much did the men of the Baltimore Road Runners help you move from enjoying running to training and focusing on racing a marathon?
MB Right after I graduated from Morgan State, a historically black college in 1971, I became a junior high school and then middle school teacher, which I did all my life. But, at Morgan State, we had a white professor there in the P.E. Department who was from Springfield College. He said that he would like to see me and one of my college friends go to Springfield College to work on our master’s degree. I had watched my mother, as a teacher, work all her life while she worked for many years in the evenings to get her credits for a master’s degree so she could make more money. My poor father drove her all over to get those credits. I thought it was a good idea, since I was going to be a teacher, to get my master’s degree out of the way right after I finished at Morgan State. So, my friend and I went to Springfield College. She met her husband there and I got to start running. They had a track team, but it was only a men’s track team. I walked over as a very quiet young woman and met Coach Cox. He said, ‘If you want to run, do a nice, easy three miles.’ I ran with the men. Afterwards he asked if I did okay. I was running with the sprinters who were getting ready for indoor track, but I got to run. I ran that whole year at Springfield because Coach Cox let me. I’m almost about to cry when I say this because he was the only one who said, ‘Come on. You can run with us.’ Midway through my year up there, Coach Cox told me there was a race I could run in Van Courtland Park in New York. I couldn’t go because one of my professors wouldn’t let me miss a day of his class. That was silliness but, Coach Cox and I were both disappointed I didn’t get to go. Coach Cox passed away not that long ago but, earlier this year, Springfield College inducted me into their Athletic Hall of Fame, and it was all because of Coach Cox giving me the opportunity to run with the guys. After my first year at Springfield, I went up to Boston in the summer, which was a hotbed of distance running, and I got to run road races. I got to run a race and there were some women runners. Only the first-place woman received an award. It was exciting that I was able to run and got to run races. When I finished at Springfield and went back to Baltimore, they had just started the Baltimore Road Runners. They would say, ‘Come on, Marilyn. We’re going out for a nice, easy twenty-miler.’ I would run with them. Joe Holland invited me to run with them. I was the only woman and the only black runner. It wasn’t anything like now. We would stop at farm stations or the police station and drink water from their water fountains. We would run out to the Lock Raven Dam, which was a beautiful area. The runners knew where there were springs. The water was coming out of the springs, and we would drink the cold spring water. We got to do that, and I was running with these older white guys who got me ready to run my first marathon.
GCR: You mentioned running twenty-mile runs. What was your training like in terms of weekly mileage, and did you run hills, fartlek or speed sessions before your first marathon?
MB In the beginning, I was running and getting in the distance. I was running ten miles or more every day and ran myself into the ground in the late 1970s. I don’t know what it was, but I may have had chronic fatigue syndrome. Anyway, I was done. I was banging out the miles and didn’t know any better. Later in my career, when I ran the 2:49:56 marathon, that was because I was doing a bunch of 5k races which helped my speed. All I did was bang ten miles, bang fifteen miles, bang twenty miles. I did the mileage. If I was going to be busy on Saturday, then I would run twenty miles Friday evening. I had a lot of friends in the Baltimore Road Runners and some black guys I ran with in my neighborhood. I was the blind leading the blind. All we did was mileage. Three special running partners, who trained with me throughout the 1970s were Herman Sykes, Michael Bruce, and Brian Lee When I read running magazines, most of the advice was about running lots of mileage. That’s all it was. At the end of my career, I wound up doing some weight training and speedwork, but most of my career it was running miles. When I went to race, they knew I was a distance runner. When I ran in 5k races, I still could finish in the top three. I ran in the eighteen minutes for 5k. I never went too far under a six-minute mile pace, but I could run six-minute miles in 5ks, 10ks and up to ten miles consistently. But I never had the speedwork until the end. If you looked at my body, all I had were these little skinny legs. These legs were not made to go faster. I was blessed to do what I could do, but it was mostly by doing mileage.
GCR: In your first marathon you finished the 1973 Maryland Marathon in second place in a time of 3:31:45, about twenty minutes behind Kathryn Switzer. What were your takeaways from your first marathon? How did it feel to run the marathon distance, did you hit the wall and was it exciting to get that first marathon under your belt?
MB It was exciting. I just banged out the miles. I was so happy to finish. It was a hard course.
GCR: A year later you stepped it up a notch running 3:26:38 for second at the February 1974 Washington’s Birthday Marathon and then 3:17:42 for fifteenth place at your first Boston Marathon in April 1974. Were you getting used to the marathon race, both mentally and physically, and what are memories of your first Boston Marathon?
MB I had heard so much about Heartbreak Hill. Baltimore is a hilly town, and it wasn’t hard to find hills in training runs. There were hills on the run toward Lock Raven Dam and it was hilly in that area, so I was training on hills and ran some repeat hills. We went to Boston and flew out on a Baltimore Road Runners chartered plane. It was so cool, and everyone was excited. At the Boston Marathon, I was running with Bailey Sinclair, a gentleman from the area, and I was thinking, ‘Where’s Heartbreak Hill?’ When we got to it, I said, ‘This is it?’ Baltimore has hills left and right and it wasn’t that tough. When I was close to the finish line I started to cry. It was emotional and I was overjoyed that I was finishing the Boston Marathon.
GCR: In 1975, you went to another level right away in February as you won the Washington’s Birthday Marathon in a personal best by thirteen minutes of 3:04:32. What were you doing in training that led to this big improvement in your race time and how exciting was it to win your first marathon?
MB It was exciting to win, but I was still clueless. Now we have all these statistics but back then I went to the marathon and won for women. There were some men that I beat who weren’t happy to be beaten by a woman. I was probably running too much and now I do some sermonettes about not doing so much running that you aren’t doing enough socialization.
GCR: Two months later at the 1975 Boston Marathon you crushed your personal best by nine minutes with a 2:55:52 clocking for fourth place that was twenty-two minutes faster than the previous year. How exciting was it to be a top five women’s finisher and to break three hours for the first time?
MB As much as I can remember, I was happy with that race. I enjoyed running the Boston Marathon and loved being there. It was a nice marathon. It was great to do well and break three hours. At that point in time, we still didn’t have all these statistics like we do now, and I just ran because I liked running.
GCR: That was also the year that you started your string of running consistently under three hours as you raced 2:59:19 for fifth at the New York City Marathon and 2:57:39 for second at the Baltimore Maryland. What was it like running the New York City Marathon which, in the early years, was a loop course in Central Park?
MB It was multiple loops in Central Park and that was no joke. All we did was run hills, up and down. I was happy to race there and happy to receive an award. That was very cool for me. My fifth place finish qualified me to run the Second Women’s International Marathon in Waldniel, West Germany in 1976. I was listening to what the other runners I ran with said to do because I didn’t have anyone working with me who was an expert on training. I did what the guys in Baltimore said. We ran hills and distance. I did many twenty-mile training runs. That’s all we knew. Everything was miles, miles, miles. If I had more speedwork in my training, it would have helped. But, like I said, it was the blind leading the blind. I liked running, getting my miles in and running the hills in the city of Baltimore. When I was in my heyday, I would step out the door, go to the corner and run a five-mile, ten-mile or fifteen-mile route. You name it, I had it. I did the twenty-milers with the Baltimore Road Runners until I found my own local group. There was nothing scientific like there is today.
