Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Harry Berkowitz July 06, 1940 - September 30, 2008

Note: Harry Berkowitz , 68, passed away September 30 after tragically being hit by a car the week before while walking across a street in his hometown of Piscataway, New Jersey. One of Harry's best friends Tom Osler reflected: "Harry was like a brother to me. We were brothers through running. We both had an unspoken love of running and racing that somehow transcended all other Harry Berkowitz, center in red cap, runs a race in Gloucester, NJdifferences. Harry and I met in 1955 running track in Camden New Jersey. We often strongly disagreed about many things, but in the end, we both loved each other like brothers."

Harry Berkowitz, had been a fixture at south jersey races for over 50 years.
He was also a close friend of Browning Ross since his days running for Browning at Woodrow Wilson (Camden, NJ) in the 50's.
Videos of Harry running in the early 60's with Browning Ross can be found at
Vera Stek wrote an article about Harry this summer. Ironically, Harry never had an incident with a car while running for 54 years. In the article Harry looks back on his running career, and his retirement from running with typical humor. Harry will be deeply missed by the running community in South Jersey and by all those who knew this gentle, witty man.

by Vera C. Stek, Courier News

Sometimes, a runner comes to the end of the road and knows that it's time to quit.

That's what has happened with Harry Berkowitz, 68, of East Brunswick, a lifelong avid runner who announced to his wide circle of running pals several weeks ago via e-mail that he was quitting.
"Both Justine Henin (tennis) and Annika Sorenstam (golf) have announced their retirements this week. Since it is often felt that big events occur in sets of three, I am joining them. I will no longer run in races," Berkowitz told his friends.
"I stopped being competitive in the early 1990s, when my hamstrings kept going pop-pop. I have reached the point where, when standing at a race start, my right foot feels so out of balance, that I might topple over. Last week my right hip was very painful. This past week my back has been aching. I think that I am better off avoiding races."
The decision didn't come easily. Berkowitz, born and raised in Camden, had started running in high school in 1956 and was Camden County and City half-mile champion in 1958. He competed as a teenager on the mile relay team in the Penn Relays.
"I was hoping to become a national class runner. I was never more than mediocre," he said.
To combat his lack of speed, Berkowitz turned instead to distance.
"I completed 178 marathons between 1965 and 2000. I finished at least one marathon a year. My fastest was 2:53:56 in Atlantic City, 1972.
"I also ran 168 ultramarathons. I finished a 50-miler in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s. That streak is finished. I ran all the Philadelphia to Atlantic City races from 1980 through 1990 and was the only person to accomplish that.
"I believe I have run over 2,000 races, although I haven't kept a log of all the races that I've run. During the 1980s and '90s, I was running between 60 and 85 races a year."
Berkowitz lived in Camden until he went to graduate school at Rutgers in New Brunswick in 1963. He graduated from Drexel Institute of Technology, which had no track or cross country teams.
"So I competed as an AAU athlete, running in Road Runners Club (of America) races, which were organized by my high school coach Browning Ross. Browning had competed in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. I once asked him if he considered running in the Olympics or coaching me to be his greatest accomplishment. We argued about this several times over the years. Often, when he saw me in races, he would ask if I needed any coaching," Berkowitz said.
During his 10 years of college and graduate school, culminating in a doctorate in 1968, Berkowitz ran about 45 races a year.
"I ran my first marathon in Boston in 1965, finishing in 3:04:28, wearing $2.99 tennis shoes. Tiger shoes became available from Blue Ribbon Sports, now Nike, in 1966. I wore them for all racing and training."
While he was a post doctoral fellow at the University of Georgia in 1968-69, Berkowitz ran his best ever 50-miler in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, in 6:37:33, plus marathons in Boston, Atlanta and Grandfather Mountain, N.C.
He taught mathematics and computer science at several colleges before working for AT&T and IBM and retiring in 2002.
Devoted to his roots in South Jersey, Berkowitz is an active member of the Pinelands Striders running club and an ardent volunteer at the club's racing events, which he plans to continue.
"I joined the Striders in 1997 when I was helping Dawn Kempton, a member, train for marathons. In 1996 she ran Philadelphia in 3:35:00 and qualified for Boston, which she ran the following year. That was my most successful coaching experience."
Throughout his long career, Berkowitz met and befriended all the names in running from Ted Corbitt to Ross and Tom Osler. In 1964, at a meet in New Brunswick, he first saw high school runners Jim Ryun and Gerry Lindgren run.
He has a large circle of running friends with histories nearly as long has his with whom he frequently reminisces about the old days of running via e-mail.
"You are going out on top. You have epitomized good sportsmanship and have blazed a few trails on the way. You have proven that runners can be true gentlemen," one of his friends replied to the retirement announcement.
Berkowitz may be quitting racing, but he plans to continue running.
"I plan to continue training, which amounts to a moderate walk."

1 comment:

Ash said...

I had the honor to sit right across from Harry's cube when he worked at 20 Knightsbridge Road in Piscataway. Harry's cube was always full of books, mostly in Math. I once asked him if he had read them all. Harry told me that he had read each one of them at some point or the other. He always wore a race t-shirt. He had participated in all those races and shared with me the interesting story associated with that particular race. During my few months in that cube, I don't think that I ever saw him in the same t-shirt again. That shows how many races he ran.

Harry, the smartest runner I ever knew, rest in peace!