Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Emily Ward wins Bridgton, Maine 4 Miler

Emily Ward takes the women's run, Silas Eastman wins men' s run in the "Four on the Fourth".

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@mainetoday.com
Portland Press Herald Staff Writer http://www.pressherald.com/

BRIDGTON — Silas Eastman of Chatham, N.H., and Fryeburg Academy won the 36th annual Bridgton Four on the Fourth this morning, completing the four-mile road course in 21 minutes, 33 seconds. Emily Ward, 30, of Richmond Va., won the women's race in 24:26

Emily Ward wins Bridgton, Maine 4 miler in 24:26
Photo by Tim Greenway, Portland Press Herald
A record 2,100 runners registered for the race, which is its capacity. Officially, 1,882 runners finished the race.  Eastman, 17, the two-time Class B Maine high school state cross country champion, broke out in a two-man race with friend and Fryeburg Academy alum Tim Even. Eastman took over with about a mile to go.    Even, 23, who just finished a stellar career at the University of Southern Maine (17th in the NCAA Division III nationals in the 1,500), placed second in 21:41.Peter Bottomley, 50, of Cape Elizabeth, finished third in 22:08.

Ward, who is in town vacationing with family, was racing the course for the first time. The former University of Richmond runner won by 49 seconds, ahead of runner-up Cathleen Balantic, 25, of Niantic, Conn.
April Werning, 36, a former Bowdoin College runner now living in Portland, was third in 25:21.

Ward was thinking the same thing. She escaped the heat of Richmond this week, vacationing with family on Long Lake.
"The conditions were perfect," Ward said. "I'm so used to humidity. I think this past week it was 102 every day in Virginia."

Ward used to run for the University of Richmond. She moved on to marathons and is now training for triathlons.

"It has made me a little faster," said Ward, who was 49 seconds ahead of runner-up Cathleen Balantic, 25, of Niantic, Conn.

April Werning, 36, of Portland finished third in 25:21. Werning used to run for Bowdoin College, then did road races. She is just getting back into competition after nearly a 10-year layoff.
"It's really hard," Werning said of her first time on Bridgton's hilly course.

The three male leaders have loads of Four on the Fourth experience.
Eastman, Even and Bottomley finished in the top 10 the previous two years. Bottomley, a former runner for Oxford High and the University of Maine, first ran here in 1979 and contended for the title often in the 1980s.
"I was this close to winning it a couple of times," said Bottomley, his thumb and index finger almost touching. On Wednesday, Bottomley stayed with Eastman and Even, and there was hope.
"I was running with these two young guys," Bottomley said, "and I was thinking, 'hey I have a chance.' Then they beat me by 35 seconds the last half."

Even, 23, of Stoneham, just completed a stellar senior track season at the University of Southern Maine – named Little East Conference male track athlete of the year and placing 17th in the 1,500 meters in the NCAA Division III nationals.
Eastman, who attends Fryeburg although he lives in Chatham, N.H., has won the past two Maine Class B high school cross country championships.

On Wednesday, Eastman pulled away as they went downhill with a mile to go.
"Silas is made for cross country running," Even said. "I'm made for the track. Whenever we get into a battle like this, whenever we open it up on downhills and stuff, I'm always at a disadvantage.

"He's extremely talented. And he's a great guy. I'm never upset losing to him."
Eastman called it "a nice run during the summer to keep your racing up, keep you in the right mind-set."

Note: Emily Ward (2000), is a Gloucester Catholic NJ Cross Country Meet of Champions Qualifier  in 1999, and  is also the winner of the first Browning Ross Bob Kupcha 5k Run in 2005 (19:09).
After an outstanding career at the University of Richmond, Emily has won a number of races and has been among the top finishers of the Broad Street Run (Philadelphia), Philadelphia Marathon Half Marathon, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (Washington DC).