GCR: The 1976 Boston Marathon was a memorable one for extreme heat that reached the nineties, if not one hundred degrees along the course. I interviewed Jack Fultz, who won the men’s division, and he was nine minute slower than his time of two years later on a cool day. How tough was it as you raced to a sixth-place finish in 3:01:22, and did you drink extra water and get sprayed by spectators with hoses?
MB I’m looking in my old running notebook which has all my racing and training from that period. That race was on April 19, 1976. I have been blessed through most of my running career that heat didn’t faze me much. Over the years, I started developing exercise-induced asthma where I had to watch it when running in heat and humidity. I know now that, if I run more than four miles in the heat, I may not make it back to the car. Back then, heat didn’t faze me one bit. Baltimore is hot and humid, so in Boston I thought, ‘So what?’ It was no big deal. I could handle the heat.
GCR: At the October 1976 Waldniel Marathon in Germany, you had perhaps your only subpar marathon of your final fifteen marathons as you finished sixteenth in 3:10:40. How neat was it to represent the U.S. internationally, was their great camaraderie amongst the women marathon racers and what led to you running slower than anticipated?
MB The worst two races of my life that I will always regret, though there isn’t anything else I could have done, are the two international marathons I raced in Germany and Japan. Years later, when I developed exercise-induced asthma, I couldn’t even finish that international marathon in Japan. I’ll never forget Marge Rosasco, who was my competitor that I could beat in a marathon, but she could beat me in any shorter races. She said, ‘Marilyn, I felt so badly for you.’ She was the one who understood how I could run so well at home, but so badly when I travelled so far. My bottom line was that other than my buddies who ran with me, there was nobody giving me direction. Nobody else was telling me what I needed to eat or drink, what to do in training or which running shoes to wear. When I was near the end of my running career, people started coming along who could help me, but it was too late by then. I was blessed with Tony Reed of the Black Marathoners Association introducing me to Alisa Harvey who has run a broad spectrum of great distance running. She asked me all sorts of questions about training, and I told her, ‘No, it was just me. The blind leading the blind.’ There was nobody telling me what to do when I was going to race abroad. I was doing my thirteen-mile days. I was banging out the miles so I could run well. But it was too much. There was no rest, no sharpness. I had nobody to tell me what to do. I didn’t have a clue. Some of the other runners would be talking about someone, like their boyfriend, who guided and helped them. But I didn’t have that. So, to this day I regret my lack of performance in those two international races.
GCR: Two months later, there was a strong field of women at the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, California. Julie Brown and Diane Barrett were off the front in the mid-2:40s with Leal-Ann Reinhart and Joan Ullyot just over 2:50. Then there was a group of four women – Joann McKinty Heale, Nicky Hobson, you and Judy Ikenberry, who finished within less than a minute in 2:57 and 2:58. Did you run along with these three runners for much of the race and how much fun was it to be in the thick of competition with an increasing group of strong women?
MB It was good to have more good women runners. Possibly because I was black, I wasn’t super close to anybody. Gayle Barron was cool. You may have noticed with my marathon racing that, if I ran a bad marathon, normally it wouldn’t be too much later that I would run another one. I didn’t like the bad result, so I would run another one. Again, it was too much, too long and a lack of any kind of good high-level advice. Everybody was just doing what they could do to help. I had the guys with the Baltimore Road Runners and the neighborhood black guys I started running with, but it was basically me, me, me. I was usually the one giving the orders for what we were running.
GCR: In April 1977 you ran your fourth Boston Marathon in a row, and you accomplished what no other American woman of African descent has done before or since as you finished on the podium of the Boston Marathon with your second-place finish in 2:51:12 behind Miki Gorman, and rest in peace Miki. How exciting was it then, did you realize the significance, or has your achievement grown in stature over the years as it is more widely recognized by the running community?
MB Wait a minute – Miki Gorman passed away? (I mentioned that Miki had passed away several years ago) I’m so sorry to hear that. First, all my honor and glory to Miki Gorman. She was a nice person. She was respectful, talked to me, and was very kind. I have the highest respect and memory of her because she was that kind of person. I have great memories of Miki because she was a good person. I always say that we should keep our old friends. They don’t care how you do or what you do. It makes no difference as they are your friends. I was happy with that race and happy I received the award. It was a warm day in the heat, but I like the heat. It wasn’t a problem for me.
GCR: In terms of average time for three marathons in a calendar year, 1977 was your best year as, in addition to your great Boston Marathon finish, you raced 2:54:56 for second at Chicago’s Mayor Daley Marathon and won the Baltimore Marathon in 2:51:18 for a three marathon average of 2:52:29. Since this was your fifth year as a marathon racer, were you approaching your peak, both mentally and physically as it seems you had a feel for the distance?
MB I was just banging out the miles. I had no social life. Now, when I give talks to groups, I tell them that you’ve got to have more to life than putting one foot in front of the other. There weren’t that many black guys out there running, so I was the black lady running out there with all the white guys. My social calendar wasn’t great, but I didn’t care because I was banging out the miles. That’s what I did. When I won that Baltimore Marathon, I remember jumping up and down during the cheering. This guy came over and gave me a hug. I was happy and we were both jumping up and down. When I told the guy I was dating at the time, he said, ‘Why were you hugging him?’ And I thought, ‘Well, you weren’t there.’
GCR: In 1978, your times were a bit slower, at the Avon Marathon in 2:58:26 and the Baltimore Marathon in 2:57:32, before you blasted your all-time personal best time of 2:49:56 for fifteenth at the 1979 Boston Marathon. How awesome was it to break 2:50 in Boston, how big were those four seconds and how was the climate changing for women in the marathon as there were now so many breaking 2:50?
MB That was my best time, and after that, the exercise-induced asthma got me. I may also have had chronic fatigue syndrome. I don’t know exactly all that it was, but I was on the downslope of my running. It took me a while to realize in my own soul that I was done. No matter what I did, nothing was working. But that’s life. Then I learned who my friends were. As soon as I was running poorly, there were people who had a lot to say that was disrespectful, but it showed how they felt all along. But I couldn’t believe when I ran that 2:49:56 at Boston that I only finished in fifteenth place.
GCR: You still wrapped up your marathon racing with a victory at the 1979 Baltimore Marathon in 2:54:35 and a final Boston Marathon in 1980 in 2:55:26. How cool was it to notch another marathon win and to finish strong at Boston?
