Black Running History Timeline
African American History Timeline (1880 – 1979) Long Distance Running History
Fred Hichborn aka Frank Hart & “Black Dan” (1858 – 1908) African American World Record Holder in Pedestrian Era - 1880
Running History: April 5 -10, 1880
Frank Hart wins the second O’Leary Belt race at New York’s Madison Square Garden in a new six-day record of 565 miles. He beat the world record by an astonishing twelve miles.
“Frank Hart was 2/1 favorite to take the trophy, and was one of 18 contestants who paid the $500 entry fee for the race. There were a good 6,000 people in attendance at the start.”
“Hart would collect $7,967.86 in gate money, the $9,000 in entrance fees, and the $1,000 bonus for breaking the six-day record. It was reported that Hart had bet $3,600 on himself, bringing his total earnings for the week to $21,567.86 (roughly $480,000 today).”
“Frank Hart was the first African American to wins such a prestigious championship in American sports. He was now not just the most celebrated black athlete in the country – he was the most celebrated athlete of any color.”
“Although he was once the most famous black athlete in the country, his passing at age 50 from tuberculosis elicited little notice. Only a handful of African American papers acknowledged his death. The Cleveland Gazette estimated that Hart earned more than $100,000 in six day races. “Like many other sporting men,” the paper noted, “he was a high liver and good spender.” For the last twenty years of his life, the paper said, Hart “lived off the charity of friends.”
Tom Osler Scrapbook
King of Peds – P.S. Marshall
Pedestrianism: When Watching People Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport – Matthew Alegeo
William Pegram & Ed Williams African American Pedestrian Era Pioneers - 1880
Running History: April 5 -10, 1880
William Pegram finishes in second place in the second O’Leary Belt race at New York’s Madison Square Garden covering 543 miles in six-days. Edward Willams finished in seventh place covering 509 miles. Each took home a share of the prize money.
William Pegram like Frank Hart also lived in Boston while Edward Williams was a New Yorker.
“William Pegram, one of the two other African Americans in the race, was in second place, and the headline in the next day’s Tribune read, THE NEGROES LEAD THE WALK. Several times during the race, Hart and Pegram, along with the third black pedestrian, Edward Williams, circled the track together in a show of solidarity, demonstrating, as one paper put it “their constitutional right to walk in public, without regard to any previous conditions whatever.” All three men had been born when slavery was still legal in the United States. “Pegram and Williams frequently kept by Hart’s side as he ran,” the Times noted, “and gave him such encouragement as they could, evidently wanting to see a man of their own color carry off the honors.”
The Pedestrianism and Long Distance Running History Defined: Pedestrian – A person travelling on foot; a walkerPedestrianism – The act, art, or practice of a pedestrian; walking or running; travelling or racing on foot.
“Baseball was not the national pastime in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Pedestrianism was. It was the most popular spectator sport In the United States. Its athletes were the highest paid, its contests the best attended and most profitable. When the Thomas H. Hall tobacco company began inserting trading cards into its cigarette packs in 1880, the athletes portrayed on the cards were pedestrians.”
“These contests attracted many prospective competitors to the huge arenas that catered for such events; predominantly in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Betting was a popular pastime during the 1800s, and huge sums of money were wagered on the participants.”
“Apart from the racing, many of the attending spectators were attracted to the side-shows which the promoters would include to boost their profits. These could be in the guise of circus acts, shooting galleries and the like. Once inside, and amid the foul stench of lingering tobacco smoke the crowd would shout themselves hoarse whilst the pedestrians, wearing an array of colorful costumes, competed against each other on the track. In the go-as-you-please races, a man would convey himself around the track (which could be from anything from 7 to 38 laps to the mile) literally as he saw fit, as long as he did it fairly and to the rules. Popular and more conventional used methods were jogging, trotting and straight heel to toe.”
Tom Osler Scrapbook
King of Peds – P.S. Marshall
Pedestrianism: When Watching People Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport – Matthew Alegeo
New England’s Colored Five Mile Champion
Running History: Thanksgiving Day 1896
Walter Pierce wins the Colored 5 Mile New England Championship over Bob Allen.
Pierce was born in Bridgewater, MA. He began running professional on July 11, 1894 when he defeated Bob Allen in a 2 mile race handily.
February 11, 1899 in a 12 Hour Go-As-You-Please race at Grand Central Plaza, New York, Pierce got 5th place doing 66 miles and 3 laps
“Pierce is looked upon as the greatest man of his race since the days of Frank Hart, the colored six-day pedestrian.”
