Reflecting back on moments which made 2017 a memorable year with friends and family, including joyous occasions and bittersweet moments too. Here is a pictorial review of the year.
As I browse my photos from the year, here on Facebook, I saved this New Year’s greeting posted by Tom Fleming. Who could know it would be the last time? I added the quotation as a poignant reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow.
In February, the World Record Camp Coaches took off for Honolulu for another fun and exciting coaching clinic with track and field student-athletes, arranged by friends Jonathon Lyau and Jeaney Garcia. We even included a few reunions with colleagues like Kenny Moore, Tom Hintnaus, and Duncan MacDonald.
Best friend Julie McKinney and I enjoyed doing an LA84 Foundation interview for a video to celebrate women’s running history, specifically the first women’s Olympic Marathon, here in LA in 1984.
We also attended an event at the Grammy Museum, to hear the man who designed this iconic album cover.
On this trip, the World Record Camp traveled to Dallas for more Track & Field coaching.
Track Season included a few meets at UCLA and elsewhere, following CSUN and enjoying a surprise visit from Brian Holiday’s family, my “Wyoming Family.”
Speaking at a CSUN student-athlete honor society event, here I am with the extraordinary Monique Griffiths, and Athletic Director, Dr. Brandon Martin.
Also, there was the always superb Pre Meet in Eugene, thanks to Tom Jordan, and guaranteed joyful reunions!
If it’s June, it’s time for Culver Distance Camp (Indiana) and visiting family and friends near Chicago. I don’t know how it just keeps getting better every year, but it does.
The Annual Runners Reunited gathering, hosted by Ralph Serna, is an amazing reunion of –shall we say– vintage runners?
Another successful World Record Camp took place in Casper, Wyoming thanks to Heath Hayes and his staff.
July wrapped up with the exciting announcement that the 2020 Olympic Track & Field Trials were awarded to Los Angeles — more specifically, to the host committee — Mt. San Antonio College. Let the celebration begin!
Progressing towards the eventual winning bid for the 2028 Olympic Games, another event was hosted at the LA Coliseum and City Council meetings continued.
This was one of those bittersweet moments, marking the passing of a legendary UCLA coach, Jim Bush, and congratulating Devin Elizondo, newly appointed UCLA head distance coach at his alma mater.
LA84 Youth Sports Summit
It was a nice reunion on many levels. Best friend, Jeaney Garcia and I going to sports conferences together again, like the old days. Reuniting with a former student-athlete, Cristina Lucas and my friend Kathy Ash’s daughter Hilary. What a coincidence they’re working together at the LA28 Olympic Organizing Committee. Then, there are my former colleagues Wayne Wilson and Bettie Williams, who are always fun to be with. Sam the Eagle and LA84 President Renata Simril put on one extraordinary youth sports summit!
ElliptiGO Championships and Rally Rides
Ruth Wysocki and I in Encinitas with John and Anita Pilkington for one of the most fun weekends on our GOs!
My birthday month was spent, first at a David Benoit dinner concert, with Jim & Cindy Dunn and Julie McKinney, hosted by the Asia America Symphony. Then a birthday dinner on the beach was fun with Jeaney Garcia and Deborah Hafford.
Rounding out the year, December brought yet more welcome reunions and a few more good memories. I have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is getting through the “fire season” unscathed and the flu season in good health. As for the knees . . . . . well, that’s a separate story for another day. I certainly do wish all my friends and family a very healthy and happy new year ahead of us, and may it bring more love and peace in the world.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Robert Frost
Excerpt, chapter five: A Long Time Coming
The last running event I witnessed in December 1971, the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, was momentous – both at the time and for what it would mean to me later. Laszlo Tabori actually lived right on the Culver City course, so he was always present for the race. My training partner Judy Graham and I joined him there that day because we had a teammate, Cheryl Bridges, who was running the marathon. She did not train with us but competed for the club.
We supported Cheryl in her marathon as she set a world record of 2:49:40, becoming the first woman to run under 2:50. I was intrigued. Watching Cheryl click off those miles over the marathon course looked like fun to me. She was strong but relaxed, a beautiful runner with great running form and a stride that just flowed.
The monument at the finish line of the Western Hemisphere Marathon lists the 1971 winner as “Patricia Bridges.” Her first name changed only once, while her last name changed with every marriage: from Pedlow to Bridges to Flanagan to the current Treworgy. Her daughter is the Olympian Shalane Flanagan.
Cheryl was an inspiration to me. I could not help but think that I could do what she did. I could run with her on the track and in cross-country, and perhaps I could do a marathon like her too. I vowed right then and there that I would try the Culver City race the next year.
However, returning to the track with Laszlo the following week, I was caught up in our routine schedule of indoor track in the winter, outdoor track in the spring and cross-country in the fall, with a little vacation time during summer before laying our base for the fall season. It was in that brief summer vacation that I was lured away from my usual loops around a park to venture out on the roads for a workout.
