Monday, August 22, 2016

Usain Bolt The Greatest Sprinter of All Time Has A Strong Foundation

Usain Bolt, the worlds fastest man, and arguably the most recognizable athlete in the world, cemented his legacy as the fastest man of all time in the 2016 Summer Rio Olympics by virtue of becoming the first man to win triple Gold Medals at three consecutive Olympic Games in the 100, 200 meters and 4 x 100 relay.

Before each of his races Bolt, a Catholic, makes the sign of the cross and gently smoothes the Miraculous Medal around his neck.
 The medal contains an image of the Blessed Mother and  The Miraculous Medal features an inscription invoking the prayerful intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus with these French words: “O, Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous” (“O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”). 

Miraculous Medal

Usain also bears the middle name of St. Leo the Brave, the Pope who was known for his courage in persuading Attila the Hun to turn back at the gates of the Vatican and then in talking the Vandals out of desecrating Rome.

In August of 2012, in the days following Bolt’s participation in the London Olympics, the Catholic News Agency reported that the “Vatican invited Usain Bolt to address their religious liberty conference.” 

He has been known to tweet:
 "With God anything is possible… I demolish training today" #thankuGod 

Here is a great video about Usain and his family and growing up in his home town of Sherwood Content, Trelawny, Jamaica.

Usain was also the executive producer of an excellent Gatorade ad "The Boy Who Learned to Fly":

A great video on how Usain is helping his hometown:

Posted by Coach Jack Heath

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Great Oscar Moore

Oscar Moore running on the Rowan/Glassboro NJ track“Oscar Moore is the smoothest runner I’ve ever seen.” Browning Ross (1948 and 1952 Olympian who ran with Roger Bannister, and saw possibly every great runner from the 1940’s to the late 1990’s)

Oscar Moore has had one of the greatest distance running and coaching careers in the history of US Track and Field. Besides being a smooth runner, Moore now 72 and living in Glassboro NJ is also one of the humblest and “smoothest” people you could meet. His modesty belies the scope of his achievements. It’s up to others to tell his story. Among his accomplishments: National class runner with a wide range of US championships from the mile to the marathon, 1964 US Olympian, Record setting Masters Runner and Hall of Fame Coach at Glassboro/Rowan University in Glassboro NJ. Others who have never seen him run know him as Mr. Moore, a teacher and director of recreation for Rowan University who has directed physical fitness opportunities at the college for thousands of people, especially students and senior citizens. We recently sat down to talk to Coach Moore about his storied life and accomplishments.

How did you get your start? “My friend and I were seniors at White Plains (New York) High School and we were wondering how we could earn a varsity letter before we graduated. I said how about football? My friend was a big guy and he said “no, I can’t play football, my mom won’t let me.” We had a super basketball team so we knew we would only be able to make JV. The only thing left was track. So we decided to go out for track. He threw the shot and the coach asked me what I wanted to run. I wasn’t sure. He said do you want to be a sprinter? I said no, those guys look too fast. So he said OK, we’ll put you in the half mile. They put me in the 800 and we would always take one- two. I would come in second, I ran 2:12 and the other guy on the team ran 2:11. The guy that would beat me would always be bent over, throwing up. I thought “This race is not for me because I don’t feel that way, I don’t feel too bad, I must not be doing this right!” I thought I was supposed to be doing the same thing as him but I was walking around after the race feeling fresh. I didn’t want to pass him during the race because he was an upper classman and had been out for the team.

The coach said would you like to run the mile? I was sitting in the stands and it didn’t look too fast, so I said ok. They put me in the mile and I ran a 4:45 in the mile in my first race and broke the school record and qualified for the state meet. I was entered in the state meet but stopped with my friend, a shot putter for lunch on the way. He bought a hoagie with lettuce, tomatoes mayonnaise and a Pepsi. I said give me the same with a 7 up. I started the race and the coach was yelling stay with the leader, but two laps into it my stomach felt lousy. I finished third. The coach asked me “What happened”? I told him what happened but I thought the coach should have told me more about what to eat before the race or what type of shoes to wear. I wore inch and a half spikes with no heel for the races. I didn’t know any better. I got shin splints in both legs and didn’t know what they were. I had to walk so slow I’d always be late for class and have to tell the teacher “my legs hurt”. But once I got to practice I’d be ready to go. The coach had me doing 20 quarters (five miles), sprinting the straight-aways by myself. Then at the end of the season at the varsity letter awards ceremony the coach got up and talked about one runner for five minutes. I was wondering who he was talking about, and then at the end he said “and that’s Oscar Moore”. Everyone at the assembly was looking around saying “Who’s that?”