Friday, June 29, 2012

Remembering Jack Pyrah Villanova Coaching Legend

The victorious Villanova 4 x 1 Mile Relay team
wearing black ribbons for Coach Jumbo Elliott at the 1981 Penn Relays.
From left: Ken Lucks, Marcus O’Sullivan (Current
Villanova Coach), Jack Pyrah, John Hunter,
Sydney Maree
 Near the shadow of the Walt Whitman Bridge in Gloucester City, NJ resides one of the best track coaches in the country. Jack Pyrah, now 87 years old, spent 26 years as Villanova assistant track coach under legendary Villanova coach Jumbo Elliott, and 26 years as Villanova’s head cross-country coach. Elliott, considered by many to be the best American distance coach of all time, coached at Villanova for 47 years before passing away in March of 1981.

Jack joined Villanova as Jumbo Elliott’s assistant track coach and head cross-country coach in the fall of 1966 after meeting Elliott in spring of 1965 on a plane on the way to a Knights of Columbus track meet in Cleveland. Jack retired from Villanova in 1991 and is now considered Villanova “coach emeritus.” Upon his retirement, Villanova presented Jack a unique gift--the offer to accompany the Villanova track or cross-country teams to any meet in the country. Jack was inducted into the Villanova Wall of Fame in 2001.

Jack didn’t know when his Uncle George took him to his first Penn Relays in 1934 at age 16, that he would attend 73 Penn Relays in a row, and that he would witness an incredible 54 Championship of America relay victories by Villanova at Penn. More importantly, that first trip to Penn started in motion a lifetime love affair with running and track and field, and a lifetime of friendships with some of the greatest track-and-field athletes of all time.

Jumbo Elliott once said of Jack, “That Pyrah has the mind of a computer when it comes to track.” A visit with Jack reveals not much has changed. Jack still retains an encyclopedic knowledge of current and past runners and of course the famous Pyrah sense of humor.

When asked how he was feeling, Jack replied, “With both hands. That joke’s 90 years old; I’m only 87.”

Jean Pyrah, Jack’s wife of 49 years, just smiles. Jack had a series of health problems in December including a heart attack. Jean acknowledges Jack’s health problems gave everyone a scare and that Jack is currently pursuing physical therapy to build up his strength. A visitor can’t help but notice the similarity between the workouts and dogged mental toughness of the world-class runners Jack coached and the way he pursues his own current physical therapy--a walking trip the length of his Gloucester City street and back and some stair repeats in his house conjure up visions of Sydney Maree, Marcus O’Sullivan, and Don Paige pushing themselves through a workout on Villanova’s track or on the hills close to campus.

Jack grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and graduated from Germantown High in 1937. He began his coaching career at Philadelphia’s Shanahan Catholic Club in 1942 in Philadelphia.

Jack coached 18 Olympians at Villanova including Eamonn Coghlan, Marty Liquori, Sydney Maree, and Villanova’s present head coach Marcus O’Sullivan. Jack stepped in and became Villanova’s head track coach in 1981 when Jumbo passed away on March 22, 1981. During his years as head coach, Villanova won three Penn Relays titles and the school’s first Big East Conference Championship. When former Olympian and Villanova alum Charlie Jenkins was hired at the end of the season, Pyrah went back to his previous coaching duties of head cross-country and assistant track coach.

“That Pyrah has heard more sad stories [from Villanova runners] than a bartender!” Jumbo Elliott said once. “He’s so nice, so understanding that some of the runners call him ‘Mother Pyrah.’” Many of Jack’s runners, now spread around the globe, keep in touch with him still. During his illness and at his birthday it’s common for Pyrah to hear from many of his former runners around the country and around the world. Jack is proof that good guys can finish first. Jack won eight IC4A and an incredible four NCAA championships (1966, 1967, 1968, and 1970) as head cross-country coach at Villanova. The 1970 title was famous because it was won after Irish runner Donal Walsh demanded that a film of the race finish be reviewed in order to prove that a Villanova runner had finished ahead of other point scorers and had been passed in the finish chute.