MB Those races were both good efforts and memories. Running shoes and T-shirts are lovely, but make sure you have a life outside of running. I never stopped going to church. I never missed mass. I found a mass in Germany. I found a mass in Japan. I didn’t like going to a race on Sunday morning and then going to mass afterward because I would be tired and falling asleep. So, when I had a race, I would try to get to the Saturday mass.
GCR: We’ve discussed marathon racing, but you also raced other distances. You won the 1974 Caesar Rodney Memorial Half Marathon in Wilmington, Delaware in 1:31:20 and won again in 1978 with a very fast 1:22:46 time, which is under six-and-a-half minutes a mile. Did you like the half marathon distance, were there any other women close to you in either race, or were you racing along with the men?
MB I was racing the men most of the time. I knew who the top women were but didn’t see them that often. I did so much racing. The half marathon was fun, and the ten-mile races were fun. In 5ks I did the best I could. I wasn’t super-fast, but I ran at a steady pace. Somebody wrote in an article one time that I was the perfect pacer. These skinny legs would go the same pace forever and a day. I could only pick it up so much. I could hang in there. I ran a lot of local races and raced myself to death.
GCR: You were invited to race the L’eggs Mini-Marathon 10k in 1975 in New York City and raced a respectable 39:10 for eighteenth place. Was it exciting to be a part of this race celebrating women, how were the spectators and did you almost feel like you were sprinting since you were only running a bit over six miles?
MB I liked the 10k distance. I got down close to thirty-seven minutes but couldn’t break it. I did once at a race but didn’t believe the course was accurate. New York always had good women’s races. That helped and I did enjoy being around the women. There was good competition and I always liked New York. I liked running in Central Park and having the ability to run against women in an area where women’s running was respected. So, it was nice being there.
GCR: In 1979, while he was in office, President Carter ran the Catoctin Mountain 10k which is the time where he collapsed during the race. Can you tell us about that race, how tough the course was and how special it was to receive your award from President Carter after you won the race?
MB When I have speaking engagements, Tony Reed always tells me to talk about the time with President Carter. It was a very good experience that I do like to talk about. The first thing I tell people is that we were somewhere behind a house, warming up for this race. One of my buddies was with me. It was one of the few times I was an invited runner and received some money to race. Suddenly, there was all this noise, and it was because of the arrival of the President. There was a lead car, the President’s limousine and all these people around the cars. Everybody was running over to the car to see him. I thought, ‘No, Bevans. You’re paid to run this race, so you’ve got to warm up and get ready to run.’ So, I didn’t go over to peek at the President. I was doing my warmup jog and my stretches. I was getting ready to run this race. From what I remember about the course, we went up the hill for a mile, flat for a mile, and down the hill for a mile. Then we turned around and went back up that last hill, on the flat for the fifth mile and down the hill that we ran up to start the race. It was a tough course. There was talk about the President passing out and how he probably shouldn’t have been there running. I thought, ‘It was a tough course for everybody.’ I was blessed with finishing as the first woman. A black man was the first man. I tell the kids I speak to this day about the shoes that President wore. They think maybe he was wearing Nike shoes, but I tell them that on the back of his shoes at the top of the heel it said, ‘Carter.’ I thought that was so cool. I don’t even know what brand they were. When President Carter gave me my award, I didn’t know what I should say to address him. Do I say ‘sir’? Do I say ‘Mr. President’? I wound up saying ‘Yes, sir’ because my father always drilled us to say ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ and not to say ‘huh.’ The White House sent me pictures with the President, and it was a cool experience. He seemed to be a very gracious guy and I wanted to make sure I did things the right way. That was a big deal to meet him after winning and a unique experience. It wasn’t a race the President ran to relax. It was very hilly and wasn’t a joke of a course at all no matter what some people might have said. I don’t like it when people criticize and don’t know the rest of the story, or the real story.
GCR: Since race results are difficult to find for smaller road races in the 1970s, are there any other particularly memorable races at shorter distances due to a strong effort, fast time, tough competition or challenging weather conditions?
MB There was a local race in Baltimore at the Lock Raven Dam. It was a 5k or 10k race – I can’t remember. But this dog came out of the woods with a rabbit in its mouth. I was glad to pass him by because, if it didn’t have this rabbit in its mouth, who was going to catch it? That was interesting.
GCR: How was the local coverage in the newspapers?
MB The newspapers often got facts wrong or different from what they were. One time when I was asked how many miles I ran per day, I said, ‘Ten to twenty.’ The story in the paper was, ‘Marilyn Bevans runs twenty miles a day.’ There is an old article that said I ran in the summer in double sweat suits, which I never did. People think that, if the newspaper says it, then it must be true. I would tell people, ‘If they spell your name right, be happy.’
GCR: Did you have any potentially dangerous encounters while running and did you practice specific safety precautions?
MB For safety reasons, I tell women to keep mace with them and to try not to run the same course every day. I also tell them to let people know where you are running, because you just don’t know who is out there or what might happen. One bad experience I had as far as danger was when I was running in Druid Hills Park and there was work being done on the reservoir. It was one point three miles around and was a nice loop. I was running one day, and this guy was buck naked. I didn’t know what to do. So, I ran past as fast as I could and ran up to a policeman. I said, ‘There is a buck-naked man walking around the reservoir.’ He was just walking along and didn’t act like there was anything unusual in what he was doing. It was hot. One of my running friends told me that he was playing tennis with his kids at the tennis court when this guy showed up. He grabbed his family and went home. Apparently, this guy had some issues. Another dangerous time was when I took a lady from church to her dinner with friends and I was going to run in a park while she was eating. I was running and noticed this boy out on a bike. I was wondering why he was out there late on a school night. It was raining and I was running up a hill when I ran into one of my former athletes. We started to do the back loop that I don’t like to do by myself because there isn’t usually anybody else there. We were on the back loop and this boy came by on his bike with a club on his shoulder. My running buddy, Eric, stared him down. I wouldn’t normally have been on that back loop, but if Eric weren’t with me, I could have been killed. Thank God Eric was with me. After that, I’m very careful when I see young people on bikes. I also worry when people aren’t walking point to point but seem to have no purpose to where they are walking, running or riding their bike. My antennae go up. One time I almost got hit by a rock. I tell people that we never know who is watching us, so we must be careful where we run. We may want to run in the woods because it’s nice and cool, but I don’t run in the woods unless I’m with somebody. Even when people drive by in a car and slow down or yell insults, I am very careful. I used to run the same course out of my front door right or left all the time. After covid, I remember running three times past the same people and each time they said, ‘Looking good. Be careful.’ By the third time I ran back home and didn’t finish the two-mile loop because I didn’t feel too safe. I try to run in places where I know the people and they know me.
GCR: How disappointing was it when you developed exercise-induced asthma and had to stop competing?
MB The situation that I regret the most is that I always wanted to run the Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon. By the first one in 1984, I was done. I tried to qualify, but I couldn’t due to exercise-induced asthma. It was full-blown and I couldn’t make it happen. It was such a problem, but nowadays medical professionals can identify and treat this much better. There are new medicines that might help. I do use an inhaler now. I’m not supposed to get hot, so maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. But I do regret that I didn’t get a chance to run the Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon, but I was done. Oh God, I would have loved that. But that’s life.
