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Jack Welch — May, 2015
Jack Welch is the author of ‘When Running Was Young and So Were We,’ which celebrates that style of runner, a hardcore racer that left everything on the course. It's a book about how running became a way of life for millions; excellence, inspiration and greatness; an up-close and personal look at Olympic greats; big races and long runs; the techniques and strategies that make you a winner and a celebration of the human spirit. He was co-founder of Running magazine, former Director of Public Relations for Nike, and Senior Editor of Road Racing for Track and Field News. Welch was also part-owner of the Oregon Runner specialty shop. For many years he wrote for Running magazine and Track and Field News. Jack was on the press truck, at the parties, behind the scenes, track-side for some of the best performances by some of the greatest runners in history. He is a strong distance runner himself, with a personal best marathon of 2:46:07 from the 1979 Nike-OTC Marathon, which is a pace of 6:20 per mile. Jack still writes and his eclectic words of wisdom are at He lives in Brooksville, Florida with his wife, Peggy, and their dog, Hagrid.
GCR:Today happens to be Boston Marathon Monday. Just a few hours ago Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa won his second title while Kenya's Caroline Rotich was the women’s winner. Ritz and Meb in 7th and 8th and Desi Linden and Shalane Flanagan in 4th and 9th gave the U.S. some representation on the leaderboard. What are your early thoughts on today’s race?
JWMy first two thoughts are that there were a lot of African runners up front and marathon running is really hard. Keep in mind that I haven’t done one in nearly forty years! I was heartened by Shalane Flanagan's attitude. She wants it, she works for it, and she goes after it. If one tactic doesn't work, she tries a new tactic. She gets knocked down, she gets back up again. We should all do more of that, unless we are fighting a grizzly bear, of course.
GCR:Many people look at results like today in Boston and lament that there aren’t many Americans racing well. My thought is a bit different though – ‘Where are the runners from Finland? Where are the Japanese? Where are the East Europeans, the Mexican men, the British?’ It’s almost like other than the Africans and a few runners from the U.S.; the rest of the world isn’t represented at all in the top ten or fifteen men and women.
JWThere is an occasional Japanese runner, but you are correct, it’s like they all have given up.
GCR:I don’t know if it is because the Africans are so dominant that runners from other countries aren’t aiming for the top, but it’s an interesting phenomenon we’ve noticed in the past couple decades which seems to be getting worse. The U.S. runners are trying to hang in there but, from what I can see, no one else is really giving it a go.
JWIt’s hard to believe as an elite athlete who has never run 2:10 to think you can compete with guys who’ve run 2:05. And there are just the sheer numbers of great runners and the genetics of high altitude birth and living. I have two thoughts from the Bloomsday race back in the 1980s. I was standing at the front of the race with Herm Atkins and we were getting ready to go. He said, ‘I’m going to win this. I’m the best one here.’ I told him that clearly wasn’t so. But he said, ‘if you don’t believe it, then why bother to show up and race?’ People are having trouble convincing themselves that they are the best and that they can win.
GCR:I really enjoyed your book, ‘When Running Was Young and So Were We,’ which is based on columns you wrote from the 1970s to the 1990's. How is distance running and racing similar and different today when compared to that time period?
JWI think it is completely different in the public sense – the tens of thousands of people, fifty per cent female, marathon times an hour per slower on average. There are all of the products available now. Back then we had to send away to Europe to get our shoes which were terrible shoes. I was talking to Billy Rodgers about the first Boston Marathon we ran and I said, ‘Do you remember what the entry fee was?’ ‘I paid five dollars,’ Bill told me. He later went on to get his entry for free. I checked last year as I was fanaticizing about running the Boston Marathon and the entry fee was two hundred and twenty-five dollars. There’s a big change.