Larry James
When asked for his favorite Penn Relays memory, Jack recalls Larry James winning the 1968 mile relay at Penn, running a 43 quarter and beating a kid from Baylor who ran “only” a 45 second quarter mile. James, a Gold and Silver medallist at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, ran on the World Record 4 x 400 relay team (2:56.16) and later became a coach and Athletic Director at Stockton College in Pomona, NJ. http://ramscrosscountry.blogspot.com/2008/05/larry-james-mighty-burner-still-burns.html.

Marcus O'Sullivan
When asked to name his best runner Jack hesitates. “There have been so many. We’ve had guys who went on to world records and many Olympians, but I guess you’d have to put Marcus O’Sullivan and Sydney Maree at the top of the list. Marcus ran over 101 sub-4 minute miles, and 83 equivalent 1500 meter races at sub-4 minute pace. Sydney Maree from South Africa ran a 3:48 mile, a 3:29 1500 meters, and held the American record (13:01) in the 5000. Browning Ross, Villanova’s first Olympian and member of the 1948 and 1952 Olympic teams, and I met Sydney Maree his first day in America (from South Africa). He ran in a 4th of July race Browning put on in Woodbury, NJ.” Jack chuckles at the memory of a world-class runner debuting in a small, hometown race. “After the race, Browning, Sydney, and I went out to eat at a Woodbury diner,” Jack recalls. “Of course, when the waitress took our order she thought Sydney was pulling her leg when he ordered ‘passion-fruit juice’ with his meal. He said he always ordered it in South Africa but it wasn’t on the menu at the Woodbury Diner!”

Jack has also been a long-time track official in South Jersey until his recent health problems affected his mobility. Jack won’t bring it up but he has a major track meet named after him, the “Jack Pyrah Invitational,” held the first week in December at Villanova.

When Marcus O’Sullivan went on a recent recruiting trip to Kenya, he met former Villanova distance great Amos Korir. Marcus said, “Amos’s first question was ‘How is Jack doing?’” Jack was Amos’s coach at Villanova.

Another former runner, Tom Donnelly, Haverford College track and cross-country coach, was a key member of Jack’s championship teams at Villanova in the 1960s. Donnelly’s runners have earned 97 cross-country and track and field All-American awards since 1980 including 24 individual NCAA championships and an NCAA championship relay team. Tom remembered, “Jack was both loved and respected by every single athlete, male and female, who came into contact with him at Villanova. He was the soul of that program for a third of a century. In his understated way, Jack Pyrah had an enormous positive influence upon hundreds of young athletes. They and Villanova are richer for the experience.”

Jack was introduced to his wife, Jean, by Browning Ross. Jack and Jean married in 1957.

Jack said, “I told Browning it’s the best thing you’ve ever done. More important than all of those trophies you won and all of the electric cooking machines you’ve won at races over the years!” Jean recalled Browning and Jack’s long friendship. “When those two got together they could just spend hours just laughing about the smallest things.” Jack closed his eyes and smiled at the memory.

“Browning would make you laugh; he had so many great sayings. One of my favorites is when he would console one of his runners with, ‘You can’t win ’em all-- you can’t win ’em all especially if you just lost one.’

“I first saw Browning when he was a senior at Woodbury High School. He ran in the AAU championships as a high school kid against grown-ups. He was also New Jersey State Champ in the mile. I don’t think people realize just how good Browning was. Many of the area (South Jersey) high school coaches have never even heard of him.”

Jean Pyrah adds, “One of the toughest things about getting older is there are less and less people to share common memories with, things you’ve experienced together.”

(By the way, I’ve noticed that all of the Elliott/Pyrah products who have gone on to coaching--Browning Ross, Larry James, Tom Donnelly, and Marcus O’Sullivan to name a few--share the Elliott/Pyrah characteristics of a sense of humor and common sense approach to training, and an unsurpassed knowledge and love of running.)
On a personal note, over the years Jack has been an enormous help to me in my own coaching career at Gloucester Catholic.