My cousin (1968 Olympian) Larry James and Craig Masbach also graduated from White Plains High. Larry was younger than me, he used to come to my house when he was little and look at my trophies and say “I’m going to be a runner some day.” He went to Villanova to run intermediate hurdles and then switched over to the 400 and of course made the Olympics in 1968. Larry was 10 years younger than me, and we were sad that he passed away in 2008. No one from his family ran, and no one from my family ran, but we both made the Olympic team.”


“My senior year of high school I joined the Marine Corps reserves. When I graduated I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, what school to go to. I didn’t have a scholarship but I was interested in the military because my father was in the Merchant Marines. Everyone said I was too small for the Marines, that I would never make it. I took that as a challenge and joined the marines. I didn’t have time to run in basic training, but when we would do the obstacle course I would always win. The drill instructor would say “Moore, you better not pass me!” as I ran by. Then when we would do judo he would say “Moore, run at me like you are going to stab me.” Like a dummy I would, and he would send me flying. I was little and he felt good throwing me all around. The next day we’d be on that obstacle course and I’d kill him again. You had to run, crawl under barbed wire and jump over a big wall, when I’d get done I’d help some of the older guys finish the course. Once I finished boot camp and was stationed on the west coast I started jogging again. I was stationed in Japan for 15 months and won an all armed forces mile race. I was the only Marine to win so they gave me a three day pass. Then the Navy said “Marine, why don’t you run on our relay, we need a miler.” We got second, and I just kept training.”

New York Pioneers

“I came back to the states and moved back to New York City and I ran against Vic Zwolak (1963 NCAA Steeplechase champion) and Alex Breckenridge (both from Villanova) and did well.

I joined the Pioneers and trained with them for six months before one of the Pioneers asked me what race I’d like to do. I told them I’d like to be a miler. They said, “OK. Well there’s a race this weekend—a ten miler.” I ran it and won it. I hadn’t run ten miles before; I was averaging about 20 miles a week. The good guys in the club like Olympians Ted Corbitt and Gordon McKenzie weren’t there; they were in Pennsylvania running the Berwick (PA) race. After I won the Pioneers coach asked me “how come you weren’t with the other top runners at Berwick?” I didn’t know them, hadn’t even met them yet; I had been training with the sprinters in the Armory running speed work and half miles. Then I met Ted Corbitt and the other top Pioneer runners two races later. Gordon McKenzie would beat me in the six mile races, I would come in second and Ted would win the half marathons. Ted talked me into running my first marathon. In December of 1964 he said I’ll run with you to step you through it. During the race he told me to get up with the leaders, that he and the other Pioneers were only doing a 20k workout. I passed the leaders and won easily in a light snowfall.

Sometimes Ted would run around the Island of Manhattan-- thirty five miles. I went with him one time. It was a beautiful run starting at Yankee Stadium-- where a lot of road races would start because you could use the showers, passing the Polo Grounds, the Statue of Liberty. I made it about 25 miles, near the United Nations and I ran out of gas. I had to call my sister for a ride; I didn’t want to get a cab because I was in my running shorts. We would also run up the steps of the Empire State Building once a month, now they have a race there. I remember passing Muhammad Ali training, running the other way at the reservoir in Central Park for a while very morning. He had a big entourage and you couldn’t get close to him, but he would wave and say “Hey brother!” I would wave and say “Hey brother!” back.

“When I was training for the Olympics, I was working for a Jewelry company in mid Manhattan and I had a pretty important position. I was working almost ten or more hours a day--mostly standing on my feet all day. I would train sometimes at 10 or 11 at night, and 5am in the morning. (Playboy Magazine had written an article on me and mentioned the fact that I lost my job in trying to train for the Olympics). Arnold Bakers heard what happened and told me not to worry-- that when I returned home from the Olympics, that they had a job waiting for me. I saved the magazine”

1964 Olympics

In 1963 Moore also competed for the U.S. track team vs. Russia and the U.S. vs. British Commonwealth Games. He ran at the 1964 National AAU Championships and finished third in the 10,000 meters and sixth in the 5,000 meters.