Tom Osler’s Scrapbook
James M. Dean “The colored long distance runner of Boston”An African American Pedestrian Pioneer
Running History: February 14, 1899
James Dean placed third in a 12 Hour Go-As-You-Please race at New York’s Grand Central Palace.
Dean covered 67 miles. The winner Pete Hegelman completed 70 miles.
Running History: April 7, 1899
James Dean placed third in a 24 Hour Go-As-You-Please race at New York’s Grand Central Palace.
Dean covered 105 miles. The winner Pete Hegelman completed 120 miles. There were 33 people who started the race.
Running History: October 1901
James Dean finished in ninth place in a 6 Day Go-As-You-Please race. Dean covered 431 miles and 10 laps. The prize money went from $1925 for first place to $100 for 8th place. First place went to Tracy who covered 500 miles and 1 lap.
Running History: February 10, 1902
James Dean and E.M Campbell representing the American Colored Team competed in a 6 Day Race at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The winning team of Pete Hagelman and Pat Cavanaugh covered 770 miles and 4 laps and won $5,000. There were 43(2 men) teams that competed.
Tom Osler Scrapbook
John Stuckey The First African American to Run The Berwick Marathon (Run For The Diamonds)
Running History: November 25, 1909
Native American dominated the second running of this historic race. Carlisle Indian school runners Louis Tewanima and Mitchell Arquette placed first and second. The winning time was 54:16 over this 9 mile course. Tewanima would win this race three times and earned a silver medal at 1912 Olympics at 10,000 meters.
“When the starting pistol set the field of twenty-seven men off running, the Indians –en masses-let loose with a much spirited war whoop and caused some trepidation in at least one of their opponents. The local papers took delight in reporting that John Stookey (spelled Stuckey in the 1909 results, but Stookey in some newspaper articles) – an African American runner from the area- immediately gave way and let bellowing braves pass by. When the episode was rehashed in subsequent newspaper accounts over the years, Stookey inevitably is referred to (in the unflinching racist rhetoric of the day) as “the colored lad whom the Indians frightened almost white.”
Run For The Diamonds: 100 Years of Footracing in Berwick, PA – Mark Will-Weber
Howard Hall Wins Indoor Marathon in Pittsburgh - 1909Running History: March 2, 1909“Colored Runner Wins Indoor Marathon”
“Howard H. Hall, a colored lad was the winner of great indoor Marathon race at the Exposition rink last night. His time for the 26 miles, 385 yards, was 3 hours, 29 minutes, 54 2-5 seconds.”
“The race was a spectacular affair and was witnessed by a crowd of 10,000 persons. They packed the massive hall, and made the walkin ring with their shouts of encouragement to their favorites in the race.”
“Hall is a Pittsburgh High School boy, who is at present employed in the post office. He is 23 years old and was born in Allegheny. Experts at last night’s race say they have never seen in these parts a better stride than Hall possesses, and predicts for him a brilliant future in long distance running.”
‘The runners who finished the race were in good condition, and stated afterwards that they felt no ill effects. Hall, the colored winner, declared that aside from a tired feeling in his legs he felt as fresh as at the start, and it must be admitted that he did not appear the least bit distressed.”
“About 30 runners finished the course, but there were prizes for but 20.”
The Pittsburgh Press – March 3, 1909
Charles Burden Wins the First Marathon in the South - 1909Running History: March 1909“First Marathon in the South Won by Colored Runner”
“It has just come to the notice of THE AGE that the first Marathon race ever pulled off in the South was held in New Orleans, La., several days ago and was won by a colored athlete. Charles Burden, of Union, La., was the young Negro who in a two hours and ten minutes endurance contest won over his white competitors. The race was held under the auspices of the Southern A.A.U., and Burden was entered by a Chicago white man. He was number 20, and when his number was called and it was learned that Burden was colored, the promoters almost had fainting spells, and the doctors refused to examine him. However, when the race ended, he crossed the line first, ahead of the white and Indian runners. The promoters of the race are not yet over Burden winning.”
The New York Age, March 18, 1909
African American Running Clubs in 1914: Salem Crescent Athletic ClubSt. Christopher’s Club of New YorkSmart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn
In 1914 the New York Times assessed the potential of African American athletes in the New York Metropolitan District of the AAU in this article:
“Negro Athletes Win Many Honors”
Season’s Performances Show Colored Runners to be Factors in A.A.U. Meets
Recent performances of colored athletes in the Metropolitan District of the Amateur Athletic Union have attracted widespread attention, and should a corresponding progress be made by them in the next three or four years many laurels now worn by white athletes will pass into the keeping of negroes. This success has been more noticeable during the last month than at any other time and the fact that four titles were won by colored athletes at the recent small clubs championship, and negroes were prominent in the point table of the Metropolitan title meet has caused a flutter of excitement among the registered athletes in the AAU. Nor is the present crop of negro runners likely to suddenly cease, for there are many promising colored boys in the public schools of Greater New York.