GCR: You mentioned earlier that you didn’t have a coach that directed your training program, so you drew on what you learned from the men you trained with and discussions with other women runners at your races. How much do you think having a coach would have helped you with aspects of training such as periodization, stamina and speed training and other details?
MB It would have helped a whole lot. I probably wouldn’t have run myself into the ground. I would have added speedwork earlier in my running career. Those were parts of training that I didn’t have. I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband who was a good runner who could help me. The guys I ran with were helpful but, as I’ve said, it was the blind leading the blind. The people I ran with knew the basics, but nobody really knew what elite runners were doing. There was one older, white gentleman who would say, ‘Marilyn, run long and race fast.’ That didn’t work except that I ran shorter races that were speedwork for the marathon. Since I didn’t have a coach, as I learned more, that is why I became a coach. I found out that I love to coach.
GCR: That is perfect because the next few questions deal with coaching. Since you coached at Baltimore’s Perry Hall High School for over thirty years, what were the main principles of your coaching philosophy and what were the similarities and differences of motivating yourself versus kids who bring multiple aspects to the table?
MB Over the years I have found that I can tell a child that they have ability and can achieve but, if they don’t believe in it and don’t want it, it isn’t going to work. They must want it – not mama – not daddy. When I give talks, everybody wants their child to get a scholarship to go to college. I tell the moms and dads that your child must want to live that experience, not you. It sounds good when a parent tells other people, ‘My child got a four-year scholarship.’ Some parents will say, ‘I don’t want my child to play football at that DIII school. I want him to go to a Division I school.’ But the parents aren’t doing two-a-day workouts. The parents aren’t trying to keep the grades up. Sometimes children have committed suicide because there is too much parental or societal pressure. Everybody looks at the end results, but I try to make them look at the road to that outcome. If the mom and dad waddle like a duck, how is their child going to run like a gazelle? Please tell me. I tell the parents to stop trying to live through their kids. There is one parent who has said, ‘Oh, Miss Bevans, she doesn’t have a life. All she does is coach.’ I wanted to say, ‘Lady, you don’t know me.’ But I left it alone because you can’t tell somebody anything different since their opinion of you is not going to change. I have a whole life that is a lot more than coaching. But I do love working with kids.
GCR: Though there is focus on the physical training and specific workouts, how important is the mental part of training and racing and developing the ability to endure increasing levels of discomfort?
MB Basically, some people have it, and some people don’t. I’m talking about the ability to hurt. I will tell kids that they can do more. But, after a while, I’m not going to tell them that twenty-five thousand times. At some point, I can’t stroke their ego. They must want it. Not me. Not mom and dad. Sometimes everyone else wants it but the child. The child must want it and the child must live it. If they don’t want it, what can you do? I can prescribe the distance runs and set the hard workouts, but they must have the ability to hurt. I can try to teach the ability to hurt, but they must accept that they must decide to hurt. I’ve worked with kids that have great ability, but they didn’t want it. So, I couldn’t keep begging them and taking them to meets when they didn’t want it. I don’t try to live through them, nor do I want to. I had my day. I’m just trying to help them. If they don’t want it badly, then they should find something else wholesome to do. Maybe they want to play volleyball or field hockey. I tell my nieces and nephews that I will help them go to college and pay for some of it, but they must want it. I don’t like it when parents force kids to play sports and when they start them out when they are very young. The kids who start when they are little get burned out. As soon as they are older, they decide not to play that sport anymore. I taught junior high school and middle school for thirty-one years and coached for a long time. I learned very early that I could encourage a kid who had talent but, if he didn’t want it, there wasn’t anything I could do. Parents also don’t understand as they think that if their kids start when they are young and do workouts twice a day, they are going to be All-World when they are eighteen. No, they are going to be in another sport or not in sports at all. Once these kids get to sixth or seventh grade, they will tell their parents to ‘Go jump in a lake.’ That’s what is going to happen when they have done too much too soon. I have coached two kids, one male and one female, who were NCAA Division I champs. One was in the 3,000 meters and one in the 1,500 meters and that was a joy. Some kids have the talent, but they also have the ability to hurt. You may be a great runner but, if you don’t want to hurt, you won’t get there.
GCR: That leads to the next question. When working with and coaching teenagers, how important is for them to have fun and camaraderie with their teammates, since running is a tough sport, as they are also training hard and smartly to be their best?
MB It is important because I don’t want kids to be a term I coined, a social imbecile. This is when all they can do is to talk about running. For some teenagers and adults, even if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or spouse, everything is running. I want the kids to have other activities and make friends. Most of the kids are not going to earn a scholarship, but it is a joyful experience to run and be around wholesome kids. Cross country is particularly nice because there is a group of kids that are varied. Some can run well. Some can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. But they can all go out there and run the three miles. They can keep in shape and find some friends. That is what I want. These kids need to make friends. Some parents and coaches are so competitive that they don’t want their runners to talk to kids on the other teams. Why? They might wind up living on the same block. They might end up going to the same college. Why do they have to be enemies? They can wait until after their race is run or the meet is over, but they can be friends.
GCR: Is there anyone who provided you with some mentoring and helped you to become a better coach?
MB I coached age group track and field in the 1970s and 1980s with my own club team and then took about a five-year break. After that, I worked under the wonderful Jerry Martins, who has passed away. He was a master of a coach. He taught me how to coach and how not to coach. He didn’t tell me that I needed to get the team some points out of the guys I was working with. He let me do me. I had coached his twin boys before he even knew he was a coach. He was a genius and had ten or twelve straight Baltimore Country cross-country championship teams. My age group teams travelled as far away as Nebraska. I coached as high up as high school track and field and cross country. They didn’t pay us much to coach cross country, but I loved it. Anybody could come out for the team. If they could barely walk and see, they could participate
GCR: I’ve been running for over fifty years, so I understand how running has been a positive force in my life. What have been the positive effects of the discipline, consistency and tenacity learned from running that have translated to other aspects of your life?
MB Because of the running I have done in the past and from Tony Reed with the Black Marathoners Association getting the word out about what I have done, I get to take trips, travel and talk. I get to go to many places which are fun. New groups of people will find out about my running history and come talk to me. I do tell people that, when you are famous, everybody wants to be your friend. But have friends who aren’t running friends who don’t care about your accolades, but about you. I learned that very early. I’ve got friends I have had since seventh grade. I’ve known them since way before I became a good runner. When I ran well at the Maryland Marathon, there was a baptism day that was changed because it was scheduled for that day, and I couldn’t be there. I have a small group of guys who were my running buddies all through the covid time and we ran together regularly. We would meet and run and enjoy our time together. It wasn’t like I was ‘The Famous Marilyn Bevans.’ We ran and I didn’t say much. People treat others differently when they know about you. I wanted people to treat me how they would if they didn’t know anything about me. It seems like more women can get on your nerves, so most of my running friends are men. Women – not so much!