With his easy-going nature, sense of humor, friendship, and expert knowledge of the sport, Jack is a great person to compare notes with and has been a huge help to me. He has even helped me brainstorm trying to think of ways to get more kids out for the cross-country team in years when numbers were small for either the boys’ or girls’ teams. To meet Jack Pyrah is to understand why so many runners--from Olympian Jim Ryun, to his Villanova greats, to local high school runners--make a beeline to talk to him when they see him.
Villanova Track Secretary Ilene Lee sums it up: “Jack is just a treasure.”

Jack Pyrah held the title of “assistant emeritus” at Villanova University after his retirement from coaching. He joined his colleague Jumbo Elliot, in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country National Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006. Jack passed away in July of 2007 and is missed by all who knew him.
This article was written by Jack Heath and previously appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine http://www.runnersgazette.com

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coconut Water for Hydration

Coconut Water is high in potassium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium, and has been used by The Pittsburgh Penguins and other NHL teams for hydration for at least the last four years in addition to he  other more common hydration drinks  like Powerade and Gatorade  because it has 15 times the potassium of those common sports drinks. In February 2010, Madonna,  invested $1.5 million in  Brazilian Vita Coco coconut water after discovering its hydration benefits on her last world tour.
Recently Pepsi announced it will sell its own version of coconut water called "Naked Coconut Water".  Coconut water is high in Vitamin C, contains no cholesterol and has no added high fructose corn syrup-- it's only ingredient is natural coconut water, or as it's ads say "just coconut and a straw.
  The Gloucester Catholic Cross Country Team has been using coconut water for the past few seasons. The team seems to liker the pineapple and mango versions of coconut water the best. Coconut water contains more potassium than two bananas (to prevent cramping) and it tastes great which aids in hydration, and it also contains much less sodium than the usual sports drinks.
Coconut waters two major drawbacks have been availability and cost.
 Now that coconut water is getting some press, it is also easier to find in our local stores. Recently we've been able to find it in many of the supermarkets in Southern New Jersey for the first time.
 Hopefully with a variety of sources of coconut water becoming more prevalent, and with the Material Girls financial muscle behind it, Coconut waters cost will drop as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Billy Mills 1964 Gold Medal Winner 10,000 Meters

With the 2012 London Olympic Summer Games approaching (opening ceremonies July 27), it is impressive to note that Billy Mills  is still the only American to ever win the Olympic 10,000 meters.

US 10,000 Meter Gold Medalist Billy Mills (1964)

Mills a native American and US Marine is a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, was a tremendous underdog in 1964.
His victory in the 1964 Tokyo Games, included a thrilling finish and a new the world record (28.24.4) in
the 10, 000 meters.

and his incredible life story-- making the US Olympic Team against huge odds, captivated the world.
Mills story was later told in the movie Running Brave, which has served as an inspiration and motivation for the millions who have watched around the world. 

Billy Mills today working with Indian Youth

Billy is still active-- he travels over 300 days a year giving motivational talks throughout the country, he still runs for fun,  and works with Indian youth http://www.indianyouth.org/ 
Billy visits American Indian communities throughout the U.S. and speaks to American Indian youth about healthy lifestyles and taking pride in their heritage.

Billy has been married to his wife Pat for over 45 years, and Billy and Pat have 3 daughters and granddaughters.

Billy has also written an inspirational book with Nicholas Sparks called "Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Understanding."

Billy recently took the time to wish the Gloucester Catholic Cross Country Team good luck and to "remember to find your passion and follow your dreams" advice he followed to win the only American 10,000 meter gold medal and provide a life of service that continues to positively impact thousands of American youth.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Browning Ross

Ross winning 1 of his 10 Berwick 10 mile races.
He was Gloucester County’s only two-time Olympian. A close friend and fellow distance runner, Tom Osler, lionized him as “The father of distance running in the United States.” He is mentioned in the autobiography of Roger Bannister, the world’s first sub-4 minute miler. When he died of a heart attack, April 27, 1998, after his daily three-mile run near his Woodbury home, the New York Times devoted 20 inches to his obituary.