“I qualified for the Olympic team 5000 at Rutgers (NJ). I had met the qualifying time in both the 5,000 and 10,000. In the 10,000 qualifying race, I was in the lead at 5000 meters and heard the time of 13:40, near my best time for an open 5000. For some reason when I heard the time, I mentally decided to drop out of the race. My coach asked me to try to qualify for the 5000 next. In the 5000, I needed to cut about 15 seconds off to make the team and I did. Ted Corbitt scolded me for not trying to also qualify in the marathon. I didn’t know anything about the qualifying race, when or where it was. I didn’t expect to qualify in the 10k and had only brought an overnight bag. They told me to go home and pack some clothes to come back to train with the Olympic team in the Coliseum in Los Angeles. We were there a whole month training with no meets. We did get to meet the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis) though. We spent a week in LA, they gave us shots, dental work, (they thought cavities would affect your muscles), and an EKG. I found out I had a heart murmur and a pulse of 38. Then we went overseas for three weeks more of training. The Olympic coach didn’t correspond with me and with all that time on my hands and I over-trained. (Oscar finished 8th in 14:24 in the 1964 Olympic 5000 meters in Tokyo).

Southern Illinois University

After the Marines, Oscar accepted a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University. “The track coach at SIU, Lew Hartzog had a big Texas drawl, and he came to my neighborhood in Harlem to recruit me. I had beaten some collegiate mile champions in a New York road race in Yonkers to get his interest.”

“At SIU I raced Jim Ryun in a dual meet. He beat me by two seconds in the mile. I had a quick recovery so I was ready to go quickly after the race and was able to beat him in the 3 mile. You’re more relaxed in that second race when you double.” Note: Oscar Moore still holds the Southern Illinois school record in the indoor 3,000 meters (7:59.98) and 5,000 meters (13:51.20) and the outdoor 5,000 meters (13:51.20). He is fifth all-time in the 10,000 meters (29:27.77). During his career, he set new Drake, Kansas, Texas and Florida Relay marks and earned All-America honors six times. He ran the two, three and six mile events, in addition to the 5,000 meters. He won NCAA titles in 1967 and ran the third fastest three mile ever indoors, an astonishing feat considering SIU’s lack of an indoor training facility.

“Before the 1968 Olympic trials I was in great shape and ran the Sugar Bowl Meet in New Orleans. I had won the 3 mile there the year before. I hurt my Achilles tendon before the race, led for the first mile and then my Achilles tendon swelled up to the size of my calf right after the race. The coach told me to get a shot of cortisone for it-- that was my biggest mistake. I kept training and got another shot of cortisone hoping the running would reduce the swelling. Finally I had to get it operated on and they had to cut through the scar tissue (from running on it). My one tendon was shorter and they told me I wouldn’t run again. I had special shoes with the backs cut out and I started to run again. I had to start from scratch-- one mile and slowly building up, stopping when it hurt. I had one more year of eligibility and I won my first race (a 6 mile) and I showed the clipping to the doctor who said I’d never be able to run again.” Because of his Achilles, Oscar did not attempt to qualify for the 1968 Olympics. His cousin Larry James of course earned a silver medal in the 400 and a gold medal on the record setting 4 x 400 relay team in the 1968 games.
 Oscar: “I remember training at altitude in the Olympic altitude training camp in Colorado with Gerry Lindgren; we were the only two to double in the national championships. I loved running through the desert at altitude, watching the jack rabbits. We would put socks over our shoes and run up mile and a half sand dunes created by the glaciers below the mountains. It was great time having nothing to do but train and I got my mileage up to 80-90 per week. When I would run on the campus of Southern Illinois University people would ask me where the race was. After warming up with the first mile of the run I would run hard. The hard pace worked my heart and enabled me to recover quickly.”
Gerry Lindgren remembers: “In 1968 at the altitude training camp up at Echo Summit, they were doing testing on the athletes. I went in with Oscar and they took our pulse rate at the same time. His resting heart rate was like 36 beats a minute. I teased him, "Oscar, I bet your mom has to come in to your room in the middle of the night to wake you up because it is time for your heartbeat!"”

“Coach” Moore

“I met Bill Fritz when he was a graduate student and assistant coach at Southern Illinois, and I was a fifth year student going for my masters. I didn’t go home over the summer; I stayed at Southern Illinois and trained. We became friends and I baby sat for him and he’d have me over his house for dinner. Fritz was also a good runner. He got an offer to come to Glassboro as a professor and cross country coach. Glassboro didn’t have a track program. I had just finished running ten miles when I saw Fritz had come back to Southern in his little Volkswagen. He hollered out the window “Oscar do you have a job yet?” I was waiting for Winter Haven Florida College to get back to me, and I was also waiting for Saginaw, Michigan to get back to me. I was trained to be a city recreation administrator for a city and I was hoping to do that in Saginaw, but I hadn’t heard from them yet. Fritz said “Glassboro is looking for a track coach to start a track program”. I sent out a resume that night and got a call for an interview for a job as teacher and director of recreation within the health and Phys Ed department. After the interview, before I got back to Southern Illinois, I got a call that I had gotten the job so I turned around to come back. When I got to New Jersey they told me I had an 11:00 clock class the next day. I got lost on the way to Glassboro and spent the night in a flimsy hotel in Williamstown NJ before making it to Glassboro to teach the class the next day.