GCR: You mentioned being raised Catholic and so was I as my mom is a staunch Catholic. I heard something a long time ago that I always remember and that is that ‘The talents we have are what God gives to us and what we do with those talents are our gift back to God.’ Many religious people also talk about running for the glory of God. Do you have this sort of thought process toward what you did in running and what you do in life?
MB I wanted to become Catholic when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. My mother was Catholic, and my grandmother was Catholic. My grandmother always took me to Catholic church with her. When I was studying to become Catholic, I went to the Rectory and the Father gave me my lesson. He would always escort me out of the Rectory when I left. The good, holy Priest escorted me to the door and said, ‘have a nice day.’ He did what he did because most Priests are good, holy men. There are a few that are not what they need to be but, unfortunately, it is like that in every profession. As far as my faith goes, it taught me consistency and being strict. Now that I’m seventy-three years old, when I go to the park to run, I hear younger people tell me I am their example, or I make them want to run. And I don’t even know any of these people. A couple of months ago a lady motioned that she wanted to talk to me and asked how old I was. When I told her I was seventy-three, she said, ‘How come you don’t look it?’ I said, ‘Because I do C.P.R. – church, prayer and running.’ When I went up to the Boston Marathon this year and they asked me about priorities in my life, I told them it was God, family and running. It’s always been that way, even when I was running and competing. I was going to church and spending time with my family. There was a time when lots of runners were losing their marriages because they had to get their run in. I went through a time like that, but it wasn’t good. You’ve got to be able to be with your family. I helped my niece with driving school and some nephews and nieces with college. Any sport, at a high level, can make you self-centered, but you must try to avoid that. You didn’t get there by yourself. Over the years, I have had many people run with me. When it was raining one time a guy ran twenty miles with me on Thanksgiving morning. Then we ran twenty miles two days later on Saturday. You’ve got to keep in mind that you can’t put everything into your running because, eventually, it’s going to let you down. You can’t do it forever and when it’s done, it’s done.
GCR: After a career with many highlights, organizations recognize people for their achievements. You were inducted into the National Black Marathoners Association's Distance Runner Hall of Fame in 2013, RRCA Hall of Fame in 2021, Springfield College Athletic HOF in 2023 and named as one of the 2014 Heroes of Running by Runner's World. Is it both rewarding and humbling to be so recognized?
MB I don’t know exactly how to answer since I just ran because I liked to run. I was going to run whether anyone gave me an award or not. The first recognition that shocked me was the National Black Marathoners Association. They did a wonderful job with their whole program. I was able to compliment the woman who gave me a good start. I’ve enjoyed the experiences of speaking to and inspiring women and particularly black women. I’ve had the opportunity to speak twice at the Boston Marathon, mostly to women. I was invited to speak at the Cherry Blossom Festival 10-mile race this year. I speak about blacks, race and running.
GCR: In recent years, there has been an increased awareness and focus in the United States on black distance running with organizations such as the National Black Marathoners Association, Black Roses NYC and Black Girls Run. Does it bring a smile to your face and warm your heart, since you were one of the pioneers of black distance running as you see what these groups and others are doing to encourage Americans of African descent to participate and compete in distance running?
MB I’ve come from high school and college when there was no track team for girls, though Morgan State had Olympians in men’s track. Title IX started when I was a junior in college. We had roving players on the basketball court who could go up and down the court, while the other players had to stay on one end. They thought going up and down the whole court was too much for most women. But we did have girls who were P.E. majors who had played basketball with the guys all their lives. We had girls who later were on the Virginia Slims tennis tour. Since we didn’t have a women’s tennis team, they played on the men’s team. Some of the schools didn’t want to play our men’s tennis team because there were two black girls on the team. So, there wasn’t anything for girls. Now it is so wonderful to see girls get scholarships in every sport. Now girls can have good training and college running experience. I had none of that. It is so wonderful to see the growth in girls’ sports. Black, white or whatever color, there are a variety of sports and girls can play in high school and get to go to college. I think that’s wonderful. My advice is to not party it away. Some people go to college and don’t realize they can get kicked out if they make the wrong choices. They must do things wisely. I’m happy to see women with the opportunities today. I’m concerned about the transgender athletes in sports. A man can’t be a woman and a woman can’t be a man no matter what they do in competition. It doesn’t change them physically and is unfair to the swimmers and track and field athletes. The muscles are different.
GCR: We discussed all your top marathon finishes and, if we look particularly at how you finished in in the three U.S. races that are now part of the World Marathon Majors, you were fifth at New York City, second at Chicago and finished fourth, second and sixth at Boston. What does it say that you are one of very few American women who have ever finished in the top six of these three prestigious marathons five times?
MB I was doing it back in the beginning, so it was kind of easy for me. I did what I could do. I wish I could have done better.
GCR: What is your current health and fitness regimen?
MB I don’t run every day. I try to run at least three to four times each week. I’m running a bit more now because I want to run a couple races in the fall. If I want to run a race, I do. If I don’t want to run a race, I don’t. I would rather run than race, but I still love to run to this day. I’ve not lost my love of running. Exercise-induced asthma hasn’t bothered me this summer. If it does, I stop and walk back. I’m also trying to incorporate weight training more than I did in the past. I’m also starting to use the foam roller. I bought two of them recently and they are great! I would rather use the rollers than stretch because they truly help me out. I was also wearing running shoes that were a little too thin and I had added foot pads because I have always needed extra support. So, I have new running shoes. I’ve been wearing the new shoes and using the foam rollers and some calf pain I have been having wasn’t there this morning. So, I am coming around to some new things.
GCR: What dreams inspire you and goals drive you with respect to your health, personal life and professional career?
MB I coach cross country and track, officiate, and am a massage therapist. I’ve had the blessing of working Nationals as an official in the pole vault. I also did some high jump and triple jump work. The triple jump is a beautiful event, absolutely gorgeous, and I enjoyed working it. When I stopped teaching in 2003, I went back to school to be a massage therapist and do a lot of corporate work. It’s nice because, when a company requests massage services, I can accept or reject the work. I worked last week and am too tired to work this week. With coaching, officiating and massage therapy, I’m busy. I’m living my best life.
GCR: What are the major lessons you have learned during your life from growing up when athletic opportunities were limited for women, the fact that there weren’t black women running marathons, the discipline of running and sharing your knowledge, your professional life, and adversity you have encountered that sums up the ‘Marilyn Bevans Philosophy of being your best in athletics and as a human being?