And while the hearse was delivering legendary Browning Ross to his final resting place, members of the Gloucester Catholic High School track team he coached so proudly jogged alongside in a tear-provoking, gut-wrenching tribute.

Villanova Olympian Ross

Ross, one of Gloucester County's most accomplished athletes in history, a will-o-the-wisp running machine from Woodbury High and Villanova who represented his country in the London and Helsinki Olympics and raced competitively around the globe, would be 87 years old.

So not everyone remembers the man or his bigger-than-life persona.
But Jack Heath remembers. And he is determined to not let others forget.

Heath, a Bellmawr resident who coached with Ross, was a member of his Ram teams, and considers him the most important person in his life next to his parents, is gathering data for a book about Browning he hopes to complete and publish this year.

“I never would have coached without Browning’s influence and encouragement,” says Heath, Gloucester Catholic’s cross-country coach for nearly 30 years. “I want kids to be able to go to the library to read the book and discover how important he was to running. Few people around here know what he accomplished. I also want to convey what kind of person he was. His story is long overdue.”

     Heath, whose full-time job is in computer technology with the Social Security Administration and who was GC’s first computer classroom instructor, met Ross at Gloucester Catholic in 1974 when Ross was coaching at the school for one of three stints spanning three decades.
     Heath came out for spring track wearing baseball spikes, set on trying out for jumping events.
“Ross told me, ‘Jack, try the mile.’ I ran a 5:30. He said, ‘You’re gonna be a good distance runner.’ So after that, I ran the mile, two-mile, and steeplechase.”

Heath graduated from Gloucester Catholic in 1977, after establishing the school’s two-mile record and becoming the first Ram to qualify for the state Meet of Champions, and his path would cross Ross’ on almost a daily basis for the next 21 years via competition and coaching.

Says Heath, “Many coaches treat kids like kids, but Browning treated you like you were a real person. One of his coaching strengths was how nice and how generous a person he was.

Tom Osler: Ross was the Father of US Distance Running
“He was humble. But he was a great coach who was ahead of his time. "
"There is a recent New York Times bestselling book ‘Born to Run' that talks about the benefits of barefoot running-- Ross sometimes had his Ram runners working out barefoot because he said your feet could become atrophied in running shoes." So Heath once raced and won a shoeless half-mile race in a Moorestown Friends track meet.

 "He knew what worked. He was ‘sane’ with his training,  he advocated running 40 miles a week as the minimum needed to reach your potential.”
 Heath has enough Ross memories to fill several chapters in his book.

Once, when he was running for Glassboro State College, Heath was asked by Ross to help him coach Gloucester Catholic.

“I’ll be by to pick you up at 3,” Ross told him. “I told him I wasn't interested in coaching. He ignored me and then said 'how about 3:30?' I thought he was kidding. But he picked me up, right at 3:30 ... and I became his assistant and have been coaching at Gloucester Catholic ever since.”

Heath says Browning told him he “struggled with French” at WHS but his teacher gave him a good grade, figuring he’d never have to use the language again. “He got a kick out of mailing her a postcard from Normandy when he was serving in World War II.”
 Ross ran in the steeplechase in the 1948 London Olympics, placing seventh (Boston Marathon champion John Kelley was his roommate), and was 12th in his steeplechase heat in 1952 at Helsinki, failing to make the finals because of an upset stomach. In the 1951 British Games he placed fifth to Roger Bannister’s mile victory and received a mention in Bannister’s book "The Four Minute Mile".