Up to the present the colored athlete has devoted his attention to track events, especially sprints and middle distances, but with the growth of colored athletic clubs capable trainers will be secured and with systematic development in long-distance events will be certain to bring out long-distance runners and candidates for field honors. The negro’s proficiency in athletics has become a source of much speculation and discussion in athletic clubs.
Many of the colored athletes prominent in athletic circles were graduated from public schools in Greater New York but unlike former years, when promising colored athletes received little consideration or encouragement, the student upon graduation can now join a colored athletic organization and continue to compete. There are three negro athletic clubs in the metropolitan district, which are making rapid strides in the athletic world and scarcely an open meet is now held that does not find representatives of these clubs in the list of competitors. These organizations are the Salem-Crescent A.C. and St. Christopher’s Club of New York and the Smart Set A.C. of Brooklyn.
The American Marathon, Pamela Cooper, Syracuse University Press, 1998
New York Times; October 18, 1914
Aaron Morris The First Known Negro Runner (1919) to Compete in the Boston Marathon
Running History April 19, 1919:
Aaron Morris running for the St. Christopher Athletic Club finishes 6th place at the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:37:31. He becomes the first know African American to run this race. The race had 25 finishers and was won by Carl Linder in 2:29:13.
Running History by Aaron Morris: 1916 - 1920
Aaron Morris and teammate Clifton Mitchell in 1920 became the first African Americans to run in the historic Berwick Marathon (Race For the Diamonds) finishing 15th and 11th respectively.
“During the evening of Thursday, May 25, the management will present the handsome silver cup offered to the first colored runner who finished in the modified Marathon race conducted last Saturday by the New York Evening Mail. Aaron Morris of the St. Christopher Club, who finished fifth in that race, was the first colored boy to finish, and he will receive the prize.”
The New York Age – May 25, 1916
“Aaron Morris, St. Christopher Club, romped home seventh in the five and one-half mile handicap road run staged Memorial Day by St. Michael’s Catholic Club in Wes Hoboken. Morris made the best time over the course.”
The New York Age – June 1, 1916
Halpin Wins Harlem Race By Big Sprint
“Terry Halpin of the Morningside Athletic Club won a bitter duel from Aaron Morris, St. Christopher Club in the scratch six mile race held by the Harlem Athletic League over the course of the Glencoe Athletic Club. Halpin succeeded in beating Morris by ten yards through a stronger sprint in the final yards. The time of 32m, 35s speaks well for the fast running of Halpin.”
The Evening World – February 25, 1918
Clifton or Clifford “Cliff” Mitchell The 2nd Known Negro Runner (1920) to Compete in the Boston Marathon
Running History April 19, 1920:
Clifton Mitchell running for the St. Christopher Athletic Club finishes 8th place at the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:41:43. He becomes the second know African American to run this race. The race had 60 starters and was won by Peter Trivoulidas in 2:29:31. Mitchell would finish 13th at Boston in 1921 in 2:40:12.
Clifford Mitchell and teammate Aaron Morris also in 1920 became the first African Americans to run in the historic Berwick Marathon (Race For the Diamonds) finishing 11th and 15th respectively.
Here’s a New York Times description January 16, 1922 of a race won by Mitchell.
“Morningside Run Won By Mitchell”
Matter of Inches Separates Leaders in Road Race Through Snow and Mud.
Over ice and snow and through slush and mud Clifford Mitchell, the dusky runner of the St. Christopher Club plowed his way to a hair-line victory yesterday in the scratch invitational road run of the Morningside A.C. Twelve of the starters succeeded in covering the seven-and-a-half mile course in spite of the terrible conditions underfoot. It was more like a combination skating and swimming race than a road run. The race itself was part and parcel of a training scheme for the Brooklyn Seagate Marathon and another road run for the same purpose will be held next Sunday, but the distance will probably be lengthened
to ten miles.
Yesterday’s event over the hills and dales of Harlem had one peculiar feature it looked like a four-man vaudeville act. Right from the start Mitchell jumped into the lead, but he was flanked by Fitzsimmons, McNeil, and Dwyer and the four men ran the whole race practically abreast. Spectators seemed to expect them to burst into harmony as the quartet turned corner after corner without losing alignment. The state of affairs lasted until the home stretch, where Mitchell filed a petition for dissolving the corporation, and dashed off for the tape. The remaining members of the group made it so hot for him that it was only a matter of a few feet between the first and the fourth man, but the St. Christopher athlete held his scant lead and crossed the line a half a stride ahead of Fitzsimmons.
