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Tracy Smith — June, 2021
Tracy Smith was a member of the 1968 United States Olympic team in the 10,000 meters. He finished in 11th place at the Olympics after winning the 1968 Olympic Trials 10,000 meters. Tracy narrowly missed making the 1972 Olympic team with a fifth place finish at 5,000 meters. He won the Bronze Medal at the 1966 World Cross Country Championships in Rabat, Morocco, was the first U.S. man to medal, and has been joined by only Bill Rodgers, Craig Virgin and Alberto Salazar as medalists. Three times Tracy broke the World Record in the indoor three-mile. He was a six-time AAU National Champion from 1966 to 1973, winning outdoors in the 3-mile, 6-mile and 10,000 meters, and three times in the indoor 3-mile. Smith was ranked by Track and Field News as No. 1 in the U.S. at 10,000m in 1966 and 1968, and No. 1 at 5,000m in 1969. Tracy competed for Oregon State University where he was 1965 NCAA All-American in three events – 3,000-meter steeplechase, three miles and six miles with top six finishes in each. At the 1966 NCAA Cross Country Championships, he finished second to Gerry Lindgren two weeks after beating Lindgren at the Pac-8 Cross Country Championships. He graduated from Arcadia High School in California where highlights included winning the 1963 California State Mile in 4:14.4 and setting the U.S. High School Record in the 2-Mile at 9:11.6. His personal best times include: 1,500m – 3:43.6; mile – 4:03.8; 3,000m - 7:55.0; 2-mile – 8:29.4; 3-mile – 13:07.2; 5,000m - 13:39.0 and 10,000m – 28:47.0. Tracy taught and coached for four decades at Bishop (CA) Union and Crook County (OR) high schools, leading the latter to its first Oregon State Cross Country team title in 41 years in 2017. He resides in Bend, Oregon and was very gracious to spend two and a half hours on the telephone in 2021 for this interview.
GCR: As a distance runner you have been immersed in the sport of running for your entire life since your early teenage years as an athlete, fan and coach. Could you have imagined in your teens, decades such as this and how has running contributed to and shaped your life?
TS I have always felt that I wanted to have a purpose in life and some meaning in life as to making contributions. I had much satisfaction when I was running for my own selfish reasons. But when I was coaching, I was able to mentor a lot of kids. I have had so many of these kids write to me and call me to tell me how much my coaching meant to them and how much that relationship meant. That is the biggest takeaway form all those years. I just retired two years ago from coaching at Crook County High School in Pineville, Oregon and it was a super experience. Before that I was down in Bishop, California and I coached track and cross country. Most of my friends are former athletes or former competitors. My whole way of life is exercise. Three days a week I do pull-ups - I did forty today. I will alternate and run four miles one day, stand up paddle board three miles the next day and then ride eighteen miles on my bike the next day. Then I start that same cycle over for day after day. It has contributed to my health. I’m seventy-six years old and can run circles around most people my age. I’m not fast. When I read about a seventy-three-year-old guy running a 5:29 mile, it blew my mind. Overall, I’m very healthy.
GCR: At the highest levels of sport athletes set goals to compete in the Olympics or World Championships and to represent their country while also aiming at World Records. Please reflect on what it means to be a member of the 1966 USA World Championships Cross-Country team and the 1968 USA Olympic team, and to break the World Record in the indoor three-mile on three occasions.
AA The biggest goal I had started out when I was a sophomore in high school and realized I had some talent and that was to be a State Champ in high school. Then the long-term goal was to go to the Olympics. Of those two you mentioned, the World Cross Country Bronze Medal was a shock to me that I did that. There were people in that race who were champions. The race was in Morocco and the spectators were chanting ‘Jazy, Jazy.’ I had been reading about Michael Jazy, who was the World Record holder in the mile. That race was my big breakthrough. My biggest thrill was making the 1968 Olympic team, though I was disappointed in my performance in Mexico City. Winning the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters was a wonderful experience. I did have another big set of highlights when three times I broke the World Record in the indoor three-mile. Igloi’s training seemed to gear me to where my form was such that I ran faster indoors than I did outdoors. That was a thrill when I set those World Records. The biggest letdown was when I didn’t make the second Olympic team in 1972. It’s hard to know if I could have, but two years before the Olympic Trials I was injured for a whole year. I had a year to train for the Trials, but that wasn’t enough to give me the strength to recover from the preliminaries to the finals. Those were my three highlights. After winning the Bronze Medal at the World Cross Country Championships and making the Olympic team, the last time I broke the World Record in the indoor three-mile in 1973 helped me to feel good about my career. It made up a little bit for not making the Olympic team for a second time.
GCR: The World Cross Country Championships has a history dating back to 1903, though American runners didn’t participate until the 1960s. Your Bronze Medal earned in 1966 was the first medal of any color by a U.S. man and, since then, only Bill Rodgers’ 1975 Bronze Medal run, Craig Virgin with Gold Medals in 1980 and 1981, and Alberto Salazar with a Silver Medal in 1982 have ever been on the podium for the U.S.A. What are your thoughts on being on the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of American men, as only four have earned medals at this prestigious championship?
TS It's kind of humbling to know that those other three names are names that are etched in every track fan’s mind, but maybe not my name. To be mentioned with everyone else in that group that has earned a medal at World Cross Country is very satisfying. I didn’t realize at the time that it was such a big deal. I didn’t realize that this was the first time the U.S. sent a team and that we hadn’t been there before.
GCR: The 1968 Olympic Trials at Echo Summit had the added wrinkle of being at over 7,000 feet in altitude to simulate the conditions athletes would face at the Mexico City Olympics. Was it a bit unnerving to compete at altitude, since there was that variable, and how good was the feeling when after 8,000 meters there was just the three-man group of Tom Laris, Van Nelson and you and you were more and more assured of being an Olympian if you finished in the top three? And how exciting was it when you crossed the finish line to know you were an Olympian?
TS That was a thrill. I was confident that I would be better trained for the altitude than most of the runners. My dad had bought a fishing resort up in the mountains near Bishop, California at 8,300 feet of altitude when I was a senior in high school. After that, I trained up there every summer. I had one leg up on most of the guys except for the Kenyans and Ethiopians. In the race I think I was yelling at Tom Laris and Van Nelson, ‘We’ve separated from the other runners. Keep it up and we’re on the Olympic team!’ I kept repeating that and I was higher than a kite when I knew we had separated from Billy Mills and Gerry Lindgren and Kenny Moore. It was such a thrill that I couldn’t eat for three days after that race. I just lay around on the beach at Lake Tahoe and savored the great feeling of being an Olympian.
GCR: At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, athletes from countries at low altitude were at a severe disadvantage, as evidenced by who earned medals and who didn’t, such as Ron Hill, Ron Clarke and you. How did your race progress through the early, middle and latter stages and how tough was it running at high altitude?
TS I had the experience of running in big races before, but this was beyond anything I had ever done. I think I was overwhelmed. My plan was to run behind Mohammed Gammoudi. Halfway through the race, the leaders picked up the pace and, for some reason, I didn’t go. Then it mentally got me because I felt I could be in the top five in the race. When my mental strength went, I didn’t give up, but it affected me physically. Alvaro Mejia Flores from Colombia hadn’t beat me at sea level, but he went by me. I had raced him several times and beaten him, but he was a great athlete and trained at over eight thousand feet in Bogota. I think I was overawed and not as confident as I am in most races. I don’t know why I wasn’t confident because I did well in the Olympic Trials when I run thirty minutes flat and felt like I could have run ten or fifteen seconds faster. That would have put me in the top five in Mexico City. So that race in Mexico City was a big disappointment.
GCR: If we reflect on the track and field scene in the United States in the 1960s when middle distance and distance running at the highest level was growing by leaps and bounds and there was a tremendous depth of top runners like Jim Ryun, Bob Schul, Gerry Lindgren, Billy Mills, Jim Beatty, Tom O’Hara, and countless others, how exciting was it to be in the middle of this amazing group of talented runners when track and field was very popular, both indoors and outdoors, with big crowds attending many meets?
TS The big track and field races were well-publicized. I was a year ahead of Gerry Lindgren in high school and I had raced him when he was a junior. He beat me in the mile in a near dead heat when I fell as I was leaning at the finish. The very next year he was racing against the best in the world like Ron Clarke and Gaston Roelants and it was amazing. I had been reading about these great international runners and then, this guy that I almost beat when I was in high school was racing right with them. I thought, ‘If he can do that. I can do it. I might not in high school though since I’m already out of high school.’ It was two years later in 1966 that I was able to finally beat Gerry Lindgren. I wouldn’t say that he was always at his best when I raced him. When I beat him, he wasn’t at his best, but I was at my very best and was able to beat him. I was at meets with Jim Ryun and it was unbelievable to be at meets with runners who were setting records and racing all over the world and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
GCR: How similar and different is the process of daily training for a lengthy period as a runner to reach a goal and the effort necessary to guide others with various levels of talent and various levels of dedication to harness and improve their excitement for running and to set and achieve their own goals?
TS I had such a passion for running and wanted to share it with young people. I got into coaching first at Long Beach State for one year as the assistant coach. I had so much experience with ups and down in my own running career and I was able to share how I overcame some disappointments and how I trained. I was also able to explain why I set up certain types of training and why we did what we did that benefitted me in the past and should benefit them. I always tried to challenge my athletes. I told them that I wasn’t anything special as far as talent. I wasn’t very fast, maybe fifty-two seconds in the quarter mile. I said that it was a matter of hard work and believing that they could do it by working extra hard. There were guys I coached who were more talented than me as far as basic speed. They just didn’t work as hard. I gave that advice to lots of kids. One guy I coached that now lives in bend, Oregon called me up recently and wanted me to come over to his school where he coached and to tell one of the stories that I told him when I was coaching in Bishop, California. He thought the story would help his runner in her athletic career. Lots of the stories were from experiences I had and then I emphasized how I prepared for races. Since I was an Olympian, it did a lot for me in coaching because of the credibility. If an athlete doesn’t believe in the coach, even if the advice is the best in the world, it won’t do any good. As an Olympian, they believed in me.
