Syracuse Online

Accidental Facts

Published August 18, 2003 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

"Nobody can be as amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own," wrote syndicated columnist Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986). On occasion, Harris submitted a column he called "Things I Found on My Way to Looking Up Other Things." With due credit to Harris, this column presents the following "facts I found while researching other things."

Harold Abrahms, 1924's 100 meter Olympic gold medalist, smoked cigars during training. Miler Herb Elliott is reported to have smoked as many as 40 cigarettes a day while recovering from a foot injury. At age 16 he ran a 4:20.8 mile and by age 22, he retired from running. Sprint legend Jesse Owens died of lung cancer at age 66, nine years after he quit smoking.

The marathon was not run as an Olympic event until the modern games held in 1896, and even then it was only 25 miles long. Twenty-one of the 25 starters were Greek, and the gold medal was awarded to Spiridon Louis. The only American in the race, Arthur Blake, dropped out after 15 miles.

Ed Stabler submitted "K. Switzer" on an entry form and dutifully mailed it along with his and others. The entry form was accepted and Katherine Switzer became the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon in 1967 with bib number 261. Contrary to popular belief, the official who attempted to force her off the course thought she was a publicity seeker, not a legitimate runner.

Are American youth becoming less fit and American seniors becoming more fit? American Sports Data Inc. reported that during 2000, 26 percent of people age 55 and older exercised at least 100 times or about three times a week, as compared to 18 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 who exercised at the same frequency.

Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson thought they were watching reruns of their 100 meter heats in an ABC television truck one afternoon in Munich (1972). To their horror, they soon realized they missed their own quarterfinals and were subsequently disqualified. They watched the rest of the games from the Olympic Village.

Rosie Ruiz was not the first person to masquerade as a marathon winner. As the medals were being awarded at the 1904 Olympic games, a St. Louis truck driver admitted he gave a lift to Fred Lorz. Lorz claimed he ran into the stadium only to pick up his clothes and get warm.

The Osaka Ladies' Marathon is an invitation-only event usually held each March since 1982. It was cancelled once - in 1995 - when an earthquake hit. No American woman has ever won this race.

© 2003 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at