When I wasn’t running on the track, my easy days were for running at Balboa Park in the San Fernando Valley. Judy and I were under strict orders to run only on dirt or grass surfaces, and I mean always. One day we met at Balboa at the same time a group of male runners were meeting for a road workout. Some of them also trained with us at the track, so we chatted.
They were led by a male runner in his 60s, Monty Montgomery. I’d seen this group regularly, and noted that they seemed to have a lot of fun, as they told stories and ran off on the roads headed for the beach and other interesting loops, while Judy and I ran in circles around the park. Twice I went with them, for a 10-miler and a 14-miler.
So when cross-country season ended in November with my best performance to date, eighth place in nationals, my thoughts turned back to that Western Hemisphere Marathon I wanted to do in December. I really wasn’t prepared with any long runs in my repertoire except those two workouts I snuck in many months earlier.
I didn’t let that stop me, and I asked Laszlo if I could enter (asking permission was requisite). I half- expected to be yelled at. After all, his attitude was that the marathon was something you ran if you were too slow to compete at the middle distances. However, what I received was almost philosophical. He said that there are some things I had to find out for myself, and that there were things he didn’t try and would never know.
Besides, he added, I was the most stubborn runner he knew, and he thought I would go far. I still do not know if he meant “far” as in I had a future in marathoning, or “far” as in I’d go about 18 miles and drop out. No matter. I had his blessing, and that’s what mattered.
I credited a college teammate, Mike Maggart, with getting me through the first 15 miles at seven-minute pace, and Doug Schwab for parking his bike and running the last mile in with me. (I ought to have been disqualified, I suspect.) In reality, I don’t think my friends could ride their bikes near the end because my pace had slowed so much. As I wrote in my journal:
Those last four miles are almost unbearable, particularly the last two. Up to 22, it seemed almost a relaxed seven-minute pace. Then the race began for four miles. And worth every sore muscle – a thousand times over.
Cheryl Bridges did not run in the Culver City race that year, and I won my first marathon in a slow 3:15. I probably could have walked my final miles faster than I was running.
I recall that upon crossing that finish line I uttered the words “never again!” Later at the awards ceremony, however, I received my medal and thought how I would prepare differently for next time. I was hooked.
Interestingly enough, this race was a turning point for my family, who up to that point did not deem running to be worth my time. In fact, I fibbed about going out for a run with Judy that morning to cover up running in the marathon. I left a note on the table at home early that morning to say we went for a run, and made up some other excuse about shopping or a movie to buy more time for the day.
The only reason I had to make excuses was because it was the day for a family reunion at our house to celebrate Thanksgiving, my birthday and birthdays for several other relatives. I knew I’d be late, thus needing the excuse.
By winning the race, I was delayed by the awards ceremony and thought I would be in big trouble. However, when I snuck in the door and tried to slip into my seat at the dinner table, my family broke into applause. My aunt resided near the site of the marathon and had reported the whole thing, and then my winning photo had appeared on the local TV news.
Looking back at 1984, there were many significant moments in the month of June and over the summer. In my last post, I wrote about the US Track & Field Olympic Trials at the LA Memorial Coliseum, where on June 17th, Joan Benoit Samuelson won the women’s 10,000-meter exhibition race and Julie Brown won the 5000-meter race. Both of these women were already on the Olympic Marathon team.
The reason these two track events were called “exhibition” races was because they were still not on the official Olympic program. If you read the last post, you read all about the international class action lawsuit we brought against the Olympic Committee and the other governing bodies who ruled our sport.
Looking at the present, June 2017, we just celebrated Joan’s best known victory as the first women’s Olympic Marathon gold medalist in 1984, being honored yesterday, June 21st, mounting a plaque at the LA Coliseum alongside former President of LA84 Foundation and Olympian Anita De Frantz.
Among the people who gathered to honor these two extraordinary women yesterday, was a friend of mine, Sherrill Kushner, a lawyer who in 1984 published an article which is arguably the best summary of the lawsuit written.
A day in LA 33 years ago, it was a long time coming.
It’s been thirty-three years since Joan Benoit won the first women’s Olympic Marathon, in 1984 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. But how many of you remember (or even knew) that Joan also won the women’s 10,000-meter race, at the USA Track & Field Olympic Trials on June 17, 1984, also in the Coliseum? Wait! Track and Field fans might recall, oh yes, there were no Olympic berths for the 10,000m for women, and not for the women’s 5,000m either. Right. In an act of civil disobedience, if you will, we held an exhibition 5,000m and 10,000m race to point out the glaring omission of these women’s events, with stellar fields of women more than worthy of an Olympic stage. Sad but true, this was the third set of exhibition events since women had been waiting that long (1976, 1980 and 1984 Trials held exhibition races).