MB It is simply C.P.R. Church, prayer and running. I say don’t give up the Lord, do more than running and keep praying. Don’t give up your marriage or family for running or any sport. I saw that when women’s liberation started marriages broke up. Was it a smart thing to do? I don’t know. During covid, I acquired the habit of saying my rosary every morning. That started during covid, I won’t give it up, and that’s a good thing. If I can, I do my run in the morning. People who just focus on their sport one hundred percent are social imbeciles. All they know is their sport. No matter what the sport or activity is, if balance isn’t involved, it’s going to let you down eventually. You must think of your family. You must think about going to work and doing your job. You can’t come in late because you ran twenty miles and can barely do anything. I encourage young people to manage their money well. There are athletes who have a very short life in their sport and, if they don’t manage their money, they end up with nothing. I listened to one sport psychologist speaking to young athletes and he told them that most professional athletes have no money when they are thirty as their career in sport is over and they spent all they earned. I tell young people to make some money and put some to the side. Make some, spend some, and save some. Don’t blow all your money because this isn’t going to last forever. These kids think their talents and career are going to last forever. In distance running, that doesn’t happen. I had a professional football player who lived next to me in the past. He was a big man. I didn’t think he could run well. But I saw him chase a boy down. I had never seen a three-hundred-pound man run so fast in my life. What he taught me was, when you make your first million dollars – give some, spend some and save some. He also said he advised to put some money away, but don’t tell other people. That made a lot of sense to me. You must keep things in perspective. If you want to be a professional athlete, you must bang your miles, hit the weight room and follow your training routine. You can get all the trophies in the world but, like me, at some point you will start wondering if there is some place to donate all these trophies. I would keep a few like my Boston Marathon trophy, which I took to school to show the kids when they didn’t believe how I placed in the Boston Marathon. I take things in perspective because some people know, and some don’t. But you must thank God and family. Otherwise, you are going to be a very lonely person.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests I can kill a plant! I went to the Home Depot a couple of weeks ago and thought, ‘What can I buy that I can’t kill?’ I want to put a couple plants in the house and outside. My mother died at ninety-three about five years ago and I am doing my best to maintain these two plants that were her plants. I will feel very bad if they die. I also have a rose bush outside that I believe my grandmother keeps blossoming from heaven. I’m not a planter
Favorite movies I enjoy love stories and action movies. So, if a movie has both, like ‘The Gladiator,’ I love it. I like the old-time movies with swords and a love interest. I like ‘New Jack City.’ That’s a classic movie about drugs and blacks. There’s one movie with a black actor whose son is killed and then he hunts down the killers. I like that action! I used to love movies with Jet Li and Bruce Lee. I took Taekwondo and got a black belt. I like all the Asian karate type movies. There is an Asian lady, Michelle Yeoh, who received an Academy Award last year for best actress and I like her movies and acting. One of my favorite movies is ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ I love that movie and bought it so I can watch it any time I want to when I turn on my television
Favorite TV shows I like ‘Blackish.’ It was excellent and showed that all blacks aren’t poor, and all blacks aren’t rich. They did an excellent job with that series. The kids were wonderful, and it was very down to earth. I love CSI Miami. The dude with the red hair is my man! I love him! During covid, I watched a lot of ‘Lone Star Law’ and ‘Pitbulls and Parolees.’ During ‘Lone Star Law’ I learned a wonderful way about relating to and questioning people and how to present oneself. They wouldn’t ask first to see a fisherman’s license. They would make small talk, ask about the fishing that day, see the catch and then ask to verify their license. I use this when I talk to people when I am a track and field or cross country meet official. An example is at the State cross country meet where I saw someone with a dog. I went up and said, ‘We are glad you’re here to watch the State meet. It’s an honor for the kids. But could you watch your dog because we don’t want it coming out when the kids are running to the finish.’ I learned better ways to talk to people. I like ‘From’ where the people in the show get lost, can’t find their way out of this area and strange things happen. That is weird and scary. There are some new shows on TV that I thought about watching, but they show breasts and hind parts, and I don’t want to see either
Favorite music As a massage therapist who does a lot of corporate work, I use calming music. So, I play light jazz with no singing. I do like some rap from years ago, but not as much now. I like Whitney Houston. She is a good singer. Aretha Franklin has music that is nice, and she also did some spiritual music. I like Chuck Jackson from a long time ago. I like a bit of everything but don’t like newer songs with cursing and the shows with near nudity. I don’t need to see guys grabbing their crotch. Don’t they know they have a penis? At this point in their lives, they should know it’s still hanging there. They don’t need to grab it when they are singing
Favorite reading I was a slow reader. I did spend a lot of time in my schoolbooks. I would be on the bus studying my Spanish book because I had to study hard to get good grades. I studied hard. I was not a genius but read the books I had to read. Years ago, I liked Mad Magazine. They were funny though they were serious sometimes
First car I had a small little compact car
Current car I have the car that the thieves are stealing. It’s a Hyundai. I just bought a steering wheel lock. They stole a car from my sister’s house, so that’s why I told my brother-in-law I was getting the steering wheel lock. I can’t afford to get another car. This is the best I can do, and it might be my last car. It’s a 2012 Hyundai Accent. I don’t need fancy. I just need a car to get me around
First Job In the summers, my mom had me go to camp down in Richmond, Virginia for a number of years. We played a lot, walked and ran. That is how I got in shape to be a runner. We always had great experiences at camp. When I went to camp, there was a couple that ran the camp. The husband stayed in the boys’ bunkhouse and the wife stayed in the girls’ bunkhouse. After those years, I started working at the camp. I did a lot of day camp work. When I was in college at Morgan State, we had youth camps, and I was always involved with the track and field portion of those camps. I had two other close friends who worked there. One worked with the elementary school kids and did dance instruction. She was an elementary school teacher all her life. The other did swimming classes. She ended up getting married and then she and her husband managed pools all their life. The three of us did what we did at the camp for the rest of our lives and retired from education. When I finished graduate school, I stayed up there that summer for girl scout camp. Every two weeks there was a new set of girl scouts and that was kind of cool. We took them on walks and on boats on the lake
Halloween memories What saddens me now in the Baltimore area is that there is so much crime that the kids can’t enjoy Halloween. They can’t ring doorbells and say ‘trick or treat’ because there is too much of a chance somebody will do something stupid or put something bad in their bag. Then people steal the kids’ candy. I enjoyed Halloween when I was a kid. I was dressed as a cowgirl. I would go alone in my neighborhood and on the next block and never had to worry about anybody bothering me. We got to enjoy that experience