GCR:When I talk with runners from the 1960s and 1970s like Jim Beatty and Marty Liquori and Bob Schul they talk about how track and field was huge in the U.S. public eye on television. I remember this from ABC’s Wide World of Sports with many popular indoor and outdoor meets and the public was excited about track and field, versus today where there is money to be made as a top athlete, but track and field is a much more minor sport. Is there any way to change this or is this just the way it has progressed over the years?
JWYour use of the word, ‘progress,’ is a little more optimistic than my observation. It’s like you hear people talking about reform in our country, but nothing ever gets better – it’s just cuts and changes. We change the people running our sport, but the type of people never seems to change. The coming and going of companies has been interesting over the forty years I’ve been observing running. There used to be two running shoe companies and they were both German.
GCR:Why do you think there are a few great American marathoner racers, but not the depth that we once had? I know when I got out of college in 1979 as a 30:28 10k guy I was decent, but anyone who ran from 29 minutes to 34 minutes all became road racers and most became marathon runners. In the 1970s and 1980s out of that group we all seemed to push each other, whether we ran in the upper 2:20s, lower 2:20s, into the upper teens or lower teens there were so many of us out there and I don’t see that today. Would you agree that is one factor which hurts the sport of distance running in the United States?
JWAn example is I was at the Honolulu Marathon last December. I want to make it clear that I love that marathon, I love Honolulu, I’ve been going there for thirty-five years and they do a great job. But, my time of thirty-five years ago would have been 54th place out of thirty thousand. The first mainland American was in about 80th place. I went to the Expo and most of the people were speaking Japanese. There was no attempt to get the 2:30 to 3:00 marathon runner there. The running is almost gone. What the heck happened?
GCR:It is so much more of a participation sport now. When running was young perhaps eighty to ninety per cent or distance runners were fast and competing, while in recent years eighty to ninety per cent are just completing races. I guess it’s harder for the cream to rise to the top when there is less cream.
JWI started running back before Frank Shorter won his Gold Medal in the marathon in the 1972 Olympics, and there were no adult runners. If you saw someone running in the street he was a high school kid or a college kid on the track or cross country team. I remember a buddy of mine who was running five miles and he might have gotten down to 31 minutes – he quit running because he was too slow. Can you imagine that now? Somebody running five miles in 31 minutes would have their own Facebook page. That is where the concept of my book came from. I wanted to look at what has happened and let people know there was a bunch of cool stuff from back in the day.
GCR:Back to your book, ‘When Running Was Young and So Were We.’ How difficult was it to choose from the dozens and dozens of columns you wrote to select those which would appear in the book and what was the process you used to narrow it down?
JWThat’s an interesting question that no one has asked me before. First of all I have a terrible memory – I tell kids it’s true what they say about drugs and alcohol. So I don’t remember anything. And at one time I was homeless and living in a van so my collection is diminished. So part of the answer to the question is I have what I have and found what I found. Then I have enough friends and colleagues around the country that I asked for some research help. A young man who was the assistant manager at my running store in Salem, Oregon in 1979 and 1980 is now a PhD and college professor of history who has every Track and Field News written in the last fifty years or so. This gave him the excuse to tell his wife, ‘I have to go upstairs to help Jack research his book.’ (laughing) You and I are both waiting for a phone call like that so we can say, ‘Sorry, honey, I need to read some Track and Field News magazines.’
GCR:It’s funny as I keep doing these interviews and, for example, I’ve interviewed many ‘Pioneers of Women’s Distance Running’ and would love Runners’ World or someone to help put them into a book.
JWThe problem is that if you’re waiting to be discovered and no one is looking for you, then you get to be an old man like myself. You have to figure out some way to convince yourself to keep doing what you’re doing, even though you get some, but not a lot of notice.
GCR:Another thing we have in common is that we both like to play poker. What are some similar traits which are common in both of these competitive arenas?