Fritz had long beautiful hair and I had a little afro. The president of the college put his arms around us and said “So when are you two guys going to get a haircut?” We never did.

So we started coaching together in 1971 when I assisted him with cross country. The Glassboro/Rowan track team started racing in 1972.”

Under Oscar Moore the Glassboro/ Rowan teams competed at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships for 20 straight years, and captured five straight national titles from 1980-84. The men’s team also took second place in 1978 and 1979. The 1982 NCAA championship team still holds the record for most points (119) scored at the NCAA Championship. The five national outdoor crowns is the third most in Division III history.

Oscar Moore at USTFCCCA Hall of Fame induction, Photo courtesy Image of Sport
His teams won the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship 19 straight years. Moore produced over 130 All-Americans and 24 NCAA individual champions. In addition, he had one NCAA Division I champion in the javelin and a total of five athletes that qualified for the NCAA Division I Championships. He was named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year five times (1980-84). Oscar Moore retired from coaching in 1993. Oscar Moore was been selected to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Hall of Fame in 2009. Oscar continued to race well a as a master into his 50’s winning a number of national masters championships and setting records from the mile to the half marathon (Philadelphia Distance Run). In his fifties he retired from competition after losing his desire to train hard and race. He was involved in a car accident in 2002 returning from a class that had been cancelled because of snow. As a result of the accident and developing cataracts he has lost all of the vision in one eye and has only limited vision in another. He is an ordained minister, is still an adjunct professor at Rowan and still does a bit of running when traffic is light, on the roads close to his home or on the track.

On Oscar

Tom Osler Rowan Professor, running author and AAU Champion: “Oscar is a beautiful man with a big heart. I would also agree with Browning that he is the smoothest runner I’ve ever seen.
Ted Corbitt always referred to him as “the great Oscar Moore”. When training with him I would pick up the pace to below six mile pace and I would look over at Oscar and he would look totally relaxed and he would easily respond, and wouldn’t even break a sweat at the faster pace.

Oscar Moore accepting award at Van Cortland  Park, New York city in the 1960's, Photo courtesy Gary Corbitt
In the 70’s one of the Professors at Rowan was arrested for inappropriate conduct. It was a scandal, and we all talked about how awful it was that this guy who we had known so long had done this. Oscar was the only one that visited the man in jail and gave him some comfort. None of us even thought to do that. He is a wonderful man. Quite often when someone is very accomplished at one thing, you often find they are equally as successful at something else—Oscar was a great runner and a great coach. ”

Gary Corbitt (son of long distance running pioneer and Hall of Famer Ted Corbitt): “I had the opportunity to see Oscar Moore run quite often in the 1960’s before he entered SIU. Actually during these years there was few races track, cross-country, or road races that I missed. Two races I did miss that I always wished I had seen were races Oscar ran. The first was a Met AAU 20K championship on the MacCombs course at Yankee Stadium. Pete McArdle rarely lost a race but on this date Oscar beat Pete. I remember my father describing the battle and I still remember wishing I had been there. The second race was the 1969 NCAA Cross Country Championship at Van Cortlandt Park. I was in my first semester of college and missed this Gerry Lindgren and Steve Prefontaine match-up at Van Cortlandt. I was recently reviewing the results of this race and noted that Oscar place in the top 15 or top 20.

I remember his running form to be smooth, beautiful, and fluid. He was a special athlete to watch in action. I followed his career at SIU and his range was phenomenal as he was competitive from one mile and up. (As one of the first African American US Olympic Distance Runners) Certainly Oscar made history in 1964. I believe there was at least one black distance runner who competed in an Olympiad in the 20’s at the 5k or 10k or perhaps at cross country. The club Oscar ran for New York Pioneer Club should be noted. An integrated club started by Joe Yancey in 1936. The Pioneers predated Jackie Robinson’s integration of baseball by 10 years. Here’s a portion from a Dec 5, 1971 letter from my father to Oscar where he tried to encourage him to try for a spot on the 1972 Olympic marathon team:

“I note your One Hour run with interest. This is the sort of thing you want to include in your training and you will want to get to the point where you can run 5 minute miles for 10 miles with no undue strain. In fact, a workout which has been suggested before should be good for you. One day every so often you run 10 miles on the track in the morning in 50 minutes. Later that afternoon you run another one on the track in 50 minutes. I suggest you try this one day this month. However, this is a tough one and you might try a build up to reach the double 50 minutes (or better) series and right now try to run 5:10 a mile which would mean a 51:40 effort. The next time aim for 5:05 and then 5:00 per mile on the third attempt.
 “I was thankful to have Oscar at my father’s service to read scripture and recall some stories.”

