Gasparilla Distance Classic Gasparilla Distance Classic
           be healthy • get more fit • race faster
Enter email to receive e-newsletter:
Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

"All in a Day’s Run" is for competitive runners, fitness enthusiasts and anyone who needs a "spark" to get healthier by increasing exercise and eating more nutritionally.

Click here for more info or to order

This is what the running elite has to say about "All in a Day's Run":

"Gary's experiences and thoughts are very entertaining, all levels of runners can relate to them."
Brian Sell — 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathoner

"Each of Gary's essays is a short read with great information on training, racing and nutrition."
Dave McGillivray — Boston Marathon Race Director

Skip Navigation Links

Henry Rono — May, 2016
Henry Rono is best known for his amazing 1978 feat of breaking World Records at 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in a span of only 81 days. His steeplechase World Record stood for eleven years. Henry represented Kenya at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, winning Gold Medals in the 5,000 meters and the 3,000 meter steeplechase. That same year at the All-Africa Games he won Gold Medals in the 10,000 meters and 3,000 meter steeplechase. Due to Kenya’s Olympic boycotts in 1976 and 1980, Henry missed the opportunity for Olympic glory. He won six NCAA Championships while at Washington State University, including three in cross country where he is one of only four men to do so. His personal best times include: 800 meters – 1:52; 1,500 meters – 3:42; Mile – 3:59.2 (indoors); 3,000 meters – 7:32.1; 2-Mile – 8:14.66; 5,000 meters - 13:06.20; 10,000m – 27:22.47 and 3,000 meters steeplechase - 8:05.4. Henry’s autobiography, entitled ‘Olympic Dream,’ was published in 2007. His website is He has coached many runners, including high school athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he currently resides. Henry was very kind to conduct this interview via e-mail.
GCR:Thank you, Henry, for consenting to this interview as it is very much appreciated. First, it has been over 35 years since you had that tremendous stretch in 1978 when you broke world records at 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in a span of only 81 days. How exciting was it to combine your talent and disciplined training to be the best in the world in so many events?
HRI had great discipline to train to meet all the necessary levels: Level I, Level II, Level III, Level IV, and finally Level V. These are the levels an athlete like me trains to meet this zone. So it was so exciting to live in that zone of competition and moving around the world was not a problem in competition. The four World Records in that streak brought me more joy than any of my other running accomplishments. It filled me with happiness to hear my name with those of the greatest distance runners of all time, Viren, Nurmi and Zatopek.
GCR:Sometimes in an athlete’s career, whether it is tennis or basketball or golf or baseball or many different sports, an athlete is said to be ‘in the zone.’ Were you ‘in the zone’ in 1978 and could you explain how it feels to be competing when you are at that level?
HRIt was exciting that I had reached that level of competing and all I can was to deliver the message to whoever meet director invited meet to their meets. I could answer their questions by going around the track in the event they wanted me to do. Some sportswriters in 1978 said I wasn’t just the best runner in the world, but the greatest athlete that year.
GCR:Did you, your coach or your competitors have a good idea going into any of these races that you would break a World Record?
HRI remember that day in the 10k that my coach thought that I was going to break the World Record in the 10,000 meters. I think Henry Marsh mentioned it before the race in the newspaper that my time was going to be a new World Record - for sure Marsh said a new World Record of 27:27 easy from the 27:30 record. Earlier at the NCAA meet my coach pulled me away from competing in 10,000 meters because he knew I will break the World Record in the event but he didn't want the people of that stadium or Oregon to be honored with my good performances. He did it earlier in the season in the same Stadium pulling me off the track. I took my World Record in the steeplechase to Seattle Washington on May 13, 1978. That was my second World Record, but while I was planning my third World Record in June at the NCAA meet, he refused me to let me race and do it in the meet. So I took the World Record effort to Europe two weeks later.
GCR:Possibly the best method to measure the strength of a World Record is how long it lasts until it is broken. Since your 8:05.4 steeplechase World Record lasted for 11 years, do you consider it to be your strongest World Record performance?
HRI thought so; however, before I finished the steeplechase record that day, at the last lap, I lost one second by missteps towards the finish line jumping over the second barrier and cost me about 1.4 seconds. I wanted 8:04 period. So it was a bit slower than I wanted in the event.