(Here are the lists of entrants for the Exhibition Races at the US Olympic Trials, thanks to Brian Holiday. Results can be found below, thanks to my late husband Tom Sturak’s files, who saved everything.)
I think it’s quite fitting to re-visit the International Runners Committee’s efforts, advocating for women’s distance events, including an international class action lawsuit. Amidst all the litigation, we have Joan Benoit’s stunning performance in the 10,000m with the fastest American time of the year, coming off her miraculous win at the Olympic Marathon Trials just days after knee surgery. She said the 10,000m was the indicator she needed to tune-up for the Olympic Marathon. June 17th will be the 33rd anniversary of her Exhibition Race win, and how timely, on June 21st she will be honored with the unveiling of a plaque mounted on the walls of the Coliseum to commemorate her Olympic win and the legacy she has left in her wake. Indeed, her legacy continues to grow today.
A LONG TIME COMING: Running through the women’s running revolution Chapter 20 “Pressing our Case”
With the women’s marathon now joining the Olympics in 1984, the 5000- and 10,000-meter races remained left off that program. The International Runners Committee’s focus turned to these events, but without the support of the IAAF there appeared to be no chance of adding them. In brief, the president and secretary of the federation told me personally that, despite having satisfied all the prerequisites for inclusion, this wouldn’t happen for these “boring” events that would not “sell tickets at the gate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) completed a study it commissioned to assess women’s participation in the Olympic Games, reporting that women had access to only one-third the number of events the men had available to them. The ACLU director in Los Angeles, Ramona Ripston, then threatened legal action against the IOC.
I heard her discuss this in a 1980 radio interview, and I contacted her to offer my support. Although it appeared that the IOC was mending its ways by adding the women’s marathon, I informed the ACLU of the blatant discrimination and omission of the 5000 and 10,000. We met, and I was sent on a mission to see if I could prove that women runners satisfied the rules for adding new events.
I did not know if the ACLU expected never to hear from me again or if it was testing my resolve, but I took up the challenge. With Nike’s assistance and resources, we, the IRC, were able to obtain signatures on right-to- sue letters from nearly 80 women in almost 30 countries, representing the top world-ranked women in the 5000 and 10,000. The letters had gone out in 10 different languages to these women on every continent.
Attorney Susan McGrievy offered to take on our case. A former long-distance swimmer, she was compassionate to our cause. On August 10, 1983, the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles. The announcement was made with ACLU lawyers on August 11, on NBC television’s “Today Show” in Los Angeles and simultaneously at a press conference hosted by Nike at the first World Track and Field Championships in Helsinki. There I was with fellow IRC member Eleonora Mendonca, joined by Mary Decker, fresh off the medal stand for her 1500 and 3000 wins, and Grete Waitz, the marathon winner. They served as spokespersons at our press conference before worldwide media.
Defendants included the International Olympic Committee, United States Olympic Committee, International Amateur Athletic Committee, The Athletics Congress, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. This unprecedented suit alleged that the defendants violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the federal Public Accommodation Act, the equal protection clauses under the U.S. Constitution and California Constitution, the Amateur Sports Act and international law prohibiting sex discrimination such as in the United Nations Charter.
Granted, it was difficult to name some of the defendants who included committee members sympathetic to our cause. For example, The Athletics Congress consisted of the Women’s Long Distance Running Committee, which was certainly part of this fight. However, the lawyers explained that all parties involved had to be included in order to close all loopholes and any possibility of getting a run-around while seeking administrative remedies.
Additionally the international bodies, the IOC and IAAF, were adamant about protecting the integrity of the process, which angered me to no end since their almighty process was placed above the needs and desires of its constituents, the athletes. Besides, the “process” was whatever suited the IOC and IAAF, and was not enforced consistently, never mind fairly.
Consider IOC Charter Rules 32 and 33, regarding the process for adding new events. There were examples of new additions that did not meet these requirements. Furthermore, they were new sports, and we were only asking for new events within an already existing sport.
At least the age-old argument that women were not suited to run the 5000 and 10,000 was no longer an issue, since the marathon had been added. The most likely reason for not adding these two events was that they were not cost-effective. This is exactly what was told to me personally by Primo Nebiolo, the president, and Luciano Barra, the executive secretary, of the IAAF when they called the distance races “boring,” and unattractive to ticket buyers. So the 5000 and 10,000 were never going to be included, as far as they were concerned.
This issue was perhaps the most outrageous of all. So that’s why the marathon was added alone, because it represented television and ticket revenue? This statement alone sent me running to the ACLU, thinking lawsuit. As I saw it, we had exhausted all alternate options.
On March 6, 1984, the ACLU attorneys who represented 82 women long-distance runners, from 26 different countries on five continents, filed a motion for a default judgment in the lawsuit before Judge David Kenyon in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. They also asked for a preliminary injunction against all the defendants, including the LAOOC. In other words, it would compel the Los Angeles organizers to immediately add the 5000- and 10,000-meter events to the 1984 Olympic Games.