Sid Holzer, one of Oscar’s runners at Rowan in the 1970’s: “Oscar was a great coach and is a great person. He knew how to bring out the best in us as runners and students. He would always be there to give us advice on any problems we had. He also treated all the runners the same, from the best to the worst.”

Bill Fritz and Oscar Moore at USTFCCCA Hall of Fame Induction, Photo courtesy Image of SportBill Fritz, coached with Oscar Moore for 23 years: “The first time I was acutely aware of Oscar was in the early 1960’s when he and Tracy Smith had an epic battle in the 3 mile that was on TV…I was in South Dakota at the time and coaching in high school. Then in the mid-1960’s South Dakota State University [where I was an assistant coach] had an indoor meet in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Every person in that meet was ‘billeted’ out to a Canadian family…I happened to land in Tommy Comfort’s home. He was a very rich, Scottish, publishing tycoon who loved track. His family had a huge estate and they had kept Oscar the year before. Now it was the height of a harsh Canadian winter & they were highly entertained as Oscar had shown up with a light sports coat & slacks. Being from Southern Illinois University he was NOT prepped for -30-40 degree temps with high winds blowing the snow all over. I was coming from South Dakota and I wasn’t ready for the extreme, harsh weather. Another thing the Comfort’s got a kick out of was Tommy’s thick Scottish brogue---Oscar could hardly understand Tommy [and neither could I the next year].

Then the next academic year I received a Track Graduate assistantship to SIU and Oscar was one of the world famous stars of the team-- that’s when I met Oscar for the first time face to face. He was humble, helpful and a magnificent athlete. The USOC took Oscar and others to Adams State College, CO two summers for high altitude training with a world renowned exercise physiologist [Jack Daniels]. This was in Alamosa, CO which is in a high flat valley [ 8000+ feet] with the Rockies[12,000-14,000 feet] all around them. The purpose was to prepare the distance runners for the Mexico City Olympics. Oscar adapted wonderfully and upon his return to SIU he was slaying everybody at various distances. Then tragedy struck—he stepped in a prairie dog hole on the SIU golf course while training and ruptured his Achilles tendon. Healing took a long time and then they had to operate a second time as the 1st surgery was not successful…..this caused him to miss to 1968 Olympics and a chance to run successfully with the Kenyans…..he did later comeback and made NCAA All American again.

Then we coached together from 1971 to 1993 at Glassboro State--we had so many exciting times in cross country, indoor outdoor that it is hard to pick out any one. We both remember Jack Heath, Mike Redfield, Sid Holzer and the effort those guys put forth! Oscar was just so laid back and calm during all the turmoil, chaos and excitement--he even let the guys make out the meet line- up card.a couple of the Division 1 coaches were aghast at this coaching maneuver. But it always worked to perfection. The trip we took to Orlando in Dec. 2009 when Oscar got inducted into the National Track Hall of Fame----was great. At the induction ceremony Oscar started talking and he had those 1000-1500 people entertained in a way that they were unaware of……the “O” was in his element and doing his usual great job.”
Coach Jack Daniels
Jack Daniels, world renowned coach and exercise physiologist who ran the elite USOC distance camp in Colorado : “What I remember most about Oscar Moore is how smooth a runner he was; he typically made others in any race he was in look like they were not particularly enjoying themselves, while Oscar always looked like he was having a fun time. A most memorable incident was one time on the Sand Dunes National Monument outside Alamosa, Colorado. A group of elite runners (including a few other Olympians) were subjects of mine in an altitude study and we often raced to the top of the sand dunes. This particular day we decided to have a longer race, one that started a mile up the road from the sand dunes. We ran that mile to the dunes, then up to the top and back down, back up the road to where we parked our cars and then 3 miles up to the top of Mosca Pass (about 11,000 feet of altitude). The base of the sand dunes is about 8000 feet so we were running between 8000 and 11,000 the whole time during that approximately 8-mile "race." I don't remember the specific time, but Oscar won with ease. I think it was about 1 hour 10 minutes or something like that. I know I beat one of the guys and my time was over 1 hour 20 minutes. Up and back down on the dunes was usually about 30 minutes if going really fast, so this means a time of 70 minutes left 40 minutes for the 2 miles on the road plus the 3-mile run from 8000 up to 11,000 feet (about 8:00 mile average).