GCR:Speaking of the steeplechase, at the NCAA Championships you finished second to James Munyala by less than two seconds in 1977 before winning the Championship the next two years. What did you learn from your narrow 1977 defeat and did it fuel your fire to train strong and smart so that you could be on the top step of the podium?
HRIt was a good lesson for me; however, I knew what I needed to do in order to better myself and to go ahead of James Munyala.
GCR:You were also NCAA Indoor Champion in the 3000 meters in 1977. How did you like racing indoors with the tighter turns and the spectators up close to the racing action?
HRIt was my first year in American indoor racing; however, I was still young in those days, so my adjustment to racing indoors was not that shabby. In fact, when I was in my freshman year in college I used to run two events in one day with just one hour in between. Coming to Nationals indoors, I had map plan to race my best.
GCR:Another NCAA Championships you dominated was in cross country as your three individual victories matched Gerry Lindgren and Steve Prefontaine and only recently was equaled by Edward Cheserek. How do you feel to be only one of four athletes to have registered three NCAA cross country titles?
HRI feel great I’m among the top guys in NCAA cross country and this has kept me in the record books to date.
GCR:No one came within ten seconds of you at the finish of any of your NCAA X-C victories. What do you remember of the points in the three races where you made your moves to pull away from your competitors?
HRI was always a front runner or I could stay in the middle and surge back and forth until I would win. I had more stamina than any athletes at the time.
GCR:We mentioned being ‘in the zone.’ At the 1978 NCAA championships at the University of Oregon at Eugene's Hayward Field on a qualifying day, not even the finals, you set meet records in the steeplechase and 5,000 meters, turning in an 8:18 and 13:22 performances. What do you recall of that day, which many consider to be the most outstanding one-day distance running performance in the history of the NCAA Championships?
HRIf you saw the way I was moving in the field, jogging the curves and running long strides at the back straight, was in preparation for world record in 10k event. I was just keeping my shape intact, so to speak, so when I was set to go and hit a 10k World Record; it was not going to cost me any pain in me. In fact, it was an easy 10k World Record in Vienna ten days later.
GCR:When you were in your prime, Kenya did not send a team to the World Cross Country Championships and only started doing so in 1981. When you look back, would you have liked to have had the opportunity to compete in the World Cross Country Championships?
HRI would like to have competed with Alberto Salazar and Craig Virgin from the U.S., and many others from all over the world.
GCR:In a similar fashion, you did not have a chance to compete in the Olympics as Kenya boycotted both the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games. How tough is it to look back and to wonder what might have been?
HRI still remember vividly how it went in those days as it was sad. In 1976 we were in Montreal and the Olympics were about to start. The night before the Opening Ceremony we received word that Kenya was not participating due to the inclusion of New Zealand whose team in another sport had played in South Africa, which practiced apartheid. Just as I was ready to attain my Olympic dream, it was gone. I was crazy about the Moscow Olympics. I was in prime shape to show the world who I was! For sure I had two medals in my hand before I even got there. However, I didn’t get the chance to even go there. My Olympics were boycotted in eight months. I was called on the phone by the BBC at 2:00 am while I was racing in Australia in January 1980 in the winter meets across the world preparing for Moscow Olympics. It was a shock to be called in the middle of your dreams at 2:00 in the morning. I thought that was an insult and stupid to hurt an innocent person. Why could they not wait until in the morning to tell me there is no Olympics for Kenyans? I heard Muhammad Ali was making rounds across Africa and that he was sent by Jimmy Carter to influence countries for Olympic Boycotts in Russia.
GCR:No one knows what may have happened if there was no Olympic boycott in 1980 by Kenya, the United States and other countries. But since you broke World Records from 1978 to 1981, is there any doubt that you would have been on the podium in Moscow and possibly have earned multiple Gold Medals?
HRNo doubt, I would for sure have raced to two Gold Medals. I signaled to my coach while I was in training camp in Kenya for the 1980 Olympics that I would win two Gold Medals for sure. In the process of I might even have raced and won in another event. Based on my previous results and my training, in the 5,000 meters I was going to be at 13:04, in the 10,000 meters I was going to be at 27:07 and in the steeplechase at 8:00, but for sure two Gold Medals. I wrote this to my coach in a letter in the fall of 1979. Three months later came the Olympic boycott in January, 1980 while I was racing Australia meets on my way to indoor meets in California.