GCR: FORMATIVE YEARS AND HIGH SCHOOL RACING Were you an active child and in what sports did you participate as a youth and teen before starting running?
TS School was not my favorite thing to do. I was a very active person. My dad bought a mountain cabin in the San Bernadino Mountains outside of Los Angeles not very far from where we lived. We were up there almost every weekend, and I was up there on the trails hiking and running for the joy of it. I played baseball and thought that maybe I would be a pitcher in the major leagues. I had a goal when I was young that I wanted to be the very best in some sport. I had many friends on my street and we would play capture the flag and interceptors, which was a football game of three against three. We were active all the time. I know that contributed to my fitness and so did being up at the mountain cabin at seven thousand feet. Later, my dad bought another cabin at Bishop which was at eight thousand feet. So, I was very active. The Ethiopians and Kenyans have a way of life of running to school and herding cattle and I wasn’t quite to that extreme as far as endurance. But for an American my childhood had a lot of endurance. I couldn’t wait to run to the top of this hill that was about three hundred yards up so that I could slide down. The other kids kept asking me why I didn’t walk up the hill. But all day long, I would be running up the hill and then sliding back down.
GCR: How did you get started running as a youngster in Elementary School and Middle School?
TS The way I got into the sport was in Elementary School where the Parks and Recreation Department had activities after school. I went there and one day the guy in charge of activities told us we were going to run a lap around the grass field. It wasn’t very big, maybe four hundred meters. I took off and ran as hard as I could all the way around and won by so much. It was easy. When I was in Middle School, the P.E. teacher had us run four hundred meters. I was always competitive and didn’t want to slog through. I wanted to win. There were a couple guys who tried to challenge me but couldn’t. So, I realized I was pretty good at running.
GCR: When you started as a freshman at Arcadia High School, were you all ready to go out for the cross country and track and field teams?
TS When I went into high school, I didn’t even know there was this sport called cross country. I knew there was track and field. When I was a kid, I remembered in a sports newsflash that Roger Bannister was the first to break the four-minute-mile. That was all I remembered about distance running as I thought, ‘Wow! He ran a mile in under four minutes. I wonder if I could do something like that?’ I thought about that, but not for very long. I wanted to go out for football because it was popular to do so, and all my buddies were going out for football. I was a small freshman and weighed about a hundred pounds. My parents were afraid for me like a lot of parents are today, especially with the problems from concussions. They didn’t want me to play football. Players were required to have football shoes and they wouldn’t give me money for that. They said, ‘Why don’t you go out for cross country?’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ They told me, ‘It’s a long race at the high school all around the perimeter on the streets and then you finish at the track. I started thinking about how I loved running in the mountains and running at the Parks and Recreation and running in P.E. in Middle School. I went out for the team, and I was good in the workouts.
GCR: What are some highlights of your early years on the cross country and track teams as a high school freshman and sophomore?
TS I asked my dad to come out and watch me run the first race. He didn’t know too much about running, but he came out and I told him, ‘I think I’m going to do pretty well.’ I ran junior varsity. The course was only one point eight miles and I won by almost a minute. The next race they put me on varsity, and I ended up being fourth man on varsity on a pretty good team. I was thrilled to death. In those days at my school, nobody had ever earned a varsity letter as a freshman. That was a very big deal and I thought maybe I would be the first one. But after that first race where I won the J.V. race, at the next race after I finished, I couldn’t walk. I injured the growth plate in the heel bone in my heel and I missed the whole rest of the season and my dream of being the first Arcadia High School freshman letterman was down the drain. When I got into track season, my one leg was smaller than the other and my calves hurt for two and a half months. I ended up running 4:51 for the mile as a freshman. I was still weak and limited in my exercise from that calf. Then the next year, it was a thrill because I was rated number one in the 1320-yard run. I ran 3:10.9 and beat this guy named Dennis Carr in a dead heat. This was two weeks before the C.I.F. Finals. Then I did a stupid thing like high school freshmen and sophomores do. Two days before the Finals where I thought I was going to beat Dennis Carr, I went pole vaulting and my hamstrings were both so sore that I could hardly lift my legs the day of the meet. I ended up getting fourth place. That was my first big disappointment. But I was thrilled that I was one of the best in Southern California.
GCR: How did you progress your junior year on the track, and did you qualify for State competition?
TS My junior year I started running the mile against Dennis Carr and Bruce Best. Bruce was the big competition as he had won State a couple times. I wanted to make State that year. We had to finish in the top four at the qualifying meet and I was fifth by one-tenth of a second. So, I didn’t make it to State as a junior. I vowed that I would make it my senior year.
GCR: You had a big leap in your performances your senior year. What contributed to your major gains?
TS I got a change of coaches my senior year and that made the whole difference. I had kind of been overtraining but didn’t know it. Once I had this new coach, I understood I was in better shape than I realized and could have most likely raced faster as a junior except that I was running tired at the time I raced. I went from 4:20 the year before in the mile to 4:12 and my training was not as rigorous. It was very controlled. The coach trained me under the Gerschler system. He was a marathoner. I don’t know if you ever heard the name Bill Peck, but he set up all sorts of Los Angeles City programs after I had graduated. Anyway, Bill was a marathoner who trained with Coach Igloi. He went to Occidental College, and he was influenced by both the Igloi and Gerschler system. The Gershler System is all intervals, and you test yourself on each individual distance, 400s, 800s and so on. Under his system, you start at the beginning of the season so many seconds slower than your best time at all the distances. You gradually work your times down and you always feel comfortable. That concept was so foreign to me. Before that, I had to win every workout. I did win every workout, but I think it left me mentally tired in races and physically tired. There was joy with my new coach because I didn’t have to have adrenaline flowing to do each workout. I could get out there and I knew I could handle these workouts. At first, I was thinking that this training couldn’t be right. ‘How am I going to run fast if I am going this easy?’ Instead of starting out the cross-country season running sixty-eight second quarter miles, I was running them in eighty seconds. My coach said, ‘Just trust me. You will soon be running sixty-eight seconds for your quarters, and they will feel like eighty seconds.’ He changed my form because I was an over strider. I trusted him and worked on leaning forward and using the Igloi technique of a shorter stride. Good rhythm was also taught to me. So, that was a big difference for me.
GCR: What were highlights of races in cross country your senior year and then in track season leading up to the State meet?
TS Because I got this new coach my senior year, I won the C.I.F. cross country in Southern California by twenty seconds. I set the Mt. Sac course record by running 8:17 for 1.8 miles, which is about 3,000 meters. I won by a lot, and it built my confidence. After cross country, the mistake we made was that I had been invited to run indoors at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in a special mile race, so I didn’t take any time off. I was so excited, and my coach wasn’t communicating with me. I was training with guys who were in college, and I wanted to run this big mile race. After winning the State meet in cross country I thought, ‘I’m going to win this race.’ I was running ten milers on the pavement with college guys, and I wasn’t used to running that far. I got a stress fracture that lasted all the way through the first month of track season. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it back that year. When I started running, I was running a 4:35 mile, then 4:28. Finally, I got down to 4:22. I won the semifinals against a guy named Bill Delaney and another runner named Bob Delaney from Santa Ana. When I won that race, the race officials said I had supposedly cut Bill Delaney off and they disqualified me. I was a clear winner and was quite popular in Los Angeles. I hate to say it, but there was a lot of controversy in the Los Angeles Times. One of my friend’s dad was big in one of the political parties and I think he had a big influence because I was reinstated to the C.I.F. Finals.
GCR: You won the mile at the 1963 California State Meet at Edwards Stadium in Berkeley in 4:14.4 for Arcadia High. How did that race develop and what were the keys to you winning the championship?
TS That week my coach, Bill Peck, talked to me on Wednesday, two nights before the race on Friday night. I had only run 4:22 because of the stress fracture and hadn’t been reinstated yet. He told me that if they were going to continue with this disqualification I could run in another open race and get a good time so I could go onward to Oregon State or wherever I wanted to go to school. But they let me in the State meet and started me out in the ninth lane on the track. Back in those days, we ran the first lap in lanes, and I had no one in front of me. That race was unbelievable. I was scared to death of some guys in there who could run fifty point something on their mile relay teams for their schools. Hill Daugherty of Glendale, Ralph Likens of Hillsdale and Jim Jordan of Crescenta Valley were very fast. Bill Peck said, ‘We are going to try something different in the race that most high school runners don’t do. You’re going to run the third lap like it is your last lap.’ We practiced that. I would run two laps in 2:06 and then I would run a hard lap. I was able to do that in practice and the night before the race I had a dream, and it was so vivid. When I got in that race, it was like I was on automatic pilot. I followed for two laps. I ran the third lap in sixty-one and closed with sixty-four. I had a big lead after three laps. My coach said that, in the stands, people were saying, ‘He miscounted laps.’ Anyway, I ended up winning by three or four seconds because I blew everybody away on the third lap. (Interviewer’s note: sconed place – Bill Delaney 4:17.9; third place – Ralph Likens – 4:19.0 and fourth place – Hill Daugherty 4:21.9). Then, the next week at Berkeley I ran differently, very strong from the beginning and won in 4:15.
GCR: We spoke a bit about Dennis Carr, and my research noted that he had won the mile the previous year at the 1962 California State Meet in 4:08.7, but ran the half mile in 1963 to win in 1:50.9. Was it good fortune that Carr wasn’t entered in the mile since you were coming off that injury?