Oscar was always a quiet guy who let his running speak for itself. I never got to visit with Oscar during his coaching days, but he must have been a great coach to run for. I had the impression that he would be a pretty low-key coach; someone his athletes would love to run for. He was a quiet man and I think all the runners I knew, who knew Oscar, thought highly of him. “

Ringo Adamson ran for Oscar in the 1980’s, he was a 2 time Olympian (Steeplechase), winner of the Philadelphia marathon and is presently the head women’s coach track and Cross Country Coach at Rowan and race director continuing the Browning Ross series of races: “Running for Coach Moore transformed my life. I learned from his integrity and his hard work. My freshman year I ran 9:28 and missed qualifying for the NCAA Steeplechase by less than a second. I asked him how I was going to go (provisional qualifying, rounding etc) He said “you’re not, you didn’t make it.”
I couldn’t believe it. I thought about quitting but decided to train even harder. I didn’t go home, I stayed at Glassboro during the breaks and ran every morning with Coach Moore. The next season, I was NCAA Division III steeplechase champion (Ringo then went on to be a world cross country runner and two- time Olympian). Oscar quietly fed and clothed kids in the program when they needed it. He would give you his last dollar. He taught me you have to earn everything you get-- nothing is given to you without hard work.”


Oscar Moore on Browning Ross: “I had heard a lot about Browning Ross and about his Long Distance Log magazine from Ted Corbitt. I went to meet him at his store (Sports East) and he told me about his series of races. I ran his race in the woods, in Medford NJ-- I think at “Camp Chippewa” (Ed: Camp Ockanickon). I had a big lead but got lost! Nothing was marked. At the end of the race Browning was smiling and gave out gym bags and a lot of different prizes from the trunk of his car. He was a good guy.”

1964 Olympian and HOF Coach Oscar MooreOn Tom Osler:” I used to do my long easy distance training with Tom Osler in the summer. We’d run in the woods and Tom had a ponytail and it would bob around when we would run, shooing the flies away from him, I’d have to swat them away from me. We’d run over a railroad trestle bridge over a stream and one time Tom said “What would you do if a train came up behind? There’s no room on either side”. I said “No problem, I just have to out run you!”

On Coaching: “I miss everything about coaching but the traveling. Fritz and I would drive to a meet far away and the guys would want to come back right after the race so then we’d have to drive right home. Before iPods and headphones everyone took their boom boxes on the bus to the meets. One time on the way back from a meet we had so many different types of music blasting and people arguing for the others to turn theirs off, I pulled the bus to the side of the road and said “turn them all off or hitchhike back!” the rest of the trip was quiet! I really enjoyed coaching.”

On his goals for the future: “My dream is to provide recreational opportunities at Rowan for the people in Glassboro and surrounding South Jersey— from children to the senior citizens. For example, we could transport them to use Rowans swimming pools early in the morning in the summer, before the college kids are up. “Giving someone the opportunity to swim for half an hour in the summer, it doesn’t take much and it goes a long way to providing fun and helping their fitness.”

To watch Oscar Moore running in the 1964 AAU championships:

To read Oscar Moores winning race articles from the 1960's:
To read about running against Oscar Moore as a Masters runner:

Mental Toughness for Runners

I Know Mental Toughness When I See It

Without a doubt, the most common lament I’ve heard from runners in overSalazar and Gomez, 1982 NY marathon 25 years of coaching is: “Coach, I wish I was mentally tougher out there today. I know I could have done a lot better.” Over the years I’ve heard scores of runners blame disappointing performances and not being able to reach their race goals on a perceived lack of their own mental toughness. Exactly what is “mental toughness?” I define mental toughness as the ability to use self-discipline to get the best possible physical performance from your body on that day.
I know mental toughness when I see it: Alberto Salazar pulling away from Rudolpho Gomez in a cloud of dust after 24 miles, at sub-5 minute mile pace to win the 1982 New York Marathon. Lasse Viren getting knocked down, lying motionless, and then getting up to set a world record in the 1972 Olympic 10,000 meters. Bill Rodgers winning the 1975 Boston Marathon despite stopping to tie his shoe. These are just some examples that come quickly to mind. I’ve also seen mental toughness displayed from the high school runners I coach, sometimes when least expected: A freshman girl out-kicking senior runners in her first cross-country race, or a senior boy runner running negative splits and getting his best time in hurricane-like conditions. I’ve often wondered where the mental toughness comes from to rise above the ordinary.
Shakespeare may have framed it best when he said, “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Is the Erin Donohue used mental toughness to qualify for the 2008 US Olympic Team 1500nature/nurture argument the same with mental toughness? Are runners born mentally tough or do they “have it thrust upon them”--and if so, how? First, a disclosure: Our family crest is a yellow chicken with a French inscription “Espere Mieux”. If mental toughness runs in our family it appears it may have skipped the generation when our family crest was inscribed!
Think about the races you have run where being mentally tough allowed you to rise above the pedestrian, above your perceived level of fitness to greater accomplishments. Maybe even to beat someone who you believed to be better. Wouldn’t it be great to know how to draw upon that same mental toughness at will? I decided to consult some of our all-time top runners for their views on mental toughness.
What exactly is mental toughness as it relates to running? According to Olympian and author Jeff Galloway: “The brain has two hemispheres that are separated and don’t interconnect. TheOlympian Jeff Galloway left-brain tries to steer us towards pleasure and away from discomfort. The intuitive-creative right side connects us to our hidden strengths.”
By preparing mentally for the challenges you expect, you will empower the right side of the brain to develop mental toughness. As we accumulate stress, the left-brain sends us a stream of messages telling us to “slow down,” “stop and you’ll feel better,” “this isn’t your day,” and even “why are you doing this?”
What is mental toughness?
According to 1983 Boston marathon winner Boston Marathon winner Greg Meyerand American record holder at 10 miles Greg Meyer, mental toughness is one of the most important ingredients for reaching your potential: “I believe totally that the mental makeup of a runner, both over a career and on any given day is about what you called toughness, and what another might call confidence in their expectation of the planned outcome. The belief that one is “ready to run” and is confident in their fitness, allows the athlete to appear mentally tough. Bill Rodgers running the hills through Newton was as mentally tough as anyone—from a belief in his Bill Rodgers stops to tie his shoe and still wins Boston Marathonability and his goal. When equal athletes compete, it is the one who doesn’t lose focus or waver in their belief who wins. The toughness of single-mindedness I call it.”
Bill Rodgers thinks the term “mental toughness” is “a description of how well an athlete prepares for the physical and mental challenges of their sport. I like the great Tanzanian marathoner Juma Ikangaa’s comment, ‘The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare.’” Lynn Jennings has said, “Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, like the Olympian, Cross Country Champion Lynne Jenningsmuscles of the body.”Here are 5 ways to increase your mental toughness:
, create a competitive advantage through your training. Besides the physiological improvement that comes through investing more time in training, you receive a psychological boost if you do a workout that you believe no one else is doing. Hill workouts, negative-split workouts, and short fast repeats at the end of a long run are some of the ways runners look for a competitive advantage.
Galloway believes that incorporating mile repeats and long slow runs of 30 miles in his training enabled him to beat more talented runners and make the Olympic team. Bill Rodgers: “Most of my daily runs (two a day) were at a moderate pace (6-7 minute miles for me), but I always ran by how I felt. If I felt decent I would run harder for several miles at a time. This was true for 5 to 25 mile runs. I was trying to teach my body to ‘float,’ that is run as effortlessly as possible in some training runs.”
Finally, train with other runners. Jumbo Elliott, long-time Villanova coach, was fond of saying, “Runners make runners.” The synergy of proper training with other runners in a supportive (and not overly competitive) environment can take your training to another level while enabling you to run closer to your potential.
Gerry Lindgren, considered by many to be America’s best high school runner ever, ran a 13:44 5000 meters and an 8:40 two mile in high school and beat two World Class Russian runners, Gerry LindgrenLeonid Ivanov and Anatoly Dutov to win the 10,000 meter event in the US-USSR Track Meet in Los Angeles in 1964. Lindgren used mental toughness to turn himself into a world-class runner:
“I used to do a lot of exercises to increase mental toughness. It was a game I used to play. Every time I went around a curve in training I went to the outside in training runs so I had to run further. I always had to take the hardest longest way to build mental toughness. I chased bikes. I did sprints at certain places in my training runs no matter how I felt. Every time I came to that place I had to sprint! It slowly built up my mental toughness.”