School and neighborhood memories I was in an all-black neighborhood and went to an all-black school. The first school was a group of huts. In one, kindergarten was on the first floor and first grade was on the second floor. We jumped rope. The girls were doing double jump ropes and I couldn’t do one jump rope. I finally figured it out when I was a P.E. teacher teaching a sixth-grade jump rope unit. We moved out to where I live now, and have lived the rest of my life, when I was in the sixth grade. It was a Jewish neighborhood and blacks had started moving in. Now, more whites are moving back into the neighborhood. When I went to junior high and saw white people, I thought, ‘Oooh, white people.’ I had never been that close other than the Jewish man on our street that had the grocery store on the corner where we could buy candy. If we saw white people in my neighborhood when I was a child, we knew it was a bill collector knocking on somebody’s door. I went to Garretson Junior High School and there were Jewish white kids and white teachers. It was all new to us. One thing I loved was the Jewish holidays. The Jewish kids were at home, so the black kids got caught up in class. I coached at a Jewish school for a couple of years and learned to respect everybody. They take their religion seriously. I take mine seriously. I know some Muslim guys who take their religion seriously. There was an argument one year because a coach didn’t understand the practices of a Muslim athlete during Ramadan. I told the coach, ‘He can’t help it. During Ramadan, he can’t eat or drink anything until six o’clock.’ We must understand each other and respect other’s views. That is how I had a good relationship with everyone. I learned that from my mother. Her best friend could be the janitor. I learned this from my mother – respect everybody. I learned that the most important people at the school were the custodian and the nurse. They are the top two on my list
Family My mother and father, Mary and William, were married for fifty-five years. I have a brother, William. We are three years apart. My mother and father must have got frisky one night because my sister, Francine, is fifteen years younger than me. She said something a few months ago about my mother’s birth control breaking down, but I don’t know. I was blessed with a good mother and father who always worked. We always worked. My brother had some issues in his life but got his life together. He always worked. His son always worked. My sister always worked. We didn’t have people sitting around the house. My mother was a teacher all her life. My mother, when she was teaching, was the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave. Though my father was good at math, my brother went to summer school every summer. Finally, my mother said, ‘This is the last time I send you to summer school. If you want to fail, then you can fail. We aren’t going to spend any more money on summer school.’ My father had many brothers and a sister. My mother had one brother. My nephew’s son is William. My grandmother lived with us until the day she passed. I loved my grandmother. I loved her like my mother. She was the most wonderful example in my life. My father went through much more racism than my mother. Daddy was working for the health department and beat a white man on a test for a job. But he didn’t get it. He left that job and worked for the penal system for many years. He was a very bright guy. When he was in the military, they informed him that he had cheated on an I.Q. test. That wasn’t possible and nobody in the black community thought that was possible. That was the way they got out of moving my father, a very bright man, up to a higher position. He built a home for us out in the country with his two hands. He helped my mother with things for her teaching, like art projects. He was before his time as a bright black man
Pets I have a nephew that works for Animal Control and a niece who is taking a course that deals with animals and biology. Anything that can’t be controlled, my nephew will control. He’s like the black dog whisperer. My niece got this pit bull and all he wants to do is sleep on the bed and snore. The other dog is a German Shepherd and Husky mix. She’s black and white instead of the more common brown and white. She has the stature of a German Shepherd and, if anybody walks past the house, they know there’s a dog here. When people see her, even if she yawns, they think twice about anything bad, and she puts the fear in them which is a good thing. When you live alone, you’ve got to have something for protection. I don’t know what I would do without them because they provide so much comfort. The Shepherd guards and the pit bulls hangs out and sleeps. ‘Buster’ is the pit bull and ‘Pepper’ is the mix. All my life we always had a dog in the house. Over the years I’ve had gerbils. Then there was the time when movies we watched were what I would call the ‘Period movies’ when people had only sheepskins and loin cloths on their bodies. And they had ferrets. My nephew had a ferret. I wouldn’t get another one, but those ferrets are very interesting. The ferret would get out of the cage and take the TV remote control. I don’t know why. I just put food in the cage, but my nephew handled it. I had birds. I would get birds again, but I’m worried that the pit bull would eat the birds. He has gone through all my socks and underwear. I get them at the dollar store because I know he likes to eat stuff. I’ve always had some kind of animal, but my niece and nephew have so many more
Favorite breakfast I eat yogurt, fruit cups and cereal. If I can have my favorite breakfast, it would be pancakes with strawberries on top, scrambled eggs with cheese and some hash browns. (I light-heartedly said that is the heart attack breakfast). Oh, really! I was thinking about getting that today! (laughing) I eat that not very often, maybe once a month
Favorite meals One of my favorites is crab cakes. We love that here in Baltimore. I like mashed potatoes. There is one diner that my brother and I go to where I like their spaghetti. There are all kinds of items we can add to the spaghetti like shrimp and extra vegetables. Then I take the leftovers home and eat them for a couple more days. I also do like Chick fil-a
Favorite beverages I’ve had experience being around alcoholics and drug addicts, so I will only have an alcohol drink once in a blue moon. Two glasses of wine at a meal are over the limit. I’m not much on drinking alcohol because I have seen what it can do to people. I talked to my nieces and nephews about this. I love hot tea. I can drink hot tea in hundred-degree weather. I’ll go to a restaurant and order a hot tea, and then another cup and a third cup. That is my substitute for an alcohol of choice – my hot tea. I love my Lipton tea. It doesn’t have to be green tea or other varieties. Just give me my Lipton tea. All those other teas doesn’t appeal to me. Just Lipton tea and some sugar and I’m good
Early running memories My first memory is one with my girlfriend in seventh grade. We were the second black family in the neighborhood, and we are still friends to this day. We were going to go to the track meet I talked about earlier and I told her that we needed to practice. I raced her and she beat me. That should have been the first notice. Then my father took me to the track meet, saw the five, chubby white girls and said, ‘You can beat them.’ All I saw were their chubby, white butts at the finish line. I ran the half mile, and it was the same thing. That ended my track and field career. I did like running and had some free time, so I ran. I would run around the track. The track coach let me jog around the track. There was Lake Montebello which was about a mile away and one point three miles around. It was a beautiful area to run, and I enjoyed it. In college I dislocated my shoulder in P.E. class, swinging on the rings. My shoulder bone came up and I saw it. The doctor told me to take time off, but I didn’t listen to him. I came back too quickly, and, after that, my arm came out of joint at least forty times. I couldn’t play volleyball because, if I tried to serve, the arm popped out. I couldn’t play softball because, when I tried to throw, my arm popped out. It came out when I tried to swim. You name it – the arm popped out. The only time it didn’t come out was when I played field hockey. Thank God it hasn’t come out in a long time because I’m afraid it would do a lot of harm if it came out now. At a certain point in my life, I decided I don’t raise my hand over my head. I don’t do certain things. My arm had enough coming out parties. Once I was lying in the bed, stretched my arm out and I was screaming. My grandmother was living with us and rushed in. ‘What’s the matter?’ I told her my arm had popped out. She snatched it and it popped back in. I don’t know what she did, but it worked. ‘Are you alright?’ ‘Yes, ma’am’
Running in the cold winter There is one run when it had just finished snowing. I was running with a good friend, Michael. His oldest daughter is my God child. We were running along. He was one of those young, fast runners and we always ran together. I was still at the top of my game. We were running in the snow because the streets were clear enough. We were going up Park Heights from Druid Hill Park. There was the biggest snowball fight going on. Kids were throwing snowballs across the street. The other kids were throwing snowballs back. We had to run down the middle of the snowball fight. I said, ‘Oh Jesus, don’t let us get hit by these snowballs.’ We still had to make it home at least a mile. I don’t remember being hit. That must have been nice for them to not hit the idiots running through the snow. We were able to run safely in the snow, but I’ll never forget that snowball fight we ran through. Baltimore is a beautiful place with many reservoirs, and we would run through the parks along the reservoirs