JWAt one time I was ranked in the top ten per cent in the world and was coaching young poker players. I had a poker site,, which is still around in a different form. My premise was that the better person you were the better poker player you would be. A lot of the young kids coming up were being total jerks. They would have this attitude of, ‘I’m sitting here playing online poker in my underpants, eating Cheetos and making a thousand dollars an hour. What about you?’ I got in touch with one guy, told him he was just like me forty years ago and turned his life around. It was rewarding though it wasn’t because of the competition, but for helping others. The rest of the story is I could compete at poker at age sixty-five and that is what I missed about running – the competing. That’s gets us back to another layer of this onion in running today where people aren’t competing.
GCR:These days I often say we just have to add that one letter ‘L’ as most people are completing rather than competing. How do you reach this different audience and encourage them to read your book or is your target more the serious runner and student of running history? Is there any way to reach the masses or is it a foregone conclusion that it isn’t going to happen?
JWIf you look at the most successful running magazines now, the articles get repeated about every three years. It’s even about the same covers. It lacks intensity. We were freaking intense back in my day! I think we’ve talked about it the past few years and the intensity is gone. This reminds me of the thread of my book which is whether running would be better for today’s runners if they gave it a bit more? Would they be better if they exercised more instead of posting about it on Facebook? They should do more running instead of posting about running their twelfth marathon this week and setting a new PR of seven hours and fourteen minutes.
GCR:Which runners you interviewed surprised you the most during the course of the interview with unexpected revelations about training, personal life or their personality or was there a common thread with many interviewees?
JWI was young and they were often younger. The fact that they weren’t that special was surprising generally. I think I was looking at them athletically originally – like someone was a 2:28 guy or a 2:20 guy – I defined everybody like that. What I found was there were whole human beings there. I may have damaged my own career because I didn’t distinguish between being a friend and an interview subject. Some things maybe weren’t meant to be written about. But having said that, one thing I do is write about them because they are my friends and maybe you will get to see something different. It's like that with Joan Benoit, who is one of the most amazing human beings I’ve known.
GCR:What do the greatest of the great runners have that separates them from the elite runners who are just a bit below them in terms of racing outcomes? Was it just talent or something else in their makeup that separates the top one hundredth of one percent from the top one tenth of one percent?
JWI write about this in the final chapter of my book, ‘The Greatest,’ about Prefontaine, Benoit, Decker and Salazar. Three of those people I know well and one I kind of absorbed. I just don’t think they burn brighter. When I saw Salazar get in that big mix-up when he was coaching indoors not that long ago, somebody asked me about it. I said, ‘I know Salazar. He lost control. That’s all.’ He was trying so hard to coach his athlete to win that he kind of forgot who he was, where he was and what he was doing. I can’t think any less of the man because that’s how he got to be Salazar. He would throw an elbow. Back to what you asked, what makes these people special is that they are special.
GCR:I’ve read where you would put those four - Joan Benoit, Alberto Salazar, Mary Decker, and Steve Prefontaine on your Mt. Rushmore of Running. When we talk about the greatest, the inspirations and the forerunners, I like to look back a bit further. Here is my 1960s Mt Rushmore of Running – Jim Ryun, Billy Mills, Bob Schul and Gerry Lindgren. What would you say about these four?
JWWell, I must speak to one beyond those four who is near and dear to my heart, the great U.S. marathoner, Buddy Edelen. I’ll give you a hint if you can find it. There was a Playboy magazine article, a feature article of Buddy Edelen that I would like to have. One of the things that for me is difficult to say is that I like to deal with athletes who are like me. If someone is a seven foot, six inch Chinese basketball player I just can’t relate. It’s the same with a seventy-two pound gymnast. I want to find a guy who likes to do what I do and looks a bit like me. I discovered Buddy Edelen who was a pasty white guy that couldn’t get any attention and that was my kind of guy. I’m reminiscing when I think about these guys, what they were like and what was surprising.
GCR:What are some of the similarities and differences that stand out in training among the top distance runners you have interviewed? Everyone is doing mileage, stamina training and speed workouts, but did anything stand out?