GCR:In 1978 you won Gold Medals in the 5,000 meters and the 3,000 meter steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games and the 10,000 meter and 3,000 meter steeplechase at the All-Africa Games. How rewarding was it to represent Kenya and to bring home these Gold Medals.
HRIt was rewarding, I was honored from the head of the State as the Order of the Burning Spear Second Class, You may not know about the British honors, but I was given that honor by the President of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta at the State House in 1978. President Kenyatta addressed members of the Kenyan team that had attended the Commonwealth Games and honored us for our efforts. During dinner afterward I was seated close to President Kenyatta and his wife. The next day the Kenyan National Anthem was played over and over on the radio and I received word that, sadly, President Kenyatta had died.
GCR:We’ve talked about your racing in the United States and all over the world in places you never could have dreamt about visiting as a child. How was it getting used to coming to school in a foreign land and all of the international travel that is part of being a top athlete?
HRIt was hard and that’s why I used to drink a lot. I was lonesome, but alcohol made me to forget homework that was needed from professors and poor communications with other white people. Only when Samson was around could I feel more relaxed.
GCR:So was it very helpful to have fellow Kenyan, Samson Kimombwa, as a teammate at Washington State University?
HRSamson Kimombwa was my buddy, for training and socializing together in the bars and drinking and it was all fun. He used to feel sorry for me, coming from nowhere to the middle of white college kids with little education, but one thing he knew was World Records would happen because he had already saw me in Kenya in early 1974. He knew what was going to happen if Henry Rono was given a chance to go to an American college.
GCR:How did you discover the opportunity to come to America to Washington State University to pursue your education and distance running?
HRI learned that from Samson Kimombwa, Joshua Kimetto, John Ngeno, and others from Kenya. They came to the U.S. and they become good runners. Coach Chaplin had connections with another Kenyan who went to college with him in Seattle, Washington in the 1950s and early 1960s. Coach Chaplin wanted to recruit Kenyans because he knew how talented the Nandis were in running and particularly when Kip Keino won the 1968 Olympic 1,500 meters in Mexico City. Kip Keino opened doors for many Kenyan runners when he beat Jim Ryun in the Mexico City Olympics which was not an easy task. Kip Keino comes from my Nandi district in Kenya so Chaplin was eager to have me in his college, even with my seventh grade education, and only English speaking at the second grade level.
GCR:Since you were already a good distance runner upon your arrival in the United States, what effect did Coach John Chaplin have on your adjustment to a new country?
HRI had a formula for training before coming to college at WSU, but I didn’t have basic education. However, I didn’t understand the English well and know what coach was saying. All I heard was yelling and cursing words out of his mouth calling names. ‘Son of a beach’ and ‘F U’- those words were his common words towards me, so I became guilty for no reason. But the good thing was he would give me $20. The Cougar Cottage is a few hundred yards close by. Pretty soon I’m back with a large pitcher, while waiting for Samson Kimombwa to come by. Beers in those days were not that expensive, so $20 could last me few days before I received another $20 from Coach. I’m a happy person and never curse or swear. There are no bad words coming out of my mouth even up to now and I’ m known as a humble person. I never quarrel or fight with anyone. So I think being the way I was - in America you became valueless. That’s why my coach thought I might not survive in America because he thought you have to be a jerk to make it here in this country. My discipline of running is to be a nice good hearted person. It looked like that was not making sense to my coach, so he yelled more with more cursing so that I could hear. In time he told me, ‘you don’t have to come to my office.’ I think he was noticing my mood reactions every time he yelled.
GCR:How much weekly training in terms of miles or kilometers were you doing in your base building phases and what were some of the stamina and speed sessions that were instrumental in your improvement?
HRI was training twice a day - it adds up to 110 to 120 very easy miles a week and maybe more, All I knew in me was my training and if I didn’t train for some reason I could feel guilty. You need to read my book, ‘Olympic Dream,’ as there was a time I was distracted so I got an ulcer. In the spring of 1978 I planned my own training regimen. On Tuesday of week one I ran 12 times 400 meters with one minute intervals. On Thursday I ran six times 800 meters with one minute intervals. On Tuesday of week two I ran five times 1,000 meters with one minute intervals and on that Thursday I did two sets of 24 times 100 meters with 30 second intervals. I was also doing a morning run of six to eight miles.
GCR:Did you do much specific hill training and hill repeats or were hilly courses just part of your usual running routine?
HRHill training was my most important foundation of my training and races.
GCR:Who were some of your favorite competitors for their toughness or ability to push you to another level?
HRI think I didn’t have anyone. The most important for me was the ability of training every day to meet my program routine and whoever comes to join me was welcome. I had no secrets of training. What I found out was they were not able to keep up with my regimen of training. One said, ‘this is crazy.’ I was a natural runner, moving from level I until I reached the highest level.
GCR:You ran many other races during your career. Are there any than stand out as particularly memorable due to competition, weather or other factors?
HRThat is easy for me to remember as it is the Eugene meet in April, 1982 between Alberto Salazar and me. The rest was all enjoyment and breathing the air around the world. In that race in 1982 with Salazar he was trying to break the American Record for 10,000 meters and I was out of shape a few weeks before the race. Salazar told me that if I could break 28 minutes he would give me payment of $2,000. I started training harder and ran 5,000 meters in a mediocre 13:53, but then ran an improving 13:37. The morning of the race with Salazar I found a hill and climbed it repeated for 45 minutes. Some tightness in my legs was gone after that. In the race the two of us pulled away from the pack and passed halfway in 13:45. With a lap to go I was right behind Salazar and pulled up alongside him with 200 meters remaining. We were shoulder to shoulder until I surged with 25 meters left and beat him by one tenth of a second. It was an exhilarating victory.
GCR:Let’s look back at your childhood and how your circumstances shaped you as a person and runner. What was it like in your village as far as modern conveniences and living compared to that which we are used to in the United States?
HRThere was not much in the village. We just listened to the radio about Kip Keino beating Jim Ryun in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. At Kabirirsang Primary School I was a star midfielder on the soccer team.
GCR:What type of physical activity and running did you do just to get to school and to help your family with chores and daily tasks?
HRListening to the 1968 Olympics led me to do more running around when I was doing more errands if not going to school every day. If I was going somewhere, I was running until people thought I was crazy.
GCR:When did you take up running as a sport, what influenced you and did racing success come early?
HRI started in 1971 in middle school and by the time until I was in the military in 1976 people in Kenya and I had already found out that I will be like Kip Keino. My running sports life was going very fast in Kenya. Everywhere I went in the country, the minute I stepped on the track I was a natural and I was growing very fast feet. My adaptation into the running environment was very quick, like a bird letting his kids out of the cage to the forest and they go out so fast up to the top of trees. That was Henry Rono, who is free when he is in his running environment.
GCR:Could you relate some of your racing highlights from your first few years of running and racing in Kenya before you came to the United States?
HRI competed in three events in the Kenyan National Championships, the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, and Steeplechase, and won all of them in a three day meet in 1974 before heading to East Africa and the New Zealand Games in 1975. My best times were 13:37 minutes for 5,000 meters, 28:58 minutes for 10,000 meters, and 8:29 minutes for the Steeplechase.
GCR:You have had some struggles with overuse of alcohol that negatively affected your running and your life. Sometimes we are able to learn from our struggles and become a better person through dealing with adversity. What did you learn from your struggle and how do you use your experiences to help others?
HROne can sense the mood of handicap is coming so you try out something. I think my new girlfriend noticed it. She refused to have full closeness with me. She said, ‘If I sleep with you I will think about you all day and all night and I will have bad dreams.’ Anything she was saying was not making sense to me. Coach Chaplin told me, ‘Your girlfriend is crazy; moreover, she has not seen someone like you. Sometimes you need to tell her, what do I look like?’ My body was already tired from the alcohol on top of my training. I couldn’t feel or think most of the time and was spacing out. My coach was worried about me and if I could last a year or if I would have a comeback. That’s why we train our physical abilities to stay or tune up our bodies so that we can better our struggles mentally and physically your body tells you it needs help. When I struggled with alcohol I ended up living from day to day. Giving up alcohol seemed impossible. When I finally admitted myself to a rehabilitation center after a beating I received, I was in and out of seven rehabilitation programs over many years as I battled my addiction. When I moved to Portland in 1990 the pastor of New Beginnings Church had a disciplined rehabilitation program that included reading the Bible and training my spirit. It helped me spiritually and emotionally. After a relapse several years later, I was homeless and stayed at the Salvation Army for four months and was in a 12-step program for alcoholism.
GCR:Due to the growth of social media, it is easier to connect with others in the running community through use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other methods. How nice is it to see how most runners perceive you and how rewarding is it to be able to use your talents and visibility in the sport of running to help others through advice and positive comments?
HRIt is nice by communicating with the right group who are interested in running, and networking is the key. I like social media, I used to be on, but I quit. Now I’m on Facebook and I enjoy it. I like to express my feelings from my experiences in the world in sports. I know I’m famous, but I am getting more famous on Facebook now. Someone tried to discourage me, and I told him, ‘Are you trying to put me in a cage as I was in Pullman?’ I want to be out in the open.
GCR:You have coached many runners, including high school athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. How rewarding is it to help others to succeed versus focusing on your own racing success?
HRIt was rewarding for me so much I was enjoying it a lot. However, I could not depend on it for enough income. In fact, I was a volunteer for three years did not get paid for coaching. I was track Assistant Coach for Valley High School. The school gave me a recognition award, ‘For Your Hard Work,’ in 1998. They paid other coaches money, but for me nothing. One head coach told me you will be paid, but helped me to learn how to coach track runners in High school. I remember this was in early 1990s when I started coaching across the U.S. In their minds they were saying I was over qualified to be paid. In fact some of them refused to assist me on INS papers to get my Green card and it was up to my old coach, John Chaplin.
GCR:How much more difficult is it to motivate the runners you coach to move toward their potential when they may not have your same desire and determination to excel?
HRCoaching for me was not difficult to motivate a runner. I have intuition, and the athletes can copy my style easily. In fact, some coaches here in New Mexico told me, ‘Henry you have natural intuition to get athletes and make them succeed in running, but you are not given an opportunity to do it.’ It goes back to the Olympic Boycott as there was too much talent in me. They noticed that I didn’t get tired when I was running and also athletes I trained enjoyed running and improved so fast like me when I was running. I can make them become interested and lead them from there to the top performances....something that is unbelievable. I know how to make them have faith in running because they see in me how it is done.
GCR:What advice do you have for younger runners to improve consistency, minimize injuries and reach their potential?
HRStay focused the same way you do for your school work. However, for running it is very simple. Just run two hours by day during PE class and cross country training and competitions. That is how I made my way into world class running.
GCR:What is your current fitness regimen, are you still hopeful of competing at a high level in age group track or road racing competitions and what are your other future plans?
HRMy fitness comes when I have time to do it, however, my job sometimes doesn’t allow me to do it. If I was coaching - yes I could get in good shape because I’m demonstrating while coaching and that puts me in good shape to run. I remember that when I used to coach in Junior College and teach sports psychology at an Indian Reservation I used to beat college kids at my age of 41 years old at the time. My next plan is to coach in Asia and Australia with Sportz Scouts.
GCR:What are the major lessons you have learned during your life from starting life in rural Kenya, the discipline of running, working to be your best, and adversity you have encountered that you would like to share with my readers to help inspire them to do their best?
HRMy culture was very simple compared to the new culture in America. There was a culture of racism in the media about athletes when I came to U.S. in 1976. Not speaking enough English in college language cost me to feel hated, most likely in people’s faces that I could notice. One time when I started developing an ulcer my coach told me you are living with rich kids. I don’t know if that helped me or it became worse. It affected me so much. So I went to bars and drank more to forget and to control my sensitivity. My coach used to tell students in front of me, Henry Rono has no choices - only running. What else could have I have done I wonder? Thank God the sport of running was introduced to me.
 Inside Stuff
Favorite moviesAny with Clint Eastwood
Favorite TV showsI don’t watch TV
Favorite musicCountry music
Favorite books‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’
First carToyota
Current transportationSports Bike/Mountain Bike
First JobChicken factory farm in Eugene, Oregon
Favorite mealUgali from Kenya
First running memoryRunning in bare feet
Running heroesKip Keino
Greatest running momentAlberto Salazar and me racing in Eugene in 1982
Worst running momentThe Oslo meet in 1982
Embarrassing momentMistaken arrest in New Jersey for six bank fraud charges in 1986. Pocketing small amounts of money when I was a Salvation Army fundraiser to get a sweater and pants. When it was discovered a sad voice told me, ‘Henry, this money is for homeless men like you who are having a hard time.’ I put my head down in shame and never pocketed another dollar. To this day I am remorseful for taking money meant for my fellow homeless brothers
Favorite places to travelBelgium and Oslo