Running heroes I like Alisa Harvey. She can do all kinds of distances and run them well. She could have been a miler. When I used to officiate at George Mason University, she was running in track meets and was something else. I met Alisa through the Black Marathoners Association, and we bonded right away. I consider her a friend. She is so cool and pretty. She did so much with running. I respect her highly. I watched a historical story on television about black Olympians from a long time ago. They made the team and went abroad. Then the officials removed some black girls from relays so white girls could run. The narrator said they did that twice to her grandmother. Those early sprinters went through that and hung in there. Also, it wasn’t fun being a female athlete because the consensus was that they all were gay. That wasn’t true, but it was a stereotype
Greatest running moment The second place at the Boston Marathon was the end all. If it was going to happen, it happened. That was important. Yes, it was. That is an achievement that everyone knows, so that was the big one for me
Worst running moments Dropping out of the marathon in Japan and running poorly in Germany. To run so poorly in international races when I ran better before and afterward. I had nobody around me to help me with what I needed to do. When I didn’t finish the marathon in Japan, I didn’t know why. I didn’t know I had exercise-induced asthma. How did I acquire it? I don’t know. I do know that I was a very allergic child. I had poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, hives. I had acne as a child and up until I was thirty years old. You name it – I was very sensitive. If I walked by poison ivy to this day, it would jump over on me. Everybody has their downfall, and that was mine
Childhood dreams At Halloween, I always dressed as a cowgirl. When I had baby dolls, I stripped them of their clothes and sewed Indian clothes on them like I saw in the western movies. I was a strange kid. I was a tomboy. I always liked boys but feared them. To this day, I like a good-looking, dark-skinned, black man
Funny memory number one One time I was running with the Springfield team, and we ran through a wooded area. We ran through the woods, and it seemed to be safe. I’m a staunch Catholic and I try to do things the right way. Three times I went past three different couples in positions I’ve never seen before or since. You can think about that as you wish. I was so embarrassed that I was trying not to go past them again. When we got back to where we were meeting, Coach Cox said, ‘Did you see those couples?’ I said I did and then I tried not to go back that way and there was another couple. One boy said, ‘I went past them five times!’ Good gracious! I’m Catholic and go to church every Sunday and am trying to do the right thing while the boys on the team were having a good old time watching. I said, ‘Lord, help us.’ That was one of the weirdest times
Funny memory number two As a P.E. teacher and coach, one incident was so great. At a football game there were the two teams playing football, the cheerleaders were cheering, and the band was playing. And up in the stands by himself was one guy waving a flag. It was great because it showed everybody could be involved. I was the kind of P.E. teacher who would get everyone out doing something, so that one guy waving the flag was involved and funny
Embarrassing moment There was one time when we were running around the reservoir, when one of my running friends told me that a mutual friend was parked in his car. He went over and ran by the car and then said, ‘He’s in the car, but that isn’t his wife. We aren’t going to tell anybody.’ We just kept running. That guy did end up getting a divorce. My friend was right that saying something wasn’t going to make it better one way or the other. I had one running buddy that was a friend, but only a friend. One day, I was called in to testify at his divorce. I didn’t have any idea his marriage was breaking up and, no matter how long you know somebody, you might not know somebody. One of the ugliest things about my running came about because I ran with a lot of guys. I would know their wives or girlfriends and, if they broke up or got a divorce, I knew both and didn’t take sides. I didn’t come in between. If one of them said something, I didn’t carry it back to the other one. I kept out of it. When one of my running buddies got divorced and told me, I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ I stayed away and was still a running friend. At certain times, you keep out of it. I ran with a lot of guys and kept out of their business unless they had habits that were unhealthy or could kill them. Most runners don’t take drugs or are addicts, but there were some who had a problem. I tried to help them out and that was all I could do. I said what I had to say and let it go. If I never ran with a group of women, I’m good. Women get on your nerves. Women talk about silly stuff. I would rather run with the men and talk and joke around. I haven’t found one woman I want to run with. Period. I am so sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Give me the men to run with any day. Plus, they are better to look at
Travel memories I love Las Vegas. The first time I went, I spent all of three dollars. Or was it thirteen? I like going through the different hotels and looking at all the pretty things. There is also a Catholic church on the strip where I would go to mass. I will go back to Las Vegas in a minute. But I won’t set foot in the casino. I’ll save my money and do everything else. I’ll visit Hoover Dam. I worked too hard for my hard-earned money in thirty-one years of teaching plus coaching to turn around and throw it away. I’ve been overseas to only Japan and Germany. I love the Asian culture. I did some martial arts. I like the beautiful islands in the Caribbean and beautiful clothes the people wear when they are walking. I’ve been to Canada for the 1976 Olympics and that was so cool. Athletes trained on the golf course, and anybody could run there. I was running and was excited to see many runners I recognized. I would say, ‘Look who I saw!’ We could get out there and run, and I did. That was when the Kardashians first husband was a man, and he was a decathlete. I was mad with him a couple of years later when Bruce Jenner divorced his first wife because that woman spent a whole lot of time helping him to prepare for his goal. Track and Field News and Runners World had Olympic tours. I went with Track and Field News on their tours to the Montreal Olympics, U.S. Championships in Indianapolis and the Atlanta Olympics. I loved going to the Olympic Trials in New Orleans. They were great. I liked the track and field tours because everybody I sat beside was a fan. If the high jump was going on, someone would be telling me about the high jumpers. If I was watching the pole vault, someone would tell me about everyone who was vaulting. The first night I got there for the heats of the 10,000 meters. It was like watching a soap opera, the way the race developed over the twenty-five laps. Nobody got up to leave. Everybody was a fan. You could speak with them, and they talked back. And nobody was offended. When I was out in the countryside near San Francisco, there were chickens tied with rope to some of the houses. I found out they were raised for fighting. I didn’t approve of that, but it was interesting
Future travel goals One of my goals in life, God willing, and the creek don’t rise, is to go to Las Vegas and get a guided tour of the Grand Canyon. I would like to go out there and hike the Grand Canyon. I’d like to take about a five-mile hike. That would be my goal. I would like to go to Japan again and take a tour. I want to go to Miami and see the beach. I want to go to Florida, see alligators and ride one of those airboats that speeds across the water. There are wild hogs and women are hunting them. I want to go with them
Final comments from interviewer Marilyn is a wonderful lady and her enthusiasm and passion for life shone through brightly during this interview. She noted that she had never done an interview that was this long and this in-depth. She also said she enjoyed speaking with someone who knew about the runners from these past times. Marilyn concluded by saying, ‘God first and everything else second. Have a blessed day. C.P.R. Church, prayer and running’