TS I didn’t see Dennis during cross country season, so I don’t know if he was also injured, and I don’t know why he ran the half mile instead of the mile. I was so shocked the year before when I didn’t make it to State as a junior. When I went to find the results of that meet, I checked to see how fast defending champ Bruce Bess ran the mile and then I saw that Dennis Carr, who was my big rival as a sophomore, had run 4:08.7, which was the National Record at that time. And I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t wait to get back to State my senior year and was a bit nervous about racing Dennis Carr. Even though I had run well in cross country season, since I was injured, my best time from the year before was 4:20 and, if I wasn’t getting faster, he would be a threat. He was amazing, but I don’t know why he didn’t race the mile. He was such a good miler. He didn’t end up having a great career in college after that. He went to Southern Cal but didn’t run in Europe. But he definitely was a talent.
GCR: In 1963, you were the nation's fastest prep two-miler, ahead of Jim Ryun, with a national-prep-record time of 9:11.6. Did you race the two mile many times and what are details of your National Record two-mile race?
TS My first two-mile was when I ran in the Golden West meet where the best high school runners came together. I ran against Wade Bell, Bruce Dodd and some other guys. I was chomping at the bit. I had never run the two-mile, but I thought that was my race because I wasn’t superfast. It was one of the first events in the meet so runners could double back in the mile. I ran 9:17 and was out in front. The second-place finisher was Wendell Cox, who was the State Champ from Oregon. I was disappointed in that time because I wasn’t pushed. Then I ran in an all-comers meet at Los Angeles State College and that’s where I ran that 9:11.6. I was surprised that it counted as a record. I was still considered to be in high school, but it was after I had graduated. I was pushed in that race because it was an open meet. That meet was in June or July.
GCR: On July 4, 1963, University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman hosted an all-star high school mile race at Hayward Field, Eugene, OR, that included Dave Wilborn, Oregon’s state champion miler. The race evolved into a duel between Gerry Lindgren and you, where Lindgren was able to hold off your repeated surges and lean at the tape for a narrow win in 4:12.9. Was that one of the most competitive races you ever ran with two guys who were both set on winning and refusing to give an inch of ground?
TS I hadn’t lost a race the whole year and I was confident for that race. I stayed with an athlete from the local area and, when I was warming up, I asked him who I should worry about. I didn’t know who my main competitors were and didn’t even know about Dave Wilborn. He told me about Wilborn being good, though I didn’t even know what his mile time was. Then he told me that Gerry Lindgren had just won the State meet up in Washington and he pointed at Gerry. I said, ‘That little emaciated guy?’ He looked like a middle school kid. He was so small, and his upper body was weak looking. I knew he had run 4:19 and I wasn’t real concerned. But that’s when I first found out there was a fire in that guy. He took off and ran the first lap in sixty seconds and kind of gapped me a little bit. I thought that he was going to come back, but I had to fight until the start of the third lap to catch him. I thought he was going to die but, every time I started to pass him, he would fight me off. I don’t know how many times I tried to pass him that he fought me off. Coming down the home straight, I got a little ahead and then he got a little ahead. I kind of dove at the finish and fell across the line and got scuffed up. He ended up winning.
GCR: What were your takeaways from your first race with Gerry Lindgren?
TS The next year, for him to become a World Class runner blew my mind. That motivated me because I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ I started reading about how much mileage he was running in high school, while I was only running about thirty-five miles a week. I was running very low mileage and knew that I had a lot to give when I trained more. I figured he had trained about as much as anyone could train so early in his career. So, I thought that I had much room for improvement which did prove out. I had so much respect for Gerry who was running times in the three-mile that were thirteen seconds faster than I ever ran. I don’t know how close our mile times ended up. In the two-mile, I may have ended up slightly faster than he was when we were older. He was so courageous in beating the Russians and many World Class runners and, to this day, he amazes me. We are good friends now on Facebook.
GCR: COLLEGIATE RACING How did you decide to go to Oregon State and were there other colleges in the mix of your choices?
TS I wanted to have a career that would get me outside like Forestry or Fish and Game. My high school coach, Bill Peck, had been talking about this incredible high school runner from Orange, California who had set the National high school record of 4:11 in the mile a couple years before named Dale Story. He had gone to Oregon State and was a Fish and Game major. He had won the NCAA Cross Country meet barefooted even with some snow on the ground in Michigan. My coach told me that Dale had homesteaded a cabin up in British Columbia. I thought it sounded like this was the guy who I wanted to be running with. So, my decision was influenced by wanting to run with Dale Story and that Oregon State had a Fish and Game major. There were several other coaches who were after me – Arizona State and USC and others. Coach Peck did say that Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman was a good coach and was logical with his coaching. I was wooed by the other coaches. Sam Bell from Oregon State came down to visit me. Bill Bowerman wrote me a one sentence letter and it said, ‘Congratulations on a great senior year and, ‘if you’re interested in Oregon, please respond.’ I was put down as he didn’t seem that interested. So, Oregon State’s outdoor programs and running with Dale Story swayed me that way.
GCR: How was your transition from high school to college in terms of living away from home, more rigorous academics and adjusting to a new coach?
TS When I got to Oregon State, like I said, I was only a thirty-five miles per week runner. I had never run twice a day. Coach Sam Bell had me doing twice a day training. I kept getting sick and I kept getting injured. I ran okay. I was the best freshman and did well in cross country. When we got into track season, I was sick a lot and didn’t like the fact that he wanted me to run double races at our meets every week. He looked at me like I was points. I had such a sensible high school coach, and we couldn’t double in two long races because we didn’t even have two long races. There are so many coaches nowadays who want their runners to double week after week, but you can’t get your best times that way. Anyway, I was doubling every week and I was getting tired, and I dropped out of school and went to Citrus Community College in southern California for a year. I think I went back and then in and out of Oregon State a couple of times. Sam Bell was a great guy, though I didn’t feel that he was the best coach for me. He was an outstanding coach for many runners. I appreciate Sam Bell. He was a great man that did so much for many athletes. I came from a different background and couldn’t jump into those different workouts which caused me to keep getting sick.
GCR: In late March and throughout April of 1965, you raced several two-mile races outdoors, winning all in nine minutes flat to 9:02. Did they get you ready for the slightly slower pace of the upcoming three-mile and six-mile at NCAAs?
TS They did get me ready, and I was also doubling in many of those meets. I remember running 4:06 in the mile and coming back to run 9:02 in the two-mile. When I ran at the NCAA meet, I ran in three events with a sixth place in the steeplechase and three-mile and a fourth place in the three-mile. The more mileage that I was doing that I hadn’t done before in my life made a big difference and I was much stronger. I had gotten away from the emphasis I had from my coach in high school with good form that he had learned from Igloi. I was more of a loper then in college and didn’t run as fast as I thought I could. That’s why the next year in 1966 I went back to junior college.
GCR: How big of an achievement was it for you to be All-American in three events, the 3,000-meter steeplechase, three-mile and six-mile?
TS I did run those three events at NCAAs and placed in all three and people thought that was a big deal. Sixth place was the last medal that earned All-American status, but I was used to having more success in high school. My goals were bigger than a fourth place and two sixth places, so it wasn’t as much of a big thrill for me.
GCR: Can you tell us some highlights of your stellar 1966 indoor campaign where you raced the two-mile six times in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Los Angeles with three efforts of 8:42 and a big personal best of 8:32.4 for a Silver Medal at the Golden Gate Invitational?
TS There were indoor track meets in 1966 and I was training myself like I did in high school. I was running the two-mile in 8:46 and 8:42 against guys like Ron Clarke and Gerry Lindgren. I thought I could run faster and saw Coach Igloi at one of the meets. I asked, ‘Can I come and train with your team?’ And he said I could. I went and ran with them and, after two weeks with Igloi, I went from a best time of 8:42 to 8:32. I beat Gerry Lindgren for the first time and wasn’t that far behind Ron Clarke who set the World Record. It was about three months later that I got third at World Cross Country. Whatever Igloi told me to do, I would do to the best of my ability. After two races where I beat Lindgren and getting the Bronze Medal at World Cross Country, it blew my mind.
GCR: Let’s dive in deeper to details about the World Cross Country Championships. First, how was the entire process as a relatively young man of travelling to Morocco, checking out the course and getting ready to run with the international group of runners who were older and more experienced, and great at every distance from the mile to the marathon?
TS I was buoyed up by my victories against Gerry Lindgren and being so close to Ron Clarke when I ran that 8:32 two-mile behind his World Record of 8:31. I felt good. I was a naïve guy who had never travelled outside the United States other than to Mexico. My dad went with me down to Los Angeles with my birth certificate so I could get my passport. It was a thrill because I was coming through with Bruce Mortenson who had won the 1965 NCAA steeplechase and some other good guys. We flew to Paris, France on our way to Morocco and I was in Paris on my twenty-first birthday. My teammates and I sat in one of those sidewalk cafes in Paris and we had a glass of wine. It was a special time for me. When we got to Morocco my legs were dead. I remember warming up and going on a run and my legs were heavy. That was a good experience for me because they sure livened up when I got in the race. I remember not being confident at the start because my legs were so sluggish the day before. I don’t know if it was psychological. I didn’t know that Michael Jazy was racing. I also didn’t know that Ron Hill was there. I just knew that it was a big race. It was at the King’s Hippodrome and there were security men with machine guns. The King was probably there.
GCR: What can you relate about the early miles of the twelve-kilometer race, where you were positioned and when you moved up, and how you raced in the final mile or two?