Robert Earl Johnson (1891 – 1965) The First Great African American Distance Runner
Running History July 12, 1924:
In the cross-country Paris Olympics in 1924, Johnson finished third behind the great Finland duet of Paavo Nurmi and Willie Ritola. Along with receiving the bronze medal and he also led the U.S. cross-country team to a second place silver medal. Johnson also placed 8th out of field of 43 in the Olympic 10,000 meters in 1924; setting a personal best time of 32:17.
Earl Johnson was a two time Olympian (1920 & 1924). History records him as the first internationally ranked African American long distance runner. He competed from 1914 to 1926 from distances of one mile to twenty-three miles. At the time Earl was the only Negro athlete to have made the Olympic team in a distance running event.
Earl Johnson’s U.S. National Championship titles are as follows:
1921 6 Mile Cross-Country
1921 – 1923 5 Mile Track
1921 – 10 Mile Road (victory over Ritola)
1924 10 Mile Road in 54:29 (victory over U.S. marathon Olympians Albert Michelson and James Hennigan)
He finished second to the Willie Ritola in the 1922 Berwick Marathon; a distance of nine and three-quarter miles. His time of 48:36 was just three seconds off the previous course record. The Berwick race has a tremendous history of bringing top college track athletes to race the top road runners. Most of the great runners over the eras starting in 1908 have raced in Berwick, PA on Thanksgiving Day.
Johnson was also a marathon winner. In 1921 and 1923, he was first in the Detroit Marathon, a 22 mile event whose inadequate distance prevented Johnson’s name from appearing in official marathon histories. His time in 1923 was 2:09 which was 8 minutes faster than in 1921. An illness in 1924 prevented him from running the Boston Marathon that year.
Earl Johnson was born in Woodstock, Virginia and graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore. He competed for the Edgar Thompson Steel Works AA team near Pittsburgh. He became a sportswriter for the Pittsburgh Courier and managed an African American sandlot baseball team at Edgar Thomson Works.
Rufus Tankins Protégé of R. Earl Johnson
Running History: 1925 - 1928
“Rufus Tankins Wins Big Marathon Race”
When Rufus Tankins sterling colored runner from Edgar Thomson club, darted over the finish post clear-cut winner by 1,000 yards, every mortal on the oval joined in loud acclaim.
Source: The Pittsburgh Courier, June 27, 1925
“Tankins Wins Marathon Race”
Rufus Tankins of the Edgar Thomson A.A. won the Mineral Beach Club’s eight mile marathon footrace. Tankins, a veteran of fifty or marathons, raced the distance in 44 minutes, 21 3-5 seconds. The colored star finished about 150 yards ahead of John Nasi.
Source: The Daily Republican, November 12, 1928
“Tankns Winner Of East Pittsburgh Marathon Event”
Rufus Tankins, dusky marathon star of Edgar Thomson A.A. last night added another triumph to his string by winning the 11 mile jaunt staged in connection with Old Home week of East Pittsburgh. Tankins time was 1 hour, 9 minutes and 42 seconds.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, September 27, 1928
“Tankins Wins Marathon”
The first race on the program, the marathon, covered a distance of approximately five and two-tenths miles. Rufus Tankins, the colored runner from the Edgar Thomson AA, added to his numerous collection of medals and trophies by winning the race, taking 32 minutes 33 2-5 seconds for the distance.
Source: The Pittsburgh Press, June 12, 1927
August “Gus” Moore 1929 Berwick Marathon Champion (Race for the Diamonds)
Running History: November 18, 1928
Gus Moore wins the U.S. national cross-country title representing the Brooklyn Harriers at Van Cortlandt Park’s 6 mile course defeating a field of 59 runners in 31:18. He would again win this title in 1929.
Gus Moore was one of history’s greatest distance runner in the 1920s and early 1930s. He was U.S. champion at 10 miles in 1930 and is the only African American to ever win the famous Berwick Marathon the 9 Mile Thanksgiving Day classic.
He was a high school star for Boy High in Brooklyn, NY and competed for both St. Bonaventure and University of Pittsburgh. Gus beat the great Paavo Nurmi in a two mile race in Boston 1930 with a time of 9:05.
Gus Moore retired from running in 1933. He served in the US Navy during World War 11 and worked for the postal service.