JWI think as many miles as possible was kind of everyone’s mantra which explains why times today are so much slower than they were then. I did a hundred miles a week at altitude, and I was nobody. That’s one thing John Parker talks about.
GCR:That is something I specifically wanted to touch on. John L. Parker wrote in ‘Once a Runner’ about ‘Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials.’ I was from that camp where we did as much as we could without getting injured, which isn’t prevalent today, especially in the U.S. How important do you believe high mileage is in distance running success?
JWI think the top guys now like Tegenkamp and Ritz, they understand. Maybe we’re discovering that not only is there an absence of running bums, but maybe there’s an absence because nobody knows what to do. Maybe we’re losing them at the high school level.
GCR:When I was a kid, like in my senior year of high school, I ran twice a day, but got lots of other exercise. And so did all kids at that time. We’d get up in the morning and, after I ran, there would be kids in the neighborhood wanting to play street baseball. Then we’d go up to the school and play basketball. Then we’d each lunch, play more baseball. I’d do a second run, then maybe there would be a street football game getting going. Then we’d break for supper, play more football, kick the can, and hide and go seek. We were outdoors a minimum of ten hours a day and running was only an hour-and-a-half of it. Maybe that’s something that kids were doing in the 1970s that isn’t happening now. We didn’t get injured that much because we were cross training, even though it wasn’t called cross training. We were just playing all of the time. What are your thoughts on that?
JWWhether it is playing or whatever it is called, it is all cross training. In my top secret project I am working on everyone will tell you that they should have done more cross training. They say they should have done less mileage, less racing and more cross training.
GCR:We didn’t call it cross training. We played and we were extremely fit. My first day when I went out for track as a sophomore with zero specific running training was a 5:31 mile just off of playing in the street with my friends. I don’t know how many kids today can do this. They may have the talent to be way better than I was, but can’t walk out with no training and run that fast initially. Maybe that’s one of the problems – kids don’t play as they are on Facebook and Xbox.
JWThe kids are humans and they look for the rewards. Running bums are hard to find. Running times are fast, running is hard, people are looking form rewards and they aren’t seeing it. Can you imagine what just a shoe sponsorship meant thirty-five years ago? It was sweet.
GCR:A training concept you have discussed is training specificity. To run great marathons you have to run a ton of aerobic miles. Do many good runners just not understand while they are out hammering out mile repeats that eighty miles a week isn’t enough?
JWWe had some special situations like Grete Waitz showing up at the New York City Marathon never having run farther than about twelve miles and winning in a World Record time. That screws up a lot of training wisdom. Like the four runners I put on my Mount Rushmore, Grete was amazingly special. But then everybody started thinking that they didn’t have to do long runs anymore. That was one of the phenomena I saw that affected running training and history.
GCR:When you talk about how some runners are just special it gives pause to think even about us. You ran a 2:46 and I ran a 2:22 when I was in grad school. I didn’t get to where I could have – maybe I had another five minutes in me – who knows? It seems the talent is just there, no question. Talk a bit about your marathon PR race of 2:46:07 at the 1979 Nike-OTC marathon, what it meant then and how you feel about it 35+ years later.
JWI had a 2:10 in me (big laughter). That 2:46 was so over my head even though I’d run 2:49, 2:47 and a bunch of 2:50s. I have a plaque on my wall given to me by my running buddies back in 1979 – let me read this to you, because I am very proud. ‘Jack Welch, marathon runner, 1979 Nike-OTC marathon, 2:46:07, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Robert Browning.’
GCR:When you ran that PR, of which you are rightly proud, as I am of my PR, how did it feel to realize that you were running one hundred mile weeks, you were doing hard training and you were about as good as you were going to get as you just didn’t have the talent? How was it to know that this was your peak, this was your potential and to be happy with it?