TS When the gun went off, it was like the NCAA Cross Country meet later that fall against Lindgren. There were so many guys ahead of me. I was probably in eightieth place, and they kept coming back to me. We ran three laps around the Hippodrome, running down into holes and out of holes and jumping over logs. With a half lap to go, suddenly, I find myself in second place. Then a guy from England, Derrick Graham, ended up passing me with about fifty meters to go. During the race, I kept hearing, ‘Jazy, Jazy,’ as I came around this one corner. I thought, ‘Is that Michael Jazy, the World Record holder in the mile?’ And I couldn’t believe it. I had never been in a race with that big a name. And there were other big names in there too. I just found out the other day when someone posted the race results on Facebook some race details. I saw my time and I didn’t know who was behind me. It was amazed to find that Michael Jazy and Ron Hill were right behind me in the top ten, I believe fifth and sixth. That made me feel good because these guys are legends. As great as Ron Hill was, it is meaningful to me to have beat him one time.
GCR: Was it both exciting and unexpected to earn the Bronze Medal and what do you recall from the medal ceremony and reaction from your teammates, coaches and competitors?
TS It was an out of body and out of this world experience to get a medal and to be around Derrick Graham and El Ghazi of Morocco who won. One of the European radio stations, Voice of America, interviewed me. I think it was Radio Free Europe. They talked to me about being the first American to medal at World Cross Country. I did think that this was a big deal to be interviewed by such a well-known broadcasting company.
GCR: Three months later in June you raced strong at Compton and San Diego with 5,000-meter times of 13:45.6 and 13:45.2 to earn silver and bronze medals, respectively. Who were you duking it out with in those races?
TS I was thrilled that my times were coming down and to be running competitively with good runners. My big emphasis and goal was to be on the U.S. team that was going to race against Russia. The Olympics were the ultimate goal, but this was my immediate goal. I felt that the way I was running and with my time of 13:42, that I should be in the top two in the U.S. to run against Russia. My training with Coach Igloi then was very rigorous. We always ran intervals in the morning, and it was a minimum of twenty times two hundred meters. In the afternoon, we would run for two hours around the grass on the infield of the track. We ran so many intervals that weren’t timed except for once in a while. A nice aspect of Igloi’s training is that we all usually ran our own effort. Nobody was running with anybody else until he brought his watch out. When Igloi pulled out his stopwatch we got nervous because we knew we couldn’t run at our own effort. Then we were running repeat four hundred meters in sixty seconds with a two-hundred-meter jog. If we weren’t running fast enough on those, he would be whistling across the field. Sometimes I was running as hard as I could and heard the whistle and would go harder to try to please him. I probably lost form. He did that a number of times with the whistling, and I ran harder and harder.
GCR: Your 1966 AAU Championships weekend started with a Silver Medal performance at 5,000 meters. How did that race progress against George Young and some other strong competition?
TS We got to the Nationals at Randall’s Island, and this was the place where I had to be in the top two to race against the Russians in the 5,000 meters. I was also entered in the 10,000 meters the next day, though I hadn’t run that far on the track since the 1965 NCAA six-mile. I was getting ready for the 5,000 meters and it was so hot. It was ninety-seven degrees, and the humidity was high. It was run on a dirt track. I asked Igloi how I should run the race. He said, ‘You follow them until the last three quarters of a lap and then go ahead.’ I said, ‘Coach, I’m fast, but not like George Young and some of these other guys.’ He got mad and just told me to go ahead. I had my own ideas and thought that I needed to burn the pace to get rid of these guys and not have to worry about them on the last lap. The first mile I pushed the pace and was leading. I looked behind me and there were still eight or ten guys still right behind me. It was hot and I was feeling the heat. I thought that at the two-mile I would get rid of everybody. At the two-mile there were still six guys with me. I thought that I would try to get them in the next couple laps. But the race went on and, when I got to the last lap, there were still six guys there. I was tired but I was thinking that they had to be tired too. I figured I would do the best I could on that last lap. When I went around the first turn, nobody passed me. Then it was like the Roadrunner in the cartoon as, on the back stretch – foom, foom, foom – three guys went past me. They almost spun me around when they went by me. I was in fourth place and could see my dream of running against the Russians going away. I was dying and it was mentally killing me. Suddenly, I had flashbacks in my mind of Igloi’s whistling. He told me to do this. I just took off and left and I was sprinting. It was nothing compared to practice. I ended up almost beating George Young as we had close to the same time. I had been in fourth place and was fading but got second place. The sportswriters said that I looked terrible when the three guys passed me, but then I came to life, and they wanted to know what happened. I told them and one story in a newspaper, I think in the New York Times, that said, ‘Tracy Smith runs like Pavlov’s dog reacts.’ That was a like an automatic Pavlov’s dog experience.
GCR: You followed that race up with a Gold Medal the next day at 10,000 meters. How strong were you to be able to race like that on back-to-back days, and who did you battle with in both of those races?
TS My calves were sore because that was a good effort the day before. Billy Mills was in the 10,000 meters and that was a thrill for me because in 1965 I ran against him indoors at Madison Square Garden and he lapped me when he won at Indoor Nationals. I was running along in the 10,000 meters with Billy and, suddenly, he must have gotten tired because he started fading. That buoyed me up and I thought, ‘I’d like to beat Billy Mills.’ I ended up running around twenty-nine minutes flat or low twenty-nines.
GCR: A month later you scored Silver Medals at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters on consecutive days at the Los Angeles Times International Games. Again, how close were you to winning, who were you racing with at the front and what were key moves in those races?
TS That meet was in the Los Angeles Coliseum and replaced the duel meet against Russia because the Russians backed out and didn’t come. I ran against Ron Clarke and was second to him in both races. I was well-trained and my calves didn’t hurt anything like they did at Randall’s Island. When I ran against Clarke, I felt good, and it wasn’t that difficult to come back after running the 5k the day before. My training wasn’t measured in terms of miles, but it was a lot of miles. We were running an hour every morning and an average of at least two hours each afternoon. The afternoon workouts were either on the track or on this grassy median strip near UCLA on Van San Vincente Boulevard which went all the way down to the Santa Monica pier. We always did intervals. The longest intervals I ever did were 600 meters but, when you do sixteen of them on top of twenty times two hundred meters, it builds both endurance and quickness.
GCR: During a short cross-country season in the fall of 1966 leading up to NCAAs, you won races at Corvalis, the Portland Invitational, a duel meet with Arizona State and the Northern Division Championship. How ready for you to compete to win at NCAAs?
TS I beat Gerry Lindgren at the Pac-8 meet by about twenty seconds. It was at Washington State in Pullman on their course. It was two laps around a golf course. I knew that Gerry always started out very fast. My high school coach had always taught me that the runners would come back to me if they were going beyond the pace they could handle. I watched Lindgren and knew that he could hold onto a strong pace but that he always faded somewhat. So, I stayed back. Bill Bowerman was on the course when I caught Gerry halfway through the second lap and, as I went by, I was inspired as Bowerman said, ‘Way to go, tiger!’ I was just about to pass Lindgren and, the way he said that inspired me.
GCR: At the NCAA Cross Country Championship, you finished in second place, ten seconds behind Gerry Lindgren, with no one else even close to you. Were you able to stay with Gerry for a while or did he use his patented blitz right from the start and you had to hang on as best as you could?
TS I wanted to be like Dale Story, the only other runner from Oregon State to win NCAA Country, but Lindgren spoiled that. He outsmarted me. The race plan from two weeks earlier when I beat Gerry was my race plan for the NCAA meet. But it wasn’t a smart plan. The racecourse narrowed down, and I was behind a hundred runners after the first mile. The race was on a narrow path in the corn fields, and I was behind so many runners. At the time, I thought I would still catch Gerry, but I ran out of real estate. I was gaining but ran a dumb race. If I had gone out harder, I don’t know if I would have beat him because he did run a great race. I was so disappointed that I put that race out of my mind as to the best races I had at Oregon State.
GCR: POST-COLLEGIATE RACING You didn’t run for Oregon State after that cross-country season, but you won your second AAU Championship with a win at the 1967 Indoor meet at Oakland in the three-mile. Did you break away in the early or middle parts of that race or use your fast closing speed to kick for the win?
TS Before that race, there is a story leading up to it. While I was still at Oregon State, I was invited to run an indoor met at the Los Angeles Forum, but I got hurt training very hard during the winter. But I still went down and ran a 9:02 or nine flat for dead last in the two-mile. It blew my mind, and I was upset. I was over the injury, but it affected my training since I was injured for a month. I had two weeks of training for that first meet and thought maybe I would run okay. But I was wrong and came in dead last. I was very discouraged and was in such a bad mental state that I dropped out of school. I went back to southern California, started training more and was invited to run that AAU meet in Oakland only two or three weeks after running that nine flat. This is how confident I was – I was warming up with some guys and the race included Van Nelson and Oscar Moore. I told them, ‘If you guys ever want to beat me, this is your best chance. I only ran nine flat a few weeks ago. I’m not in the best shape and only came here to see how my shin is coming along.’ I got in the race and was in third or fourth place. Oscar Moore was in the front and Derrick Graham, the guy who was second at the 1966 World Cross Country meet was ahead of me. I realized that the competition was very good. But I was feeling good. Oscar Moore was up front, and I went after him. I forgot about being out of shape and ended up beating Ron Clarke’s World Record of 13:18.4 with a 13:16.2. It showed that, when coming off an injury you may not run well right away, but with hard training for a month you can be right back to where you were.
GCR: You were tabbed by the U.S. for some racing in Europe that summer. How was your first foray into the European track circuit which included a second place 3,000 meters in Dusseldorf, Germany and a win over 5,000 meters in Viareggio, Italy?