Ross after winning Vestal run, Binghamton, NY
 “He had great speed and won races at varying distances all over the country,” Heath says. “I think Browning’s best distance was 10 miles. He won the Berwick, Pa. 10-miler 10 times.”
There were countless Ross accomplishments besides being a 2 time US Olympian, he was a  high school (Woodrow Wilson and Gloucester Catholic) and college (Rutgers, Camden) coach; coach of the first US world cross-country team; started the first US national runners’ club (RRCA) and put on thousands of track and road races; published the first nationwide runners’ magazine (The Long Distance Log a precursor to Runners World which he mailed himself) and member of the US Long Distance Hall of Fame.
     Heath was scheduled to coach with Ross in a meet against Williamstown the day after Ross died.
Browning Ross officiating at Woodbury Relays
“I talked to him almost every day,” Heath says. “When the phone rang that day with the news he had died, I thought it was him calling about the meet. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had. The whole running community felt the same way. To me, running just didn’t feel the same; running and racing just hasn’t been as much fun for many of us who knew him. "

“But Browning’s greatest accomplishment was being a good father. He was a great family man (wife Sis, son Barry, daughters Bonnie and Barbara).”

The late Sis Ross once said of her husband, “No one loved running as much as Browning.”

Jack Heath will offer additional proof.

Written by: Bob Shryock Gloucester County Times http://www.nj.com/gloucester/

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jim Plant To The Rescue

"One man with belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests"John Stuart Mill

Jim Plant knew something was wrong. The former Gloucester Catholic track and cross country standout, and 1978 graduate could tell the water in his Pompano Beach Florida stand was polluted even though the beach flags said "all clear" to swim.
Plant, a full time Life Guard who had saved numerous people in the surf, knew the water contained enough bacteria to make swimmers seriously sick no matter what the flags or tests said. He knew the water.
Plant investigated with the same tenacity that made him an outstanding runner at Gloucester Catholic and Stockton College. He found out that bacteria levels in the water were ten times the safe limit. He also found out that the EPA had changed the rules in 2003 making it easier to discharge waste into the water.

South Jersey Running Legends Jim Plant and Jamie Bagley
Plant fought to make changes in the discharge process and also to close the beaches when the water was unsafe. The beaches were only being closed when the water levels were unsafe for 3 days in a row. There was a lot of tourist money at stake. Plant knew it only took one day of swimming in the unsafe surf to make someone very sick.

At first there were repercussions-- attempts to force Plant
off his job, lawyers refusing to take his case. At one point
Plant even got sick from working in the water. But Plant refused to be intimidated.

Through Plant's hard work and his one man crusade, things eventually started to turn around.
Plant appeared on NPR to talk about the water quality to millions of listeners. The feedback was quick and loud.
The opposing side suddenly was not as intimidating, not as threatening when the public became aware of how bad the water really was-- how dangerous it was to do a wholesome activity-- swim in the surf with your family.

Thanks to Plants efforts, the water is now tested daily by the Pompano high school science classes and results are posted online for all to see http://www.surfrider.org/broward/

Plant has been a successful runner, a professional musician with two CD's released and an award winning life guard, but his greatest contribution may have been having the courage to do the right thing against the odds, and to fight to make sure that the ocean where he lives and works is safe for everyone.
         Update: Jim Plant's latest CD has been remastered and is available on itunes and Amazon:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Iron man John Glazer South Jersey Running Pioneer

