Thirty minutes earlier I had received the key to my room in Olympic Village but after a quick glance and change to workout clothes at my dorm room I was on the athlete’s track—just outside Munich Stadium. As I jogged around the oval and then accelerated down the straightaways with my friend Steve Prefontaine, I tried to wrap my mind around the series of experiences during the past few weeks—which would change my life: 1st international competition, 1st trip to Europe, FIRST OLYMPICS! It was my “dream come true” and was sinking in now.
Ranked 12th in the US going into the Olympic Trials 10K, I came from last place at the mile, passed one runner after another to finish 2nd and qualify. I had suddenly joined an elite group at the world’s foremost competition in “Athletics”. Yes—in international competition the term for our sport is not “Track and Field”.
As Pre ran ahead of me down the track my competitive instincts were totally under control. I was running with him, not against him. The reality: he had more fast twitch muscle fibers than I did and could sprint away at any time.
During the next 3 weeks all of us would be tested by challenges that involved more than running—including THE 1st terrorist incident in Olympic history. This is the first installment with several to follow. I will offer you my account of what went on inside our “village” during the competition, throughout the taking of hostages, the lockdown, with reactions of my friends: Pre, Frank Shorter, Bill Bowerman, and others.
Half a century has now passed, during which I’ve been honored to be involved in the development of the culture of distance running. So I will also give you my perspective in hopes that this will enrich your understanding of this amazing community.
Next installment: Bill Bowerman and his complaints about security, the wrong uniform, and Olympic politics.