TS My first European tour in 1967 was a big thrill, especially when we were in Verrigio, Italy. Jim Ryun had just won a race in Dusseldorf, Germany where he ran the last 400 meters in about 50.2 seconds and ran away from Bodo Tumier and Harold Norpoth and other guys. In Verrigio, he wanted to race a different distance to take the pressure off and he decided to run the 5,000 meters. I thought that this might be the only chance I had to beat Jim Ryun. It was the first time he was going to race 5,000 meters and he asked me how I wanted to run the race as we were warming up. I told him, ‘I want to go for the American Record, Bob Schul’s 13:38.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to run anything that fast. But I said,’ That’s what I want to do, so can we alternate leading laps?’ And he agreed. We were alternating leading laps and, every time he was behind me following along, I had visions of him that I had seen in so many races where he blasted off the last lap. But, after about eight laps, his head started to roll a bit which let me know he was tired. On the next lap I picked it up a bit and halfway through the ninth lap he said, ‘Go ahead.’ That gave me an adrenaline shot to know I was going to beat Jim Ryun. I did beat him, but he was a bit sick, and it was his first time racing 5,000 meters. It was very thrilling at the time and a feather in my cap in my own mind, but I don’t talk about that too much.
GCR: In early 1968 you were invited to race a short swing of races in Australia. What are highlights of that trip?
TS In 1968, I was still being coached by Igloi, and had just run that race against Smiridov in Toronto. I was invited to go to Australia to race there during their summer. The trip was only for about a week or ten days. I was supposed to arrive on Saturday and run in a big meet against Ron Clarke and Tony Benson on Sunday. Igloi said there was a race on Tuesday in Adelaide that week and the Australian Championships the following weekend. Igloi didn’t want me to run three meets and told me not to run the Tuesday meet. I got to Australia, and it was hot – about 97 degrees. After running that World Record three-mile, I thought I was going to beat Clarke. The heat got to me, and I ended up getting third. The next day I figured that I wanted to be ready for the Australian Championships, so I would train very hard on Monday for the last time before the weekend race. We travelled on Monday to Adelaide and, when we got there, I trained very hard. I did sixteen times six-hundred-meter intervals. The next morning, the day of the race, where everybody else was going to run, I did forty-five minutes of running, another five or six miles. I got back to the room and Preston Davis said, ‘They have you entered to run against Perry O’Brien and Ron Clarke tonight.’ I said, ‘The deal is that I’m not supposed to race until Saturday.’ They were pulling a fast one on me I told the race organizers, ‘I’m not supposed to run this race.’ They told me they had paid my way and started putting pressure on me. ‘We want you to race.’ I figured that I would start the race and then drop out with an injury. I was warming up and Ron Clarke knew what was going on and told me, ‘I can probably arrange it so you don’t have to run.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about me. They’re pulling a fast one on me, so I’ll pull a fast one on them and drop out partly through the race.’ It was the last event and was the featured race of the evening. We were in this small stadium, and it was packed. There was a good atmosphere. I went to the starting line and there were only three of us, Ron Clarke, Kerry O’Brien and me. I thought dropping out was going to look bad. But I had run that tremendous workout the day before. I thought there was no way I could race because I had to be dead. We got racing and came by in 4:16 the first mile. I was in last place, and they were kind of clicking off sixty-four seconds each lap. They kept expecting me to drop out like I said I was going to do. After about six laps they said, ‘What’s going on? You were going to drop out. You take one.’ And I said, ‘No!’ They wanted me to lead one lap. I still was thinking it would hit me and I would die. Well, with five hundred meters to go I thought that maybe I could win. I think I ran fifty-six seconds that last lap and I ended up winning and beating both of those guys. That was another unforgettable race. It was unexpected. But on Saturday Ron Clarke pulled some good tactics and I got third place because I didn’t run so well. That was a neat tour. In that race where I won, I almost got Jim Beatty’s 3,000-meter record. I ran 7:55 and Jim’s record was 7:54.9. That was a blazing fast record. When Igloi heard how fast I raced after training so hard the day before the race, he said in jest that he was going to start training me hard the day before races.
GCR: Prior to the Olympic Games, you raced a 10,000-meter PR of 28:47 in Sacramento to win another AAU Championship. Were you as ready as you could be for the Olympics and how disappointing was it to not contest the Games at low altitude?
TS If we go back even months before that to indoor season, I was training with Igloi, and he got me invited to a meet in Toronto. Nikolay Sviridov was there. I led the whole race and was feeling strong and confident. I ran 13:15 and beat my own World Record by one second. When I saw the results at Mexico City, I was even more disappointed because Sviridov finished fifth and I was eleventh. He was a sea level athlete who may have trained in the mountains for a few months like we did. But I was feeling confident for Mexico City. I had left Igloi’s coaching before the Olympics though because all the top athletes went to Lake Tahoe and our lodging was paid for. Igloi wanted me to stay and said, ‘I have special training for you so you can train for altitude here at sea level.’ I didn’t buy that and that is when I left Igloi’s coaching right after the indoor season. I had kept a journal of his workouts and kept doing the same training, though I cut it in half. The reason I was so confident is that I knew that when Bob Schul left Igloi’s coaching he had his best years afterward. My high school coach said that Schul’s legs had freshened up. Schul’s apprenticeship of a couple of years of hard training with Igloi toughened him up. When he left and lightened up the training, he started running very fast. That’s what happened to me when I did half the volume. I was confident racing the 10,000 meters against Kenny Moore. He was usually a good kicker, but I raced tactically with a last mile of 4:20. I went very hard with four laps to go to win that race. So, I was confident going into Lake Tahoe. I had had success against many good runners including Gerry Lindgren, Billy Mills, Kenny Moore and George Young. One of the toughest dudes I ever ran against was George Young. You had to almost die to beat him. He was as tough as Steve Prefontaine or tougher.
GCR: Speaking of George Young and Steve Prefontaine, you came close to a second Olympic team berth in 1972 as you finished in fifth place, four seconds behind Len Hilton in third place and a second behind Sid Sink in fourth place as Prefontaine and Young took the first two places. Is there anything you could have done differently with your race tactics, or were you just the fifth best athlete that day?
TS I ran my personal best 5,000 meters earlier that season at Bakersfield. I raced with Ryun, Asher, Sutter, Young and Benson from Australia who ended up winning in 13:38. I came in fourth place and beat some good runners. But my calves were so balled up after that race because I had only been running for about six months. I was impressed that I could run that well because my calves were so tight. After that race I was so sore that I could only run about three miles each day in pain. For all the races after that, I could run a good time, but it took a couple weeks to fully recover. That was my big worry for the Olympic Trials since we had to run rounds. I figured I would be okay for the prelims, but in the finals my calves would hurt. I should have run a little slower, but I was in a heat with Pre, and we ran the fastest heat. I was about two seconds behind him. The other heats ran about ten seconds slower. It’s too bad I wasn’t in one of the other heats. Sure enough, my calves were sore. My dad was there on the day of the final and he told me I had to have the same mental approach that I had at Echo Summit in 1968. I said, ‘Dad, my legs are killing me. I don’t think I have the life in my legs.’ And it proved out. I was shocked that I ran 13:44. I figured that Leonard Hilton would be the guy I had to beat. Since I lacked that one year of training, I wasn’t ready for Pre or Young, but I felt that maybe I could beat Leonard Hilton. I wasn’t counting on Sid Sink beating me, but he was also a good athlete. If I could have recovered from the prelims like I did in 1968, I would have been a lot closer to Leonard Hilton and I might have beaten him. I think I was capable of running 13:33 or so. I don’t believe I was ever in the league to run as fast as Pre did. Young and Pre were in another league.
GCR: You touched earlier on your World Record indoor three-mile of 13:07.2 at the 1973 USA Indoor Championships. Did anyone push you and was this sort of your icing on the cake of your amateur running career?
TS After I didn’t make the Olympic team in 1972, that whole summer was hard for me as I thought about retiring. I had met a gal in college whom I thought might be my wife-to-be and I was not mentally into training. I had trained very hard for the 1972 Olympic Trials, but it was limited. If I did a hard workout, I had to recover for two or three days. Anyway, I thought I would run the indoor season in 1973 and see how it went. I got third to Prefontaine at the Sunkist meet in Los Angeles. Marty Liquori and I had almost the same time, but he was second. I felt good about that race. Then I ran another race and Jim Crawford and a Canadian runner got me. Those two guys could beat me indoors on the last lap of a two-mile because I was a strong runner, but not a speed demon. My best times were only a 3:43 for 1,500 meters and a 4:03 mile. But I felt that the training that I had started when I got ready for the 1972 Olympic Trials was starting to click in. I was beginning to feel better. I ran a mile in San Diego and got second to last, but it was 4:06 and I felt okay about that. Liquori won that one in about 4:03. So, after all these races, I went back to Nationals. I mainly went for the trip. I wasn’t thinking about the World Record or anything like that. Suddenly, I felt very good the night before and then warming up I felt very good. I remember warming up out in Washington Square Park and thinking, ‘I feel light. I feel fast.’ I knew that Crawford and the Canadian guy were running along with Neil Cusack. I was thinking, ‘I might have a good race here.’ Since Jim Crawford and the Canadian were beating me on the last lap, my plan was to take off with five laps to go. That’s kind of unheard of to go that soon, but I knew I was strong and thought I could beat those guys. That’s what I did. Cusack had led with a hard pace of 8:25 for two miles which was a fast pace back in those days. With a half mile to go, or maybe a little less like 600 meters, I took off. The announcer said, ‘If he can run this last quarter in under sixty-three seconds, he will set a World Record.’ I didn’t think I could do that, but I ended up running sixty-one for the last quarter mile. Then I was thinking about getting married and slowing down and, back then, we didn’t make any money from running.