At the same time, a press conference was held in Eugene, Oregon, with spokespersons Mary Decker, Leann Warren, Cathie Twomey, Sissel Grottenberg (Norway) and myself. We maintained that the exclusion of the two events in question disenfranchised women distance runners worldwide, including those appearing with me in Eugene. I said, “Without the inclusion of these races in the 1984 Olympics, a whole generation of women runners will be denied the right to run for Olympic gold. All we want to do is to achieve parity with the men.”
As one lawyer stated, “Up until 1983, Jacqueline Hansen and the IRC kept pushing within the system to get the middle-distance races, but no one within the system would take responsibility for what was requested. The bringing of the lawsuit was not done as a political statement, but was brought as a last resort because the plaintiffs felt there was no other solution for them.”
In a 38-page decision, Judge Kenyon rejected the lawsuit on Monday, April 16, 1984 – news that I learned in a phone call in Boston, from Los Angeles Times reporter Julie Cart.
On June 8, ACLU lawyers argued their case in the Federal Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, after winning a motion to expedite an appeal before Judges J. Clifford Wallace, Harry Pregerson and Arthur L. Alarcon. The judges promised their ruling within a week.
Los Angeles Times Special Events Director Will Kern directed the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in June 1984. He brought a sponsor, Etonic shoes, to the IRC to stage exhibition races in both the women’s 5000 and 10,000. Although it was sad that these events were still controversial, I was very pleased Etonic stepped forward to make the races possible, and I agreed heartily to be the race director.
Ordinarily I would never pack the field with so many runners in any race on the track, but I was overwhelmed at the response from women runners and could not turn anyone away. Even assigning high standards to ensure quality races, there were nearly 30 runners in each race!
When the announcement was made in the stadium that these events would not be seen in the upcoming Olympic Games, you could hear the crowd booing the IOC and IAAF emphatically. Spontaneous cheering followed when the announcer offered that the women were running to make a statement.
Both races brought exciting performances. On June 17, Joan Benoit (Samuelson) was the decisive winner in the 10,000, finishing in the nation’s fastest time to date (32:07) in front of 20,500 fans. The 5000 on June 24 was decided at the tape between Julie Brown (15:39.5) and Betty Jo Springs (15:39.7) before a crowd of 31,500, the largest audience of the entire trials.
It was ironic that reporter Marlene Cimons seated herself behind IAAF officials Nebiolo and Barra in the stands. Since she knew the whole backstory to the lawsuit, she leaned over to ask if they still thought the races were boring. (They pretended not to understand English.)
In between these two events, on June 22, the Federal Appeals Court judges ruled against the women runners, basically two to one. Judge Wallace stated that the Unruh Civil Rights Act, upon which our case was based, did not require “separate but equal events for women.” This made no sense to me whatsoever, because it was not the women runners but the governing bodies that established gender-separated events throughout the Olympic Games events.
Judge Pregerson, who voted for us, countered, “If that were true, then there would be no requirement to have separate bathrooms in public libraries [for example].” If there was anything to be salvaged from the proceedings, it was the eloquent dissent written by Judge Pregerson. He began by quoting the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, who said the Games were meant to be an “exaltation of male athleticism” with “female applause as its reward.” Pregerson concluded:
“The IOC made concessions to the widespread popularity of women’s track and field by adding two distance races this year [3000 meters and marathon]. The IOC refused, however, to grant women athletics equal status by including all events in which women compete internationally. In so doing, the IOC postpones indefinitely the equality of athletic opportunity that it could easily achieve this year in Los Angeles.
“When the Olympics move to other countries, some without America’s commitment to human rights, the opportunity to tip the scales of justice in favor of equality may slip away. Meanwhile, the Olympic flame – which should be a symbol of harmony, equality and justice – will burn less brightly over the Los Angeles Olympic Games.”
For the record, the 10,000-meter race for women was added to the World Track and Field Championships in Rome, 1987, and to the Olympic Games in Seoul, 1988. The 5000 replaced the 3000 at the 1995 World Championships, and the following year at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. The women’s 3,000- meter steeplechase went on the program at the 2005 World Championships in Rome, and then into the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008. With these additions, the women’s slate of distance events finally gained parity with the men’s.
In deference to those who made the original reference to “women holding up half the sky,” I’m borrowing the phrase simply because I love the sound of it, as it aptly describes statistics showing women are usually more than half the participants in any given road race. Consider the most recent available statistics which report that in 2013, 2014 and 2015 women constituted 57% of running events each year, according to Running USA.