 Winner John Glazer on left, 1928

"Glazer Blazes Way to Victory by Displaying Grit and Fleetness of Foot in Camden YMCA Run" Headline November 1, 1928Did you ever wonder what it was like to be a runner before the “running boom”?
How about 50 years before the running boom? South Jersey native John Glazer was a runner from 1922 until the late 1960’s and kept detailed scrapbooks of all his races during those years. The scrapbooks are a time capsule giving a detailed, up close look into what it was like to live and run in Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia during this period. The scrapbooks also chronicle John Glazer’s feat of running in the biggest and best race in South Jersey at the time-- the Camden YMCA 4.7 mile street run 43 years in a row.
The scrapbooks are a time capsule, giving an intimate look at what it was like to be a runner before the depression, through the depression, through World War II, and into the fifties and sixties. The pictures and articles in the scrapbooks make the era come alive. It was a time of home made race numbers, thin soled training shoes, and eating steak before a race. It was a time when automobiles and trolleys were plentiful but were not yet in sole posession of the road. Horses still did much of the local deliveries. It was a time of ferries, not bridges crossing the Delaware River from Camden to Philadelphia. It was a time when runners often trained in parks or inside on tracks but rarely shared the road with cars—except for races. The scrapbooks show big turnouts of runners often up to a hundred-- for the steady circuit of races which were often put on by running clubs that were often affiliated with churches. John Glazer ran for the Nativity Catholic Club in Philadelphia. Shanahan Catholic Club was another competing club which featured a huge clubhouse with a pool, located near Fairmount Park. Villanova Coaching great Jack Pyrah got his start coaching the Shanahan Catholic Club.
Despite a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge he dropped out of school at age 14 to support his family. Young John Glazer at 22 in 1925
John’s trade was making wire baskets and racks which were in demand by hospitals and laboratories. John started a company called “Specialty Wire Works” which was headquartered in his future father in laws basement in Camden NJ.
John married Cecelia in September 1928. Despite never studying fractions in school, John was able to develop a system to make the iron racks to exacting specifications for the medical profession. For relaxation he would turn to wrestling, gymnastics (placing 3rd in the New Jersey State Championships in the parallel bars in 1925) and of course running.
Rita Desher, one of John’s 2 daughters remembers: “Dad loved running and was very dedicated to the sport. We couldn’t see the attraction at the time. We would go with him to a race and not see him for another half hour, often waiting in the cold for him to come back, but he really loved it. Some of the races were even held on Christmas Day.”
Glazer would run two or three times a week usually from three to six miles at a time. Sometimes he would run up to 81 laps on the indoor Camden Y track to get in his six miles. He ran year round despite a physically demanding job with long hours. Born Philip Glazer, he decided to go by the name John because “it sounded tougher than Philip” notes his son-in-law Lowell Desher.” His toughness was already evident in the physical requirements of his job and his ability to train for his beloved YMCA race despite long hours of demanding work.

Here’s what was happening in 1922 when John Glazer began to run:
  • Insulin is used for the first time.
  • Ireland becomes an independent country from England.
  • The Soviet Union is recognized as a country.
  • Readers Digest Magazine first published.
  • Marconi begins regular radio transmissions and WIP becomes the first Philadelphia radio station.
  • Egypt granted independence from England and King Tut discovered.
  • And Camden was the headquarters of the Victor Talking Machine Company—(later to become RCA) home of the first recording studio and first color television produced.

The distance running scene however, was far from new. In 1922 Paavo Nurmi had just set 3 world records in distances up to 5000 meters and Clarence DeMar won the 26th Boston Marathon in 2:18. Some of the local races in the Philadelphia area attracted up to 25,000 spectactors.
Twenty year old John Glazer, ran his first race-- a five mile Christmas Day “marathon” in Camden December 25, 1922. John won a sweater donated by the East Side Youth Association for his seventh place finish. The Courier Post describes the race: “Many of the boys were forced to pick there way through a maze of trolley cars and autos at the finish.”John also started his string of 40 straight Camden Y runs in the inaugural Camden YMCA race on December 1, 1923 when he was 20 years old. John would go on to run 43 of the first 45 races held from 1923 through 1966.

1928 would be an especially good year for the 25 year old John Glazer. Besides getting married, he was also arguably one of the best runners in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area that year.
He won the 1928 Camden Y race in 28:19. The headline in the Courier Post, South Jersey’s major newspaper: “John Glazer Triumphs in Annual “Y” Street Run. “Here are a couple of more wedding presents dear.” With these words John Glazer, Camden’s youthful runner presented to his bride of a month two handsome silver trophies, spoils of victory for this feat in outclassing a big field to win the annual Camden Street Run Saturday.” John Glazer finishes 30th consecutive Y race
The same day the Philadelphia Bulletin headline read: Glazer blazes way to victory by displaying grit and fleetness of foot in Camden YMCA Run.” The article detailed how Glazer had overcome a side stitch to maintain his lead to the finish.