Edward “Eddie” Gardner “The Shiek”(1897 – 1966)
Running History: May 26, 1928
From March 4 to May 26, 1928, a unique event grabbed the attention of the American public—an eighty-four day, 3,400-mile footrace from Los Angeles to New York City, nicknamed the bunion derby. The 199 starters included five African Americans, a Jamaican-born Canadian, and perhaps as many as fifteen Latinos, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, representing about ten percent of the competitors. The rest were white. The derby consisted of daily town-to-town stage races that took the men across the length of Route 66 to Chicago, then on other roads to the finish in Madison Square Garden. All were chasing a $25,000 first prize, a small fortune in 1928 dollars.
Edward Gardner would finish 8th in this race winning $1,000. He won more daily stages during the race than anyone.
His other running accomplishments include the following:
Tuskegee University 5 mile track record in 1915
In 1917 he won the Negro Alabama State Cross-Country Championship
In the early 1920s living in Seattle he won multiple Washington State 10 mile championships
He was quoted in 1960 saying “many a day I did 50 miles in under seven hours and over one long stretch they checked me over an 84 mile lap in 17 hours, 20 minutes, the all-time record.”
In 1928, Gardner set a U.S. record on a 50 mile course, finishing at Husky Stadium in 6 hours, 25 minutes and 28 seconds. A decade later he set a course record in a 52 mile walking race around Lake Washington.
Eddie Gardner was called "The Shiek" because he wore a white turban towel around his head with white shirt and shorts when he ran.
Source: Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America by Charles Kastner; 2007
Seattle History: The best local runner you’ve never heard of by Casey McNerthney; June 2011
Augustus “Gus” Johnson
Running History: April 19, 1934
Augustus Johnson places 14th at the Boston Marathon in 2:55:39. A native of Lansing, Kansas, Johnson would go on to record top 20 finishes four more times between 1936 and 1940.
Gus Johnson competed for the Port Chester Interstate Sports Club. He took third place in the 1935 Port Chester Marathon and placed well at the national championship at Yonkers in 1938 and 1939.
Here’s Johnson’s Boston Record:
1934: 14th – 2:55:39
1936: 11th – 2:43:13
1937: 13th – 2:50:02
1938: 18th – 2:56:43
1940: 11th – 2:44:01
1941: 29th – 3:30:03
New York Pioneer Club (NYPC) & Civil Rights History 1942: The Club’s Constitution Changed
Running History: 1942
The club was founded in 1936 by three African Americans; Joseph J. Yancey, Robert Douglas and William Culbreath in Harlem, New York.
In 1942 the members changed the club’s constitution so that white athletes could become official members. Mr. Yancey states “we eliminated the word ‘Colored’ and inserted ‘regardless of race, creed, or color.’ The constitution stated as follows:
“The object of this organization is to support, encourage, and advance athletics among youth of the New York Metropolitan district, regardless of Race, Color or Creed. To encourage and further the ambition of our youth for higher education that they might become intelligent, civic-minded citizens, and to work toward a better racial understanding through the medium of education and sports.”
1945: “The Pioneer Creed”
“The Pioneer Club, a club of gentlemen and athletes. This does not signify mere outward refinement. It speaks of a refined and noble mind, to which anything dishonorable, mean or impure abhorrent and unworthy.”
Running History: April 19, 1955
The New York Pioneer Club long distance running team of Rudy Mendez, Ted Corbitt, and Louis Torres wins the Boston Marathon team title. The team would win again in 1957 with Mendez, Corbitt, and John Conway.
The NYPC is history’s most unique athletic team founded in 1936 by three African Americans; Joseph J. Yancey, Robert Douglas and William Culbreath in 1936 in Harlem, New York. Robert Douglas was manager of the Renaissance Casino and the Harlem Rens Basketball team.
NYPC was one of the first large scale integrated clubs in any sport amateur or professional.
William “Bill” Lucas
Running History: November 28, 1949
Bill Lucas representing Manhattan College places 4th at the NCAA Cross Country Championship achieving one of the all-time best finishes for an African American in this prestigious championship race.
He was Manhattan College’s first All-American in 1949 for Track & Field. In 1948 he won the 1948 Metropolitan Intercollegiate Freshman cross-country championship at Van Cortlandt in 15:31.2. Bill was 2 mile Metropolitan College record-holder for 2 miles in 1951 with a time of 9:22.6.
He was born in Harlem, New York and competed for the New York Pioneer Club.
Bill had a thirty five year career in public service including running for governor of Michigan.
Louis C. “Lou” White A Renaissance Sportsman (1