JWI didn’t know at the time that it was my peak. I just saw it as an amazing achievement and it gave me something to write about. I even put myself on the cover of my publication, ‘Running Magazine.’ Someone asked me how I had the nerve and I said, ‘Yea, man. That’s a great photo of a guy giving it his all.’ It just happened to be moi. What does it mean to have that plaque on my wall and that photo compared to what so many people are doing today? They are running twelve minute per mile marathons. But when I made my comeback after seventeen years after Don Kardong tricked me into it, little girls dressed in tutus were passing me. And a couple platoons of soldiers double-timing in there camouflage gear went past. I thought, ‘Oh crap – I’m so old! This is terrible.’ I recently got good news. I have systemic rheumatoid arthritis. I really am I pain. It’s not my imagination. It was so liberating. I was out of the running game for about fifteen years and when I started back it was agonizingly tortuous. It was awfully painful – what the heck happened? Apparently I had aged during that period when I wasn’t pounding the ground a thousand steps a mile and become this arthritic wretch. I thought for a few years that this was something that happened to us all as there is no manual about what it’s like to be an old athlete.
GCR:That’s an interesting point, as I still run competitively and have a thought that there are few runners, probably less than ten per cent of them, who were fast runners back in the day who still compete well in their older age groups. What allows these small numbers who were fast in their twenties and thirties to still train and race strong into their fifties, sixties, seventies and even beyond?
JWWhat I’ve noticed is that my buddie who didn’t quit are the ones still doing it and racing relatively fast. Guys like me who quit and came back are just different guys. It was a mystery. I thought it was what getting old was all about. I thought, ‘This sucks. This can’t be possible.’ Because I’m a crazy, athletic maniac. Why was it so terrible until I found out? When we compare races back in the day to when I run now locally, there may be two hundred runners, and everyone is slow. Where were these races when I was younger and faster? I recently got a second place in my age group. I’m going to turn seventy, so look out world! The whole question of why there aren’t more runners in the lead pack – intensity and competition isn’t there as much.
GCR:As one of the founders of ‘Running Magazine,’ why did you think there was a need for another running periodical and what do you think were some of its best contributions to the running scene?
JWIt came out before ‘Running Times,’ so it was the second legitimate national running magazine. We only did science of running, then I went crazy, quit law school and my buddy asked me to see what I could do with the magazine. That’s how I became a running bum. I had a magazine where I could launder money; I funded trips to races like the Boston Marathon. Right after my 2:46 marathon I went to Sun River with the Nike crew. Dick Quax mentioned how my 2:46 was as good as his 2:11 for each of us, which was kind of cool. And then the next thing I knew, Nike bought the magazine. Trust me, about the time you sell your running magazine to Nike in 1980, your world changes. I was supposed to come up with a plan to increase monthly sales from 5,000 to 80,000. I ended up getting the best guys in the business which typically works. They treated me to a visit to the printer where I just knew I would be a big time celebrity because I was the guy with the paycheck. It was in Bowling Green, and here’s the scary part, it was in a dry county. These guys don’t know how to entertain. That’s all I’m saying.
GCR:How did you get started running and what did you do in your early years as a distance runner?
JWThis is a part that should definitely be noted. I have a big talk I have to give this summer and I was thinking about how I got started running. My first memory of running is being the first person caught in the game of tag. In 1960 President Kennedy started his national fitness movement of some sort. I was so slow that I was made to run with the girls, most of whom I couldn’t keep up with. I was always this fat, slow kid. I was fine because I was athletic. Even though I was fat and slow, I could move quickly for short bursts. Then something happened when I got out of the military and lost eighty pounds. This is the legend I’m telling you. I was a basketball player. The first time I got married I played a lot of basketball and worked on my jumper. But I hurt my ankle and couldn’t move. I was inside the gym at the YMCA and there was a loop around the gym where a guy was running and it must have been twenty-five laps to the mile. I thought to myself, ‘What the heck is he doing? I’m going to go catch him and ask him.’ I couldn’t move laterally, but could go straight ahead. I chased him for about five miles and he wouldn’t let me catch him. Then he became my first running buddy. They were giving out a t-shirt from the Kearney YMCA in Danbury, Connecticut to anyone who covered one hundred miles. I thought, ‘darn, wouldn’t that be sweet to have a t-shirt that said that?’ Recently I came across my running diary back to page one. It starts out with a mile one day. Then three days later another mile. And that’s the way it started.