I recently traveled to participate in the Montana Women’s Run, as their keynote speaker at the pre-race dinner, and to participate in the 5-mile walk. I really enjoyed walking among 8000 runners and walkers! I was simply amazed at the level of participation. 8000 participants and probably 99% of them are women. After all, it is not a women-only race, keep in mind.
So when I look into statistics kept by Running USA, I cannot really compare the Montana event to the largest all-women’s races. However if I did, it would fit right in to the top four, between the NY Mini-Marathon (10K) at 8846 and the More/Shape Women’s Half Marathon at 7046. As for coed races, it wouldn’t seem fair to compare it to the top contender Nike Women’s Half-Marathon either, which totals a whopping 25,100 participants.
What the Montana Women’s Run does perfectly is to support, encourage and inspire as many women as they possibly can to empower participation, be it walking or running, whether it’s two-miles or five-miles. Their mission is to promote health and fitness, particularly for women who might not otherwise exercise. Additionally, the organization offers clinics to help women get started in their workouts. Plus the proceeds benefit local service providers for women.
The Women’s Run Board members consist of all women, and of the ones I met, each seems to carry their own unique story of inspiration. All of them are highly accomplished women who motivate others by example.
I only regret not having the opportunity to meet their longtime leader, Pat Jaffray, who passed away just the month before, and who was honored throughout the entire event. To read more:
How I came to be introduced to the Women’s Run, is entirely thanks to Coach Jay Graves, who I met in the summer of 2016 in Casper, Wyoming while coaching a World Record Track & Field Camp with founder, director Willie Banks. Jay not only attended camp so his children could participate, and so he could grow as a coach, he also volunteered to be my assistant coach! I am forever grateful to him for introducing me to his sister Liana Susott, a Board member of the Montana Women’s Run, who in turn brought me to the attention of her fellow Board members. I am ever so appreciative they included me in their program. I had an awesome experience, not only during the events, but hiking and enjoying the beauty of big sky country . . . . . . . . . It turns out women are holding up half the big sky.
When I think of Tom Fleming, what comes to mind is a fierce competitor, a kind and generous soul, a man who lived a determined life, a purposeful life and an exemplary life.
When we lose a loved one we soothe the pain in our heart with fond memories. Memories can bring comfort and peace.
Tom and I shared some good memories.
He loved the Boston Marathon as much as I do.
In my mind, Boston and Tom are intertwined. I cannot tell you how many times he ran there, but there were a lot of trophies in his collection, including two second place Boston trophies.
Tom was a fierce competitor, often a front-runner who liked to take charge.
He was at the same time a kind and generous soul.
One time, at the Olympic Trials for the Marathon in Eugene in 1976, he came up short – by his own high standards – and missed making the Olympic Team.
I will always remember him sobbing on my shoulder. His dream and all the training he put into the 4 years between Olympic Games was not to be. It tugged at my heartstrings.
We competed together all over the map: Boston, Eugene, Charleston, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, to name a few.
Puerto Rico makes me smile. I said he was generous. He even shared his room suite with the rest of the USA team, including Bill Rodgers and me too, because he had the only one with working air conditioning in that hot, humid, sweltering climate.
In Los Angeles, Tom ran straight into history, leading the charge over an arduous course, which ran the length of famous Sunset Boulevard from downtown to the Pacific Coast beaches. It was the first race in LA and among the first anywhere to offer prize money. This was a radical act of the times and Tom raised the bar.
I’ll close with a lasting memory I’ll carry in my heart forever.
At the Cleveland Marathon, we won together. But the mayor of Cleveland (Dennis Kucinich) was ill-informed and brought just one key to the city at the awards ceremony. Since Tom was traveling home the same day and I was staying one more day, I suggested he take the key, since I could receive mine the next day.
Nearly forty years later, I would still be waiting for my key, despite the good intentions of a reporter who put the story out into the news on one of Cleveland Marathon’s anniversaries.
Well, Tom learned of the story and resolved the situation in his own generous way.
He sent it to me recently, saying after all this time, it was my turn to keep it for the next 30+ years. The key to my heart.
What a gentleman.
What a competitor.
What a team player.
What a friend.
I will miss him, but I have a cherished key and a treasure trove of memories.
Today I’m feeling blessed, fortunate and nostalgic all at once while reaching for words to describe the synchronicity and synergy that I’m feeling simultaneously today.
In the last 24 hours I have been reunited, albeit electronically, with my dear friend and colleague Henley Gabeau after countless years. Next, out-of-the-blue, my phone rang announcing caller Doris Heritage. It always makes my day whenever I see her name. Our near-hour-long conversation made my year! At least to date it has — I’ll allow it’s early in the year and who knows if and how it could get any better.
Talk about synchronicity!
Doris and Henley in the same couple of hours! It’s a good day.
What’s the connection, you ask?