GCR: In 1974, you were a founding member of the International Track Association, an organization that attempted to introduce professionalism to the sport by paying its athletes to compete in a series of track and field meets. How much fun was it to join with athletes like Bob Seagren, Lee Evans, Jim Ryun, Brian Oldfield, Kip Keino, Ben Jipcho and Marty Liquori to be the first professional track and field athletes and what are some highlights of that period on the track and interacting with these great athletes?
TS It was a very good time together. We had some great laughs. There were some guys who were much more notable than me. Dave Wottle was also running plus all the guys you mentioned. We had some interesting times. To promote one of our races in Ireland, we were supposed to run around horse racing track when there was a break after a couple of races. It was a novelty and the only people running were the distance runners in our group. It was set up where Chuck LaBenz was supposed to set a good pace and get out there a way and set it up to be exciting for the fans. We didn’t want to make it an all-out effort because we had to run in a race a couple days after that. It was an old chopped up dirt and grass horse track. Jim Ryun and Chuck LaBenz and Tom von Ruden and I were running. LaBenz was supposed to let us catch up with him and have a frantic race to the finish. But, Chuck LaBenz, who hadn’t been running well maybe thought this was his place to shine. He didn’t let up so we could catch him easily and we had to go after him. We caught him. The announcer had said, ‘There is no betting on this race. These are professional track athletes.’ But one guy got up in the stands and shouted, ‘I’ll give you ten to one on Ryun.’ Others joined in and they started betting on us. I’ll never forget that. I got to know Dave Wottle well and we travelled around to London. My wife got to know his wife. I talked to Ben Jipcho about his race where he helped Kip Keino in his race against Jim Ryun in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Olympics. It was a special time. My wife and I took a tour in London. There were many good times and I rubbed elbows with Bob Seagren and Brian Oldfield. I got to run against Gerry Lindgren more times. That was a good time and I felt badly that it failed. But it did help me to buy my first house in Bishop, California. I had a small contract where I made some money, and I was able to put a down payment on a house. That was a good thing about the pro running.
GCR: COACHING How was your transition from athlete to coach in the mid-1970s at Long Beach State for one year and then at Bishop Union High School and what did you do to use Igloi’s methods, aspects of what you learned from your high school coach and Sam bell and your years of experience to mold your coaching plan to help young runners to progress toward their potential?
TS I started coaching, as I mentioned, at Long Beach State. Ted Banks, a well-known coach, had left to go to Texas-El Paso, and Long Beach State asked me to be the assistant track coach while I was finishing up my teaching credential. That is when I got my first taste of coaching. I mostly used my Igloi system plus the system that I developed for myself when I was training for the Mexico City Olympics. So, I combined the shorter intervals of Igloi’s training with the Gerschler intervals I did in high school, which were longer intervals at a more relaxed pace. That would be akin to what Jack Daniels calls ‘cruise intervals.’ And Jack did have an influence on me too from his testing of us athletes and his book. I had success with my athletes running intervals that were slower than race pace that built aerobic capacity. The college guys used the training I specified, and we had one guy run a 4:05 mile. When I moved to Bishop Union, they already had a good cross-country coach who had led a team to State in the small school classification. So, I coached only track for a few years and did have some kids who won State in the mile and two-mile. I kept using a combination of Igloi short efforts that weren’t timed and the Gerschler intervals to see where the runners’ pacing was compared to their goal pacing. I likened it to Dellinger and Bowerman’s ‘goal pacing.’ For example, if a runner aims to be a sub-four-minute miler, his goal pace for quarter miles is sixty seconds. The date pace earlier in the season may only be sixty-sevens. I think that Bowerman was using a bit of the Gerschler system. What my athletes liked, and I liked about the Igloi method is that everyone ran their own effort. They would run five 200s ‘fresh.’ There was no time goal. When we say ‘fresh,’ that is just a step up from running comfortably and jogging. The efforts above that were ‘good effort,’ ‘hard effort’ and ‘all out.’ Igloi told us those paces and we didn’t disappoint him by running too slowly on the paces because it was based on each runner’s effort, and no one worried about competing against anyone else in practice. The high school kids truly liked running their pace. It had helped me to not have the pressure of them racing every workout. I did use the ‘goal pace’ and ‘date pace’ that Bowerman used. The methods of my high school coach, Igloi and Bowerman all kind of melded together into my coaching process.
GCR: After nearly two decades in Bishop, California, you and your family moved to Bend, Oregon where you coached the Crook County High School teams for over twenty years. How did your coaching progress at Crook County and how exciting was it to coach the boys’ cross-country team to their first State title in forty-one years in 2017?
TS At Crook County I refined my system that I used at Bishop Union. By then, there was information available on the internet at Other coaches would look at that website before the big meets and think that the Crook County distance guys weren’t running fast and that their athletes would prevail. Sure enough, we would be rated third and win. We won State when we weren’t even predicted to make the top three. The last few years of my coaching, the head track coach told me he liked the way I sharpened the runners up so they were right at their peak at the right time. It was an evolution of all these methods of Igloi, Gerschler and Bowerman that melded together. Also, Sam Bell was a great man with some great methods and, even though I was overtrained because he hadn’t considered how few miles I ran in high school, he added some good miles to me and was a great Hall of Fame coach. Winning the State meet as a team was something I dreamed about. I enjoyed every year because I usually had an individual or two who would make it to State in cross country or track and I did coach State champions in both track and cross country. But I never coached a State championship team in cross country. It had been since 1976 since Crook County had won State and my assistant coach was on that team. The excitement built during the season. My assistant said, ‘It would be exciting to be on the last team that won State and on the coaching staff this time.’ There was a lot of mental and emotional momentum for the team, coaches and parents. On, the last couple weeks, they reviewed our times and predicted us to win. That put a little pressure on us. It was a thrilling moment. Right now, I can see that medal. I don’t have any of my medals hanging on the mantle. But I have that first place and the second place medal from the next year in a larger school class that I’m looking at as we speak. That cross-country team victory was the highlight of my coaching for me. My assistant coach had to shave off his mustache. He told the athletes he would shave his mustache if they won the championship, and he hadn’t shaved it off in twenty years. There was so much emotion from the parents and kids who came to root us on and who made posters. Our first runner was not in the top ten, but all our runners were in the top twenty. That is a classic way to win State, to win as a team. That’s the way to do it. It was a real team effort. One of the other teams had three guys in the top ten and that had us concerned. But our guys were so closely packed and that made the difference.
GCR: When you look back at all the great athletes you coached and molded over more than forty years, are there a select few that deserve mentioning due to their outstanding performances, State titles and grit?
TS There is one girl, Michelly Foley, who won State in cross country over 3,000 meters. She was a lot like me, not blazingly fast, but very strong. She came along slowly from her freshman year. This is not the typical high school girl runner. So many are great as freshmen and sophomores and then, as they change into women, they have more weight. Anyway, this girl came along very slowly. She made it to State cross country for the first time as a sophomore and placed twenty-first. Finally, as a senior, she won our District and she won State. That was the first big excitement for me. Then her sister, Kellie Foley, came up and did the same thing. She won State cross country and got second in the 3k in track. Those two girls were similar athletes. They weren’t fast and, like me, their training was based on them being strong runners who I taught to be competitive against fast runners by using their strength. Michelly Foley raced against a girl from Crater High School who was a 57 second 400-meter runner. But in the last kilometer at State, Michelly ran all out and blew that girl away. If it had come down to the finishing stretch of four hundred meters on the track, my girl wouldn’t have had a chance. That was a thrill as the plan worked. She won on her strength and the strategy. When she went down this steep hill at Lane Community College, I had told her to use that momentum and to keep it going the rest of the race. It worked perfectly. I didn’t have a boy win State in cross country or track, but I have had a few wins at District. One guy, Grayson Mund, was third at State in the 3,000 meters. I think he should have run the 800 meters because he could possibly have won State, but he ran the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters and was third or fourth in both. I think I misjudged the distance he should race because he ran fifty point something for 400 meters. I should have talked him into the 800 meters as he was a 1:54-type runner and could have run away with that race. He was a real competitor on our four by four-hundred-meter relay team and brought us from behind many times to win the relay. Two other top athletes from my Bishop coaching were Scott Dudley, who was second in the 800 meters at the California Interscholastic Federation meet, and Greg Baker, who was second in the mile at CIF. I had a Native American runner who was the first runner to make it to State for me around 2002. He also qualified for the Nike Border Clash. His name is James Sears. He was a runner that idolized Billy Mills. So, I called up Billy Mills and Billy talked with him. That was a highlight for me as James was very excited to speak with Billy because of their shared ethnicity.
GCR: WRAPUP AND FINAL THOUGHTS When you were past the age of forty, you did some high-level Masters’ racing, including the first Masters’ mile at the Millrose Games and a 29:52 for 10,000 meters on the road at the 1987 Crescent City Classic in New Orleans. How did you adjust your training since you were older and what stands out from racing a strong indoor mile and at sub-4:50 pace for 10k in your forties?