GCR:Your involvement in the running community also included stints as Track and Field News editor for road racing, Nike Director of Public Relations and co-ownership of the Oregon Runner specialty shop. How did these positions develop you as a person, businessman and add to the depth of your involvement in the distance running community?
JWYou know, I can get full of myself as my wife says – there is my charisma! I like the sport, I like the people in the sport and my heart is pure in that way. When I left the sport and came back it was a different sport. I wrote the book to remind people of what it was and to say to them to please not overlook it. And nobody else would let me do anything else. After Nike I applied for a job with Brown and Williamson, the tobacco company. Imagine some athletic guy with street cred in sports representing how healthy tobacco smoking is for you. I was down for that, but it didn’t pay enough to sell my soul.
GCR:These days most distance runners race sparingly compared to guys like Bill Rodgers and Benji Durden. Even though they weren’t always racing their fastest, they were still racing hard and getting race sharp. What do you think about the pros and cons of that versus how it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when so many runners raced very often and ‘trained through’ shorter races during marathon preparation?
JWIn the course of my upcoming top secret project, I can’t talk too much about this. A couple of these people do tell me that they would do it differently if they had to do it all over again. They say their biggest mistake was over racing and the next was overtraining.
GCR:There may have been some top runners who were over raced and over trained, but were there so many good runners, just like the Kenyans now, that out of hundreds of runners training hard, even if a bunch of us were over trained, injured or burned out, you only need a small percentage to succeed?
JWHave you see the Kenyan basketball team or the Kenyan ice hockey team or the Kenyan pro bicycling team? Kenyans are great at this one thing. You don’t have to have them all at once, just a few at a time. Our top runners were so mentally strong and did what they could to win. Joanie Benoit would get a surgery ahead of a race, Decker would throw a baton at you, Salazar would trip you and who knows with Pre? I’m surprised that convertible on his chest killed him.
GCR:Top racers have the ability in races to make bold moves. Lorraine Moller calls them ‘crunch points.’ Gerry Lindgren calls them ‘critical moments’ where a runner has to make a big decision, and he would try to find a way to get the other guys to decide they couldn’t do it. Is there a common thread that allows the greatest runners to do what others can’t even when they are tired and pushing their limits?
JWWhat’s amazing with Gerry, and I had lunch with him in December, is he is the one guy who wanted to do even more. And he only weighed about 120 pounds. He was like an African and maybe that’s another way of looking at it. When he beat the Russians at the Coliseum in 1964 - I remember that on Wide World of Sports. There was this little guy who looked so odd and wimpy and he kicked the crap out of the Russian guys. It was stellar. Now he’s over there in Honolulu going around the park with bells on his shoes. He was one of the greatest in the world in high school.
GCR:One of the many things I find interesting about Gerry, and we talked of it when I interviewed him, is that there was one time where in thirty-six races in a row he was on World record pace at the half way mark – he would just go out and dare people to run faster than anyone had ever run before if they wanted to beat him. Maybe that was just a mindset he had that very few others have.
JWHe was the hare at the Greyhound race. He saw himself as the guy whose job was to get everybody to go as fast as they could go. We have to be careful when we use words like crazy, but Gerry is a special human being and he’s special in so many ways that I will never be able to figure out. His mind as a competitor and his body as an athlete they came together at a time when he was a genius.
GCR:Let’s get a few short comments on some outstanding runners whom you have interviewed. First, Alberto Salazar.