It may be surprising that almost all of the races at the time were handicapped runs where runners started at different intervals or “handicaps”—the fastest runner started from “scratch”. The handicaps were determined by judges before the race, and often published in the newspapers the day before the race.
Tom Osler recalls: “Browning Ross started the Road Runners Club of America in 1957. During those years almost all the road races in this area were handicaps. Once the RRC was formed and could hold its own races under the umbrella of the AAU, this changed. Quickly, only a few handicaps remained.”
Ironically Browning Ross would keep the handicapped races alive once they “disappeared” by hosting a few every year. Also surprising, since there were no age group awards in the pre-running boom years, few of the race clippings mention a runners age. Most of the races featured a mandatory doctor’s pre-race examination by on site doctors. You had to pass the physical before being cleared to start. The winner of one race failed two doctors examinations, before passing the third exam, getting permission to run and then going on to win the race—reminiscent of Clarence DeMar losing six prime years of his career due to a failed physical examination.
John Glazer now focused primarily on running as his sport and continued to garner a number of headlines:
March 4, 1929: “John Glazer finishes second to John Zach by inches in six mile Shanahan Run. Glazer runs 35:30. John Kelly was leading when he collapsed a few feet from the finish line and was disqualified for being carried across the line by friendly hands.”
Glazer continued to place high in a number of races through the 1930’s and he continued to run and finish the YMCA run every year for 40 years. He ran through the depression, and through the birth of his two daughters Rita and Constance. He continued to run while helping to put his brother Jess through medical school. He kept the streak going through World War II and began to become known for the streak in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He kept the streak going through the birth of his grandchildren. Rita Desher remembers: “While I was in the hospital for the birth of our son Greg, dad ran right by the hospital in the race. I could see the race from the window and I told baby Greg “your grandfather is running by!””
John and his family moved to nearby Gloucester, New Jersey in 1955. By this point he was so associated with the Y Race the local papers ran two race stories each year—one profiling him the day before the race and one with the race results and his finish the following day. During this time he donated the winners trophy each year. In 1963 he missed his first Y race after 45 consecutive races due to injury. He ran the 42 and 43rd Y races and his final race in 1967. By this time John was known for the streak and for finishing the race every year. In 1968 John had right hip surgery and it ended his running career. He turned to swimming, but always missed running.
I met John in the 1970’s when he was in his 70’s through his grandson Drew Desher (son of Rita and Lowell), a teammate at Gloucester Catholic. He was swimming a mile a day in the Camden YMCA, where he was a lifetime member and was in robust health. In the early 1980’s his beloved Camden Y race moved to nearby Cooper River. John Glazer, now in his 80’s accompanied us to what turned out to be the final Camden YMCA race. On the way to the race I was struck by his great sense of humor, his vitality health and by how much he still missed running. His son-in- law Lowell Desher reflects that John Glazer was the most remarkable man he had ever met.John Glazer finishes 43rd straight Camden Y race
On June 24, 1997 John Glazer passed away at the age of 94.
Doctors remarked that despite having a heart attack he was still in tremendous condition because of all of his years of running and swimming he had the cardiovascular system of a much younger man.

A 1948 Courier Post article was prescient when it stated:“One wonders why
he continually keeps at it, but as Johnny says, it’s in the blood and he just likes to run. He has no intention of ever giving up the sport—just when it becomes necessary for his health.”

John Glazer, one of the pioneers of south jersey running never really gave up the sport he loved. He was able to pursue his love of running and through his sponsorship and involvement in the local running scene runners like Dave Williams and Browning Ross were able to follow in his footsteps and influence another generation of runners.
- A film of John Glazer finishing the YMCA race in 1956 and archived versions of his fabulous scrapbooks are available at the Gloucester Catholic Cross Country Website: http://home.comcast.net/~coachheath
- John’s beloved Camden YMCA closed down in 2008.
- His grandson Drew, is profiled on this blog in the 1976 Gloucester Catholic Cross Country team article.
Written by Jack Heath for Runners Gazette Magazine http://www.runnersgazette.com/