Henley published an article yesterday in which she defined the impetus to her feminist activism being the year in which we met at the 1977 International Women’s Conference in Houston. Following this event, we shared our experience as International Runners Committee members, with the common goal to include women’s distance events in the Olympic Games. Doris called me, specifically with questions about the IRC. She was being interviewed by a journalist and she needed some information. Details aside, we spent the rest of the time reminiscing.
Henley’s excellent article came to my attention several times, thanks to RRCA Executive Director Jean Knaack, and former RRCA President Jeff Darman for posting Henley’s article yesterday, and also to running podiatrist Ed Lopez for tagging me on a separate posting of the same article. (Moments like this make FB worthwhile.) So I quickly sent off an email to Henley and she immediately wrote back that she was hoping this would find me. Henley, you should know, started the Women’s Distance Festival in the RRCA under the leadership of Jeff Darman. Here is her article.
If you have read my blog before and/or read my book chapter 15, “Years of the Women,” you see that I wrote my version of the encounter Henley and I had in 1977. Besides the two of us that day, I was with Leal-Ann Reinhart and Henley was with Peggy Kokernot and Mary Cullen. Peggy was the star of the conference event torch relay that day and Mary was/is a Houston runner and benefactor of running and the arts. I’m happy to say that best friend Leal and I never lost touch, and that Peggy and I had our long awaited reunion last June at the Olympic Track & Field Trials. As well, I do keep track of Mary Cullen from afar through mutual friends.
As for all the other IRC members, I’ve happily remained in touch all this time with Joe Henderson ( lucky me – who better to edit my book), Janet Heinonen, Joan Ullyot, and Nina Kuscsik. I re-connected with Lyn Billington on FB and with Eleonora Mendonca at Boston, both in 2016. Ken Young and I were in touch during the book writing, when he provided accuracy in race results for my book. Of course, all of us mourn the loss of three members, my late husband Tom Sturak, teammate Miki Gorman and renowned coach Arthur Lydiard. The only member I cannot account for is Sarolta Monspart of Hungary.
Margaret Mead wrote (and I favor this quotation), “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Synergy comes to mind.
Today, Henley is on her way to the women’s march in D.C. and I’m sure we all wish her Godspeed. In her words, she hopes transformative groups will evolve and bring change for the betterment of others: “My belief, based on experience, is that women can do it — and will — and the march will sow those seeds.” I believe Peggy is joining a march too, closer to her home. Godspeed. It seems feminists of the 70s are unstoppable, they just find another cause. Wherever you may find yourself today, whatever you are doing, Godspeed.
This month (October 2016), I enjoyed a rare treat, going to the Grammy Museum with my good friends Julie and Brooks McKinney to see none other than Donovan, an icon in the music world of the sixties era. We listened and gleaned insight to his life and lyrics through an interview for the first part of the show. With our new found insider information, we enjoyed his performance even more, and joined in for a certain amount of singing along. What a grand evening. Beyond expectations, I loved the finale, getting to meet Donovan in person after the show. He greeted me with “you must be the lady in red!” And I replied, “we’ve met before” and proceeded to share a memory for which he thanked me profusely.
Indeed, we had met before, after a show in another small intimate setting not unlike this evening. It was my 21st birthday and I wrote an account in my memoir. Although my very wise editor did well to keep me “on track” (if you’ll pardon the pun), I could not resist mentioning significant moments experienced in the sixties and seventies, during my formative years. Besides, the man responsible for my first meeting, Gary and I recently agreed that this, of all the concerts and events we attended, the evening with Donavan and John Sebastian was one of the most significant and memorable moments of the era.
(Book excerpt from “A Long Time Coming: Running through the women’s marathon revolution”)
“At that time I could be found most weekends at the Troubadour or other venues seeing and occasionally meeting bands and individuals such as The Byrds, Elton John, Donovan, John Sebastian, John Denver, Peter, Paul & Mary, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. [Expand that list to include Phil Ochs and Gordon Lightfoot, also usually seen at the Troubadour and of the same genre.]
A journal entry describes one such occasion:
My “birthday happening,” when Gary and Jeff took me to the Troubadour where we saw John Sebastian. While the show before ours was SRO [standing room only], we got a front row table for the 11 P.M. show and were treated to an added bonus when he brought Donovan up on stage. The audience begged for more, they locked the doors, served more wine and went on for a couple more hours! We even spent time talking with them both after the show. I got home at 4:30 A.M. and had a rough time getting to work the next morning at 7:00. (Note: Gary recently reminded me that they had “let” me purchase wine at a liquor store, telling the clerk it was my 21st birthday after all. True. But neither of them were 21!)
Given that my job, classes and training took over all my waking hours every day, I have a void of knowledge about all television throughout my college years. But I gleaned a great appreciation for all things musical. Much of the music of the times reflected the social and political events in history, like the Kent State shootings memorialized in lyrics, most notably Neil Young’s “Ohio.”