JWThe word that comes to mind is ‘determination.’ He resolved, which is a good verb in his case, to do this or achieve that - whatever it took. Of course the big downfall is when you do whatever it takes it can be too much. These days people do the opposite and do less training.
GCR:Dick Beardsley.
JWHe’s had a heck of a life, that’s for sure. He has a great autobiography. It is really good to spend time with him.
GCR:Steve Spence.
JWMy word for him would be ‘cerebral.’ Steve and Benji Durden and Craig Virgin could figure out where the edge was and they would work the edge. He was competitive at understanding pace and his daughter is like that too.
GCR:Benji Durden.
JWHis edge was that he could figure out physiology and what he needed to do to be a little bit better in the heat.
GCR:Patti Catalano Dillon.
JWComplicated. She has aged well and looks good. She had the best year of any woman distance runner, I think in 1981. She went from a fat girl who smoked and had bad habits to an amazing, amazing runner. Back then there were times I thought I saw her up ahead of me in races and that meant I was having a good day. Another thing we don’t always understand and it held true for Patti among others, is there is a lot going on inside runners who can be running 130 miles a week, are married, like someone else, can’t find sponsors. There is a lot of stuff going on.
GCR:Mary Decker.
JWThe first word that comes to mind is special. I knew her early in her running, then years later at another race and then again later on and, not unlike myself, she was a different person every time. There is a core in there that stayed the same. We did live in the same house for a while and I ran with her once. It almost killed me.
GCR:Joan Benoit.
JWWe did a lot of talking on the phone and she trusted me. I transcended fandom and journalism with her. I felt like I was part of the family. This was no problem because I was someone she would confide in and her confidence was scary. That time before the Olympic Trials when she couldn’t run outside she had an elliptical and treadmill for training. They were the only ones I ever saw with no dust.
GCR:Lynn Jennings.
JWSpecial also describes her – that’s why she did what she did and is in my book. She came from the same school as Benoit – New Englander, talented, driven. Put together your Frankenstein of the greatest runner and Benoit and Jennings would be two ladies who would be good models.
GCR:Bob Kennedy.
JWHe was either the first Caucasian, first American, or both under 13:00 for 5k. He reminds me that I would be talking at the time with others about how we needed to get more top Americans out there running track and how could we do that. Even to this day nobody really knows. I think Bob came back and ran a sub-three hour marathon last fall which was something.
GCR:Frank Shorter.
JWI never got to know Frank. I had one runner autograph in my house for many, many years, and it was of Frank Shorter. He had signed an autograph for my mother, and when she died I inherited it. I gave it away one day to a collector. I am very close to Bill Rodgers and Don Kardong, the other members of the 1976 U.S. Olympic marathon team. Billy is the friendliest of the three. Frank and I just took one look at each other, I think, and I saw a lawyer while he saw a journalist and that was the end of that. The first Nike issue of Running magazine has a picture on the publisher’s page of Frank Shorter and Ken Keasey making a bad face. I was the publisher. The article was ‘The summer of discontent.’
GCR:There are so many great stories in your book, but I want to ask about one in particular, the final story where you wonder what would have happened if Steve Prefontaine had survived his car accident. While Pre was one of my heroes and I was shocked and devastated by his death, isn’t it more plausible that, like James Dean, President Kennedy and others who died in their prime, that their legend after death most likely exceeded anything they could have accomplished?
JWI am going to Eugene, Oregon next month and will be investigating this phenomenon. I won’t get to Coos Bay, his hometown, this time. I actually was in Pre’s bedroom one time and that was kind of cool. A very small room. His parents were very good friends of mine and I’m really struck by the legend of Steve Prefontaine. I’ve done what I could to promote the legend. The reason I’m going back with some buddies is we are going to look at the legend on the fortieth anniversary of his death. I don’t plan on the fiftieth anniversary, though I’ll be there if it happens.
