National Distance Running Hall of Fame
Four InductedPublished July 05, 1999, in The Post-Standard.
By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Next Saturday, July 10, 1999, the National Distance Running Hall of Fame will induct four new members: Johnny Kelley, Nina Kuscsik, Billy Mills and Francie Larrieu-Smith. The induction ceremony will start at 1pm at the Masonic Home in Utica, and will be carried live on the world-wide web at http://running.syr.edu/live
Johnny Kelley ran the Boston Marathon 61 times, more than any man in history. He won Boston twice, and finished seven times in second place. Kelley’s most infamous race may have been the 1936 Boston Marathon, when Tarzan Brown overtook him at mile 21 atop the last of the Newton Hills, forever known as Heartbreak Hill. A double statue of Kelley, depicting him as a young and an older runner, commemorates that spot.
Kelley was born in Medford, MA, in 1907, the eldest of ten children. His grandparents immigrated from Ireland to Boston aboard the ship Marathon! Kelley watched his first Boston Marathon at age 13, and was inspired to run track and cross country in high school. He ran his first Boston in 1928, and won it in 1935 and 1945. Kelley also represented the USA in the Marathon in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the 1948 London Olympics.
Nina Kuscsik was the first official winner of the Boston Marathon. Her 1972 victory in 3:10:26 followed the Amateur Athletic Association’s 1971 repeal of its prohibition against women in marathons. Kuscsik also won the New York City Marathon in 1972 and 1973, the latter in 2:57:07. Following her pioneering victories, Kuscsik served on several national panels to promote women’s distance running.
Described as an attractive woman and a registered nurse, Kuscsik took up running to help her self-image after her divorce. She felt the need to prove that she was still important, and did that convincingly by beating her ex-husband by eleven minutes. At age 60, Kuscsik lives in Huntington Station, NY.
A Captain in the United States Marines, Billy Mills won the 10,000 meters gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in an Olympic record time of 28:24.4. The video footage of his dramatic last lap, in which he recovered from a stumble and came from behind to win the race, remains one of the most powerful moments in running history.
An Oglala Lakota Sioux, Mills was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Orphaned at age 12, he focused his life through running, and set numerous scholastic records. He attended the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship, and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Marine Corps upon graduation. His failure to make the 1960 Olympic team led to four years of running 100 miles per week, climaxing on the track in Tokyo. Mills carried his Olympic victory forward, dedicating his life to promoting fitness among Native American Youths.
A five-time Olympian, Francie Larrieu-Smith was a dominant force in US women’s running for four decades, during which she set 35 American records and won 21 national titles. At age 19, Larrieu-Smith ran the 1,500 meters in the Munich 1972 Olympics. She also ran the 1,500 meters in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, qualified for the Moscow Olympic team in 1980, and ran the 10,000 meters at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 1992, Larrieu-Smith ran the Olympic Marathon in Barcelona. Her teammates selected her to carry the U.S. flag during the Opening Ceremonies.
Larrieu-Smith's contributions to distance running extended beyond the track and the roads. As National Honorary Chair for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, she lent her support to the Race For The Cure, and ran many of the series races wearing the number 1 bib. Last December, Larrieu-Smith was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.
This year’s inductees bring the total membership of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame to nine. The 1998 class consisted of Ted Corbitt, Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Frank Shorter and Kathryn Switzer. The induction ceremony highlights a weekend of distance running in Utica, concluding with the 22nd running of the Boilermaker 15K Road Race on Sunday.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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