Salazar trained by running hard ¾-mile intervals at the start, middle, and end of his runs. Alberto recalls running against Rudolpho Gomez: “I actually had two races against him in New York—1980 and 1982. The 1982 race was of course the very close race. I remember being scared of his kick, so I tried to soften him up with surges over the last two miles. They worked as I only beat him by a few seconds, and if I’d waited, it might have turned out differently.” Frank Shorter, 1972 Gold medal winner marathon
Second, train your mind. Frank Shorter says, “I think simulating racing while interval training is a good way to gain mental toughness. Imagine yourself in the race situation. Then, when you are actually in it, it will seem ‘familiar.’”
I tell the Gloucester Catholic boys and girls cross-country teams I coach that mental toughness is like a muscle that grows stronger through use. Passing someone when you are tired, surging, or starting your kick at a predetermined place—all of these things build mental toughness and make you that much tougher for the next race.
Jeff Galloway recommends fartlek training as a way to enhance mental toughness. Because there are no artificial barriers on time, distance, etc, you reduce the negative messages from the left-brain when things get tough: “Fartlek develops a sense of focus and resource coordination not found in other forms of training. You’ll still get those ‘pings’ from the left side but they won’t bother you as much. Fartlek desensitizes you to the discomfort and uncertainty of pushing and pacing beyond your current limits.”
Bill Rodgers agrees: “I recall using a technique while racing of visualizing an Olympic gold medallist at 10K, who was a terrific competitor; I would emulate his running form to steady myself mentally over the final miles of a race. I think training and racing a lot makes you experienced, i.e. tough as a competitor.” Alberto Salazar Nike Coach
Salazar says “Back in the ’70s and ’80s, it was felt that one’s mental toughness, resilience, and ability to focus were God given and could not be enhanced. Now, common sense tells us that even the naturally toughest competitors can become more relaxed and more focused through the use of mental and psychological training.”
Relaxation, visualization training, and hypnotherapy are all common psychological training tools. Steve Prefontaine once said: "Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts."
Third, make sure you are really giving 100% effort. Larry James, the Olympic 400 meter gold (4x 400 relay, world record) and silver medalist from Villanova and a long-time coach and Athletic Director at Stockton College believes: “You can only give 100%. Whenever I hear The Mighty Burner, Larry Jamessomeone say they just gave 150% or 175% effort, I suspect they are usually only giving 80% effort. No one can give or ask for more than 100% effort; it’s impossible, that’s the best you can do.”
If you are able to give close to 100% effort more often than your competition, you will appear mentally tougher than your competitors. Olympian Paavo Nurmi once said: “Mind is everything—muscles pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.”Fourth, break the race or workout into segments to make it more manageable. For example, author and former AAU champion Tom Osler recommends breaking a race such as a marathon into thirds: “The first third is run easy; the second third you start to get competitive and run at a relaxed pace fast enough to catch runners in front of you. Only the last third is raced at maximum effort.” Osler was also one of the proponents of inserting walking breaks in long runs to make them more manageable.
Our high school runners are taught to start their 5K kick with about a half-mile to go, and to run against the clock. By picking a point in your race in advance where you know you will go hard you are able to embrace discomfort for a manageable amount of time and also to use the element of surprise to appear mentally tough to your competitors.
Also, by not playing it safe emotionally, you will start to perceive yourself as a tough runner. By breaking the race into segments and by concentrating on running as hard as possible in that segment you will increase your mental toughness and test the mental toughness of competitors. Gerry Lindgren would often sprint the first quarter-mile after the four-mile mark of the race Steve Prefontaine, Gerry Lindgren 1969before settling back down to race pace. Very few runners were willing to go with him at that point of the race and Lindgren was often able to break the race wide open with this tactic.
Bill Rodgers: “My friend Andy Palmer used the motto “The Mind is the Athlete” as part of the philosophy he passed on to his athletes. I see talent as physical and mental. I think everyone has the innate ability to be mentally tough; what counts is whether one has the desire to explore that to the best of their individual physical abilities.”
Fifth, use your self-discipline to know when to and when not to push yourself. Knowing that you alone decide when to push and when to hold back can relax you and enable you to ration your energy for use at the right time.
Tom Osler says “the urge to push in extreme weather conditions in pursuit of developing mental toughness is counter-productive.” Osler continues: “You can’t beat Mother Nature. You will run much better, and be able to push harder in a race if you train at the coolest part of the day for example.” Coach and author Roy Benson adds: “Mentally tough runners have the discipline to Tough runners give 100% and use the conditions to their advantagenot race in practice in order to ‘win’ the workouts. They can control their urges to run fast at the beginning of workouts or races when the running feels easy, and will not give in to the temptation to slow down when the inevitable fatigue sets in over the last one-third to one-half of the workout or race.”
Where the mind goes, the body will follow.
It turns out the inscription on our family crest translates to a useful slogan for anyone wishing to call on their own mental toughness: “Espere Mieux”--could be translated to “expect or wait for the best.” If you wait for the right moment and expect the best in each running situation that requires mental toughness, you will be much more prepared when you have your own “cloud of dust” moment. You will emerge from the other side victorious because you expected to do well based on your preparation. After all, your mind has already seen you do it before and expects nothing less.

Written by Jack Heath, originally appeared in Runners Gazette Magazine