By the late 1960s, I had transferred from Pierce to San Fernando Valley State College. Valley State was no “Berkeley,” but we had our share of controversy and protest. In May 1970 my school was closed down during a strike protesting the Vietnam war.
The overlying backdrop throughout these years was, of course, the war. I still have correspondence from the few friends and one cousin who were sent to Vietnam, and from other friends who were conscientious objectors and stayed behind. The issue of Vietnam permeated every aspect of life in the 1960s and affected everyone directly or indirectly.”
How fortunate I am to hear Donovan again all these many years later! If only I could remember everything he spoke about in his interview. I did come away with an enlightened view of the year 1966 (my high school graduation year). In answer to an interview question about the significance of this time period, Donovan pointed out some of the top albums on the charts in that single year included the Beatles’ “Revolver,” Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” and of course Donovan’s hit single, “Catch the Wind” followed soon after by “Colours.”
He elaborated on the “why” stating something to the effect there was the invasion of pop culture with folk music with its meaningful lyrics, whether it was about protest or civil rights or exploration of levels of consciousness. For another, he said pop music didn’t expect the bohemian invasion. And lastly, we were just “really good!”
He told us about his rise to fame, those who influenced him along the way, as well as those he influenced along the way. Repeatedly he made mention of his mission to introduce us (baby-boomers) to the bohemian manifesto. He spoke of artists of the time period and not exclusively musicians. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Alan Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Joan Baez and of course Bob Dylan. We heard something, (but I did read more later), about the contrast and comparison of Donovan and Dylan over the years. There were many stories, too, about his relationships with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
In his autobiography he states “I’d begun in earnest to introduce the Bohemian Manifesto into my work and practice of compassion two years before the bloom of Flower Power and All You Need is Love. This denim-clad beatnik from Scotland with a limp and an attitude was becoming shaman.” In his epilogue he said “I accomplished my aim of introducing my generation the Bohemian Manifesto of Change. . . . ”
And Donovan, ever the Hurdy Gurdy man, “brings us songs of love,” as he would have us “wear your love like heaven.” He spoke frequently of his beloved Linda who was clearly his muse. When you listen to Sunshine Superman, the sunset they shared was also California’s Sunset Boulevard.
Listening to “What Goes On” now takes on a much deeper meaning “if you know what I mean.” (Note, he’s referring to Dylan and Joan Baez aka: Joanie as opposed to Joni.)
“What goes on? Chick-a-chick. What goes on? I really wanna know. What goes on all around me, What goes on? I really wanna know. When in should come-a my dream woman, She got sequins in her hair, Like she stepped out off of a Fellini film, She sat in a white straw chair . . . . .
We spoke of a common kaleidoscope And the pros and the cons of Zen And he spoke and-a said for a piece of cake He really did have a yen. Bobby Dylan he sat “the Mad Hatter,” A broken hour glass in his hand, And-a Joannie sat in a white lace Looking cool with a black lace fan. What goes on? Chick-a-chick.
What goes on? I really wanna know . . . . .”
A troubadour tells stories of his time, and “Sunny South Kensington” is a good example of that.
“Come take a walk in sunny South Kensington Any day of the week. See the girl with the silk Chinese blouse on, You know she ain’t no freak. Come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man, You got to spread your wings. A-flip out, skip out, trip-out, and a-make your stand, folks, To dig me as I sing.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and-a Mary Quant got Stoned to say the least Ginsberg, he ended up-a dry and so He a-took a trip out East. If I’m a-late waitin’ down the gate, it’s such a ‘raz’ scene, A groovy place to live. In the Portobella I met a fella with a cane umbrella, Who must’ve used a sieve.
So come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man, You got to spread your wings. A-flip out, skip out, trip-out and a-make your stand, folks, To dig me as I sing. Hmm, hmm, hmm…..”
Donovan is a poet, an artist, and a real blend of all he loves, songs of social change, folk, jazz, and blues. The same could be said of Joni Mitchell for that matter. I enjoyed all the troubadours of the day and frequently went to hear Buffy St. Marie, Joan Baez and others such as Gordon Lightfoot and Phil Ochs. Although I heard Pete Seeger on multiple occasions, I can’t say I ever saw Woody Guthrie, although I certainly saw Arlo. In fact I saw him with Pete Seeger on stage here in Topanga later in life, around 1990 I believe. This was at Theatricum Botanicum, Will Geer’s place, where a cabin for Wood Guthrie was kept. But I digress.
Isn’t life just like the Circle Game?
“We’re captive on the carousel of time We can’t return, we can only look behind From where we’ve come And go ’round and ’round and ’round In the circle game.”
Four days, three nights. A kazillion reunions. and memories. Priceless.
Who knew how valuable this long weekend would turn out! And to think I very nearly missed the opportunity. I am reeling from the effects and cannot believe how many exciting races and finish lines I witnessed, rain and shine both, and how many friends I reconnected with. What an amazing four days. I just did not want it to ever end.