TS That was most gratifying when I ran well in those races. After my amateur running and I had started running professional track, when it folded up, we weren’t allowed to run in meets. I was still young enough that I wanted to try to make another Olympic team, but the rules wouldn’t let me. I knew that was an impossibility when I joined professional track. But when I got close to turning forty, I was running in all-comers meets and running 3:54 and 3:55 for 1,500 meters when I was thirty-nine years old. I thought that I could run and feel good as a Masters’ runner and maybe make a little money. I was mainly gearing for the mile. In 1987 Mark Bloom invited a bunch of top Masters’ runners to run the first Masters’ mile at the Millrose Games. Someone called me up and asked me if I had heard about this Masters’ mile, they were going to have in Madison Square Garden, and I hadn’t. So, I called Mark Bloom and thought for sure he would let me race. He said, ‘You’re a three miler. We’ve got Bob Schul and all these other guys.’ I told him, ‘Hey, I won the mile at State in high school, and I ran a 4:03 mile. I think I can win this race.’ I trained hard for that mile, and I ended up winning it. I ran the last quarter in sixty-one and felt good about it. Then I got an agent and started running some road races. I ran the Continental Homes 10k in Phoenix, Arizona in 30:10. I thought that I would like to break thirty minutes. The American Record was held by Barry Brown at just under thirty minutes. I knew the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans was a point-to-point race and I geared for it. I had a tough race against Antonio Villanueva, a former Olympian from Mexico. It came down to the last hundred meters and I outran him to get the American Record at 29:52. At the national meet indoors I ran 4:18 which was the World Record, though they are running much faster now. I think Bernard Lagat ran 3:53 for the mile as a Masters’ runner.
GCR: Since you have had success over your running career at the mile and two-mile in high school, two-mile and three-mile indoors in college and post-collegiately, and the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters outdoors, what is your favorite racing distance and why is that so?
TS I like the 5,000 meters the most. I felt that for the Mexico City Olympics, the 10,000 meters was probably the better race for me. I had trained very hard through my apprenticeship with Igloi. I was very strong. Also, the 5,000 meters had some tough runners. I didn’t like the 10,000 meters, but I ran it. I think I could have been a sub-four-minute miler. There were some guys I was fearful of racing because of their sub-four speed. If not for that one year messing me up with that injury where I did no running at all, it may have been different in 1972. Back then when you weren’t running, they weren’t emphasizing cross training like biking. I did do some swimming and weightlifting because I was waking up in the morning and feeling achy. I was so used to putting out all kinds of energy and I wasn’t because of my leg. I think my potential could have been 13:30 or a bit under which would have been a good time back in those days. Anyways, my favorite race was the 5k.
GCR: From your many years of racing, who were some of your favorite competitors in high school, college and post-collegiately due to their ability to give you a strong race and bring out your best?
TS I would have to say that Gerry Lindgren was my top competitor. I told him ss many times, ‘You’re the reason I was able to become a World Class athlete.’ What he did against the Russians and how close Gerry and I had raced the year before inspired me. Then George Young was tough as nails. I raced that guy a lot. I have a copy of Track and Field News where he is winning a race in the L.A. Sports Arena and I’m not too far behind. I knew I had to run my very best race to beat him, and it was the same with Lindgren. There were several times like when I ran that 8:31 two-mile where Gerry was behind. I think he ran about 8:42 that day. He had some problems then in school and wasn’t at his best, but I felt good about it. Anytime I beat Lindgren I felt good because he was an incredible athlete. He ran 12:53 for three miles which equates to a fast 5k. Any time I raced against Ron Clarke I knew I had a race. The only time I ever beat him was in Australia.
GCR: Since you were a teacher and youth pastor in addition to coaching, how important was it for you to develop teenagers academically, athletically and spiritually into well-rounded young adults on the path to a great life?
TS That was biggest motivation. It began when I had that bad injury, I needed some counseling. I was already discouraged by how the Olympics in Mexico City had turned out. I came back and started training harder than ever because I was going to prove that I wasn’t an eleventh-place finisher. Then I got hurt. My salvation was that I got involved with Athletes in Action which is a Christian organization. It is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. The message and fellowship changed me, and I started running not for my glory, but for God’s glory. I ended up becoming a youth pastor and, when I was coaching, I let everybody know that I was a Christian. I had a bible breakfast at our church for my athletes once a week and we would have a devotional. The parents liked it and, to this day, many of the kids I coached still talk about that and my good example to them as a Christian man. At Crook County High School, there was a running camp I headed up for the last nineteen years. I would always slide in what I called ‘Woe Be’ sayings. When I was asked what a ‘Woe Be’ was, I would say that in the bible there were many times when something was happening, and it would say ‘Woe Be.’ I would always bring a principal into my camp for the kids. One summer it was a funny ‘Woe Be anybody that watches Miley Cyrus.’ I didn’t like her example of immorality for kids. When I said that, the kids were laughing their heads off, but also taking it to heart. So, that is just one example of how I would give them a ‘Woe Be’ every year. I wanted to encourage the kids to put their minds on Godly things rather than bad lyrics in music or other bad worldly things. I loved the opportunity to give a Godly perspective to being an athlete. Campus Crusade for Christ truly influenced me in that way.
GCR: You mentioned earlier about your multiple types of exercising. Is this helping you to be more well-rounded and healthy feeling?
TS Of the three things I do – stand up paddle boarding, biking and running – running feels the least good now. There is no lift in my legs. Today when I was doing my stand-up paddle boarding, there was a running path along the water. It bugs me to see these people running by and it bugs me to see how fluid and how springy they are. Why can’t I feel springy and sassy looking like that anymore. I do one thing every time I run. I can’t go very far because of my atrial fib. But when I do run, I will run one hundred meters at Igloi efforts so that I’m running kind of fast, and they don’t tax me too much. I recover after a couple hundred meters and then I’ll do another one. After running a mile, I’ll do that for two or three miles. I do feel a bit snappy and a bit fast and a little like the old days. That is the one thing that makes me feel good about my running.
GCR: What are some of your goals for the future in terms of staying fit, keeping your mind sharp, charitable work and potential new adventures?
TS When I went to the District Cross Country meet as a spectator instead of a coach, I had athletes ask me, ‘What are you doing now that you’re retired?’ I am spending more time going camping with my wife and walking with our dog and enjoying life. I want to stay as healthy as I can, so I have quite a routine. I run one day and bike the next day and paddle board the following day. We go to Ecuador every winter for three months to be with our son, his wife and our two grandchildren. My son married an Ecuadorian and we have a house in Ecuador where we stay for three months. We live at eight thousand feet, and I do my exercising, running and biking and paddle boarding at the high altitude, so I stay healthy that way. Today when I was standing out on the paddle board I was praying, ‘Lord, let me still be an influence for people and not just have a good time for the rest of my years here on earth. Open some opportunities for me to be a witness to you through athletics or some other means.’ That is always on my mind. I want everyone I meet to know I’m a Christian. And I don’t want to just say I’m a Christian. I want to live the Christian life and be an example and not a hypocrite. There are times when we are tempted to do things we shouldn’t do and go along with the crowd, and I don’t want to be that way.
GCR: When you are asked to sum up in a minute or two the major lessons you have learned during your life from the discipline of running, being a part of the running community as an athlete and coach, mentoring teenagers and overcoming adversity, what you would like to share with my readers that will help them on the pathway to reaching their potential athletically and as a person that is the ‘Tracy Smith Philosophy of Life?’
TS Life is getting more complicated with the internet and other things. As a Christian, I believe the end times are getting closer all the time. I want people to know that I believe knowing Christ is the most important thing in life and that we have a future after this world ends to be in eternity with Jesus and God. That has been my mission here on earth – to spread that word and to try and do so in a loving way through my coaching and how I live every day.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests What I love the most is backpacking. I still carry a fifty-pound pack. I drive down to Bishop, California occasionally and hike in the Sierra Mountains. I like stand-up paddle boarding for the serenity on a river or a lake and just gliding through the water. I’m probably an AD/HD person as I like to be active all the time. I’m out every day trying to stay in shape. I do have some health issues. I have atrial fib, so my running ability is limited. If I didn’t have atrial fib, I would probably be trying to compete as a master’s runner. But I am at one hundred percent atrial fib and my heart is twenty-five percent less efficient which affects my running. I can’t breathe too well when I go under ten-minute mile pace
Nicknames At Long Beach State, the guys I coached knew how much I was into track and field, and they called me ‘Tracksmith.’ They even gave me a sweatshirt that said ‘Tracksmith’ on the back. When I was coaching those guys, and when it came to Spring Break, I knew I was obligated to coach these athletes. I was a guy who liked to travel, so the whole team carpooled down to Baja Mexico, and we trained on the sands on Mexican beaches
Favorite movies I enjoy a good, well-done Christian movie like ‘The Passion of Christ.’ I like ‘Chariots of Fire.’ I showed it to my athletes and was surprised that it sort of bored them. I think the language was hard for them to understand
Favorite TV shows My wife and I like the mountains and the old west, so we like ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ In the 1960s I loved ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ That Eddie Haskell was always a troublemaker and getting the guys into trouble. He was quite a character. I don’t like a lot of current television shows because of the violence and sexual innuendos. I don’t want to waste my mind on that
Favorite music I like the Beatles. When I was a youth pastor, I heard people saying that a lot of music wasn’t good for young minds. But, when I listen to the Beatles music, I still think that is great music and I listen to it to this day. I like Lauren Daigle, a very popular current Christian singer. I like Amy Grant’s music. I do like the Christian music message. I did like Sonny and Cher and Neil Diamond. I’m an old guy who likes the old music. I even like the calypso music of Harry Belafonte. I do like listening to classical music and my wife and I like to attend classical music concerts