GCR:As you approach age seventy, what goals and challenges does the future hold for you mentally, physically and spiritually?
JWIt sounds kind of inane, but I’m just trying to figure it out. I do stuff around my house. Most days I walk six or seven times around a loop in my neighborhood that is close to a mile. I have neighbors on one part of the loop who will ask, ‘How’s the heart?’ or ‘Why all the walking?’ I’ll say, ‘Beer!’ They don’t have an understanding of exercise. I want to learn how to become old gracefully. It’s an amazingly high level thought. They don’t tell you that. As someone who’s pushing seventy and I hear athletes who think their life is almost over because they’re close to forty – it’s just not the same, though Meb has done great and raced well at close to forty.
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 through interviews, writing and positions you have held and using these characteristics in your life, what you would like to share with my readers?
JWMy actual mantra and my actual philosophy is ‘become your own hero.’ The older I get, the more I understand I may be a little bit crazy. If that’s true, I think running has done an awful lot to keep me on the straight and narrow path without hurting anybody. It’s very difficult to get in a lot of trouble if you’re running a hundred miles a week.
 Inside Stuff
Hobbies/InterestsHousework – I have to vacuum as soon as we hang up the phone
Nicknames‘Happy’ and ‘Moocher’
Favorite movies‘Cool Hand Luke,’ ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Groundhog Day’
Favorite TV shows‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘The Liar’ and ‘Weeds’
Favorite songsI’m a big Pearl Jam and Nirvana fan. I like that whole 1990s Seattle grunge sound
Favorite books‘A Fan’s Notes’ by Frederick Ecksley. Anything by the beatniks and Charles Bukowski. For runners - the classic George Sheehan books
First carA 1966 Impala SS. It had a coral green bottom with a black naugahyde top. It was sweet
Current carA 2012 Chrysler 300S. Its number 23 of 500. It has a hemi engine and 363 horsepower. I have every available option and it’s great
First JobsAt one point I remember commuting by train to a grocery store where I stocked shelves. I was living in Carmel, New York. I think I had to get to Brewster and then from Brewster I had to take the train to Mount Kisco or something. In my senior year I got a job as a dishwasher at a local country club where I gained ten pounds because the cooks let me
FamilyMy wife is Peggy, a.k.a. Topaz Malone. We’ve been married nine years
PetsWe have a big dog, a 160 pound Caucasian Ovcharkas named ‘Hagrid’
Favorite breakfastMeat lover’s omelet at the Waffle House
Favorite mealSome weird appetizers followed up by scallops
Favorite beveragesBeer and water
First running memoryAs I mentioned in a lengthy manner earlier, my first memory of running is being the first person caught in the game of tag. I was always a fat, slow kid
Running heroesPeople like Lindgren and Ryun caught my eye because of magazines like Life and Post. When I started running in February of 1972 I was looking for information and got back issues of Track and Field News, the past seven or eight years that were bound. So I caught up. People like George Young I admired
Greatest running momentsIt has to be my marathon PR race. Also, running on the original marathon course in Greece was a great experience – it was certainly memorable
Worst running momentMaybe when my moustache broke off when it got frozen with ice and snow. It happened one cold week in Flagstaff somewhere in the 1974 to 1976 time period
Childhood dreamsI wanted to be a great athlete. I wanted to be popular with my peers. I wanted to be successful with the ladies. I wanted these things at age fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and it wasn’t happening. Let me cue the violin music now. What was cool is that sooner or later it all happened. It was kind of a metaphor for life and running
Funny memoriesMy wife says I’m full of myself. She could write a book about me as she’s a storyteller – but don’t believe a word she says about me. By the way, my wife has taken 8 minutes off her 5K results since reading my book. Your results may vary
Favorite places to travelPortland, Oregon which was my home, where I haven’t lived in many years. I was there last May, I was there last September and I’ll be there this May. It kind of energizes me