This was all made possible by the happenstance connection with a dear “old” friend dating back to 1977.
We met at the first National Women’s Conference in her home town of Houston, Texas. My teammate and best friend, Leal-Ann Reinhart and I attended to seek support and bring attention to our equal rights issue, the lack of women’s distance events beyond the 1500-meter in the Olympic Games. This was a prelude to the creation of the International Runners Committee two years later (1979). In Houston, we lobbied when and wherever we could, and had the good fortune to meet Henley Gibble (Gabeaux), from the RRCA who organized a torch relay which crossed the country to arrive at the conference in Houston. Here’s an excerpt from a previous blog on this website:
If I was influenced by the turbulent sixties to question authority, I was further influenced by the seventies feminist movement. The United Nations proclaimed 1975 the International Women’s Year. As a result, in the US President Gerald Ford established a commission for its observance and events were held over the following two years. In 1977, state conferences held across the country, which over 130,000 women attended. President Jimmy Carter appointed Bella Abzug to preside over the final culminating event in Houston, Texas, attended by more than 2,000 delegates. Houston native and Texas congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, delivered the keynote speech. A torch relay originated in Seneca, New York and was carried by 3,000 women en route to Houston. Dignitaries in attendance included Lady Bird Johnson, Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, Coretta Scott King and Billy Jean King.
According to the Handbook of Texas, “the conference opened with a clear sense of purpose as well as much fanfare…..” and “Although the National Women’s Conference was not a lawmaking body and could only propose non-binding recommendations, it was directed to arrive at a national plan of action to help remove sex barriers and better utilize women’s contributions…….to be submitted to the president and Congress….” It was these lofty goals which attracted me and best friend Leal-Ann Reinhart to the conference. We went seeking help for our cause.
“Twenty-six major topics were considered by the delegates, including the ERA, abortion, lesbian rights, child care, minority women, homemakers, battered women, education, rape, health, and a cabinet-level women’s department.” The enormity and importance of these issues empowered me and at the same time humbled me to the point that I felt fortunate that I had rights at all to run, and perhaps was being somewhat selfish to ask for more.
What I could not anticipate at the time, I learned years, indeed decades later. I had met a few key women in Houston that week in 1977: Peggy Kokernot, Henley Gibble, and Mary Cullen. From making those acquaintances, I could not have imagined their future influences and activism.
Peggy Kokernot was the amazing young woman who picked up the torch relay, in the state of Alabama where Phyllis Schlafly, of the “Stop ERA” movement, had convinced all Alabama women not to support this feminist organization event. There was a 16-mile stretch left vacant of runners that marathoner Peggy was asked to cover, which she did and saved the torch relay from being stopped in its tracks. Her picture on the cover of TIME magazine, combined with her winning the Houston Marathon shortly after the convention, and the strength she found after experiencing the conference opened opportunities she never dreamed of, according to her mother, Edith Grinell, in an interview by Jo Freeman, “The Last Mile – 1977.”
In retrospect, I am pleasantly surprised at the effect this event had not only for me, for each of my friends. The seeds were sown, and the years ahead were full of action. This “child of the sixties” had become a “feminist of the seventies.”
Peggy and I have been reconnected recently, after our last meeting in 1984 at the first-ever Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials in Olympia, Washington. We decided to have our reunion at this year’s Track & Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. The minute we reunited, it was like we were never apart. I loved meeting her sister, Diana Kokernot, another energetic, adventurous woman after my heart.
Hanging out frequently at the Wild Duck and the Hoka One One shop next door was a great place for reunions, including Peter Thompson and Peanut Harms, who are in part responsible for the non-stop party at the Wild Duck. I had a heartwarming reunion with my longstanding friend Pat Devaney. There was Tom Derderian, Ron Wayne, and Christian Cushing Murray, who I’ve been seeing at other running events around the country, always happy to find them. Then there was one huge surprise –John Bragg. John was my first and everlasting adidas representative, who outfitted me during all my competitive years.
I got to visit with my closest, dearest lifelong friends (at least running lifetime), Joe Henderson, Janet & Tom Heinonen. And there was my Napa connection, Fran Vella. Joe Henderson edited my book, and Fran proof-read it. They know my life story better than I do! I think my enthusiasm to decide to come to Eugene rubbed off on my good friend, Mitch Garner when we recently saw each other in June. He decided to come and represent RRCA as the organization’s newly elected President. We certainly enjoyed this together.
One breakfast, Joe introduced me to Kees Tuinzing, who happens to coach Sister Marion Irvine. What a shock! I have a running photo of us running the Daisy Hill run in the Bay area back in 1978. It’s a story for another day, but I always wondered who he was!
Hard to know which of three such discoveries surprised me the most! One surprise after another! All in all, a successful set of reunions.