Favorite books I like to read biographies and autobiographies. I enjoyed reading about Eric Liddell, the subject of the ‘Chariots of Fire’ movie. I’m not much into fiction. I like to read about peoples’ lives that have impacted others, especially Christian missionaries. Right now, I’m reading ‘End of the Spear’ which is about the son of a missionary who lost their lives to the Alca Indians down in the Ecuador jungles. In fact, my son’s wife’s dad was with the search party that went in to find out what happened to those guys who were speared in 1956. I love reading books about mountain climbing such as on Mount Everest. I like when people go beyond their limits, not that I would want to climb Mount Everest. I’m not that much of a thrill-seeker where my life would be in danger. I do like reading about people who are on the edge of danger and what makes them tick. I also like books by Natalie Strong
First car It was the popular Volkswagen Van. We used it for camping. I wish I had it now. People would pay a lot of money for it
Current car I have a Jeep Cherokee. In Ecuador, I have a Land Rover and a Volkswagen Golf
First Jobs In high school I didn’t work because I was involved in sports. My first job after that was at a market as a box boy. My first real job was as a Los Angeles policeman which is where I worked when I was training to try and make the 1972 Olympics. I joined the police force because the L.A. Police Commissioner, Darryl Gates, had a brother who was an L.A. policeman who lived down the street from me. I respected him and it was when I was injured and didn’t know if I was going to run again. I was confused about college and decided to become an L.A. policeman because I wanted to do something worthwhile and contribute to society. I was an L.A. policeman for about two years from 1970 to 1972 and, when I ran in the 1972 Olympic Trials, I ran for LAPD
Family My mom and dad were not college grads. My dad was a salesman and a hard worker for an oil company called Southwestern Petroleum in Texas. He was on straight commission, set goals, and I learned a lot from him about setting goals. He had to deal with some hard-core people like mechanics who didn’t want to give him the time of day. I learned to persevere through things from my dad. My mom was just the sweetest lady. She didn’t work outside the home and was a stay-at-home mom. I’m thankful for that. They were loving parents who took us to church. They were both believers and had a big influence on my spiritual life. I met my wife, and our first date was basically going to church. I came to find out she was a missionary kid from down in Ecuador. The first time I had heard of missionaries was when I was eleven years old and on the cover of Life Magazine, I saw pictures of speared bodies of people floating down the river in Ecuador. I asked my mom what missionaries were and what had happened. She told me the missionaries were trying to tell the natives about God and the people in the jungle speared them. Little did I know that the dad of the girl I met was in on the search party down in Ecuador. So, we connected spiritually. We’ve been married going on forty-eight years. We’ve had some hard times. We had a son who was wayward for a while, the one who is in Ecuador, but he’s doing well now. My kids are doing well, so I’m thankful for that. I think the Christian influence we gave all three of them has led to this being important in their lives and helping them through some hard times. My wife wanted to get outdoors, so I’ve taken her out backpacking and camping. She introduced me to scuba diving. Now we go camping in our RV
Pets As a little kid, I remember my first little dog. It was a mutt called ‘Hoppy’ and I’ve seen some videos of her. I was known in Arcadia for this one Dalmatian. People I know from back then will still mention how I used to run up and down the streets with that Dalmatian. There was this divided highway in Arcadia and there was a grass strip that led up to the high school. I ran that every morning and every afternoon with my dog on a leash. Back then I ran with dogs. Now I walk with my dogs. I’ve got two pugs and a combination Miniature Doberman and Chihuahua. So, all three dogs are small dogs. My wife doesn’t like to go backpacking anymore, so I take my dogs along for company
Favorite breakfast Soft-boiled eggs with a freshly baked cinnamon roll. I’ve been eating that a lot lately. When I get weary of that, I’ll change up to yogurt and granola. I eat healthy. I probably shouldn’t eat so many eggs because of the cholesterol, but I don’t have high cholesterol
Favorite meal I would say Thai food. I love Tom Kha Gai soup and Pad Thai soup
Favorite beverages Juices are nice and kind of healthy but have too much sugar. I love Pete’s coffee. It’s the best coffee I’ve ever had. I get the Keurig pods. I like a very good coffee. I don’t drink a lot of it – maybe two cups a day. I won’t say that I don’t drink alcohol. I’ll have a margarita occasionally. I like beer from microbreweries, like IPAs. Here in Bend, Oregon, where I live, they have one of the more famous microbreweries called Deschutes Brewery. I think its one of the biggest in the world. They have great craft beers which I like
First running memory I think it was running around that quarter mile loop in elementary school. That’s the first time I knew I was pretty good. When you’re a little guy, you race your friends. I was fast, but I wasn’t the fastest guy. I sure knew that I could outlast people when I ran that loop around the field. It wasn’t that far around, but I couldn’t believe how far behind everybody was. The recreation guy told me I was good. Years later, after I made the Olympic team, he got a hold of me and said, ‘I remember when you ran your first endurance race.’ He was wanting to talk to me about that
Running heroes and competitors Peter Snell was the big hero, but the way he ran messed me up. I don’t think he was very efficient. He kind of leaned forward with his arms low. Until I received advice from Bill Peck during my senior year in high school, I was trying to emulate Peter Snell’s kind of running with my arms kind of low and leaning forward with kind of a long stride. I loved what he did. I watched him run indoors with Jim Beatty when Jim was running well. I watched Jim Beatty run the first sub-four-minute indoor mile. I saw Murray Halberg race, but I didn’t get to race against him or Snell or Beatty. The only time I ran against Michael Jazy was in that 1966 World Cross Country race. Those guys were all heroes. So was Mohammed Gammoudi. I respected him. He was in the thick of so many Olympic races and won the Gold Medal in the 5,000 meters in Mexico City. Jim Ryun was one of the greatest. If he was in his prime running on the tracks they have today, with the shoes they have now, he’s got to be one of the greatest milers ever. Ryun was really something which is why it was a big deal for me to say I beat him one time which was just an escape for him. In high school, my hero was Bruce Bass and then Dennis Carr, who I raced when I was a sophomore and I beat him in the 1,320 yards with 3:10 and then he won the CIF mile, and I was fourth. He was a guy who shocked the heck out of me when I was a junior and found out he ran that 4:08 mile. That was a shocker. It is sad that Tom von Ruden died and so did Ben Jipcho. I heard about Jipcho that he was so red hot when he came into pro track, that when it folded it drove him to drink. Someone was telling me that, when he got back to Kenya, that he started drinking and got heavy. It probably took a toll on him because he could have been a Gold Medalist in 1976 if he hadn’t gone into pro track. He was running incredibly strong
Greatest running moments Making the Olympic team was the biggest moment. Like I said, I had trouble sleeping and eating the next couple days and my stomach was tightened up in a knot. I laid on the beach. My greatest accomplishment was that third place in the World Cross Country Championships, and I didn’t realize that until years later. I didn’t realize how good that was. The World Record 3-mile the third time was very exciting. Those three were the best. Being an Olympian was the best and I wish I weren’t quite so overwhelmed and a little bit scared at the Olympic Games because I wasn’t scared at any of the other races. But I hadn’t raced much in Europe. I kind of avoided racing in Europe and I don’t know why, though that injury stopped some races there
Worst running moment The 1966 NCAA Cross Country Championships race where I didn’t beat Gerry Lindgren when I thought I could have after I beat him handily two weeks before at the conference meet. Then at the Mexico City Olympics. I even tried a breathing technique at the Olympics I had never tried or practiced before. Some guy came up to me and he said, ‘Every two hundred meters try to blow out some carbon dioxide.’ I tried that in the race, and I think my mind was more on that than the race. I kick myself because I don’t know why I did that. It was the craziest and stupidest thing I have ever done. I was trying to purse my lips and blow out the carbon dioxide as it was supposed to make a world of difference. I hadn’t even practiced that. I ran a stupid race in Mexico City, and I don’t even want to admit I did that breathing technique. I should have breathed naturally. Every two hundred meters I was thinking about it though I didn’t do it the whole race. After a while I forgot about it as the race wasn’t going too well
Childhood dreams I had a goal to be a good pitcher at one time. I was a Little League player for a couple years and a good pitcher. I thought that might be where I could be, though I didn’t follow the big leagues too much. I loved Hank Aaron. It seemed like every time he got up to bat, he did something special. When Hank Aaron was in Milwaukee, he made a big impression on my life. Hank Aaron was special, more than Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. I would have liked to be a Milwaukee Brave and to be a pitcher for the Braves. Then I found running and I loved the feeling of winning. I felt that I had some talent because I could run away from most high school runners. It felt so good and so smooth. But it doesn’t feel like that anymore
Funny memories Until I was in my sixties, I used to challenge my athletes to running four hundred meters. They will bring this one day up to me. I would get up to the line and had to be psyched up to run a seventy-five second four hundred meters with them on grass field. We would be getting ready to run and I would say to whomever I was going to race, ‘Hey, your shoe is untied!’ Then I would take off and get about fifteen or twenty yards and go for it. Those guys still talk about that, and they laugh about that a lot
Embarrassing moment one I was getting ready to run and I kept my warmups on since it was cold. This one time in high school I was getting ready to run in a big meet to qualify for an even bigger meet. The meet was at Arcadia, it was at night and the atmosphere was great. I was getting ready to step on the track and I pulled my pants down. I didn’t have my running shorts on. All I had was my jock strap. I pulled them back up and went to get my shorts and put them on. I get that story thrown in my face once in a while
Embarrassing moment two I was coaching one of the girls that ran for Igloi, and it was a big meet to qualify for a championship meet. I was so excited because she was doing well, and I started running along with her. I didn’t think about the pacing rule, and she was disqualified. I felt so badly that I was devastated
Embarrassing moment three When I have ladies running by me while they are pushing a stroller with a baby, and sometimes two babies, I don’t like that
Favorite places to travel The place I have travelled that I like a lot is Australia. I love the ocean and I didn’t have to learn a different language. There are some nice mountains and the people there are nice. I also like South America and Ecuador. I haven’t seen some places in the U.S. that I want to see. Now that I’m retired, I want to see the Grand Tetons and Mount Rushmore and other places. I was so busy running and coaching over the years. Even when I was in Europe, I didn’t see much as I was competing and resting from the races. I also love New Zealand. My Olympic teammate, Tom Farrell, spends a lot of time there and it is so beautiful. If I live long enough, I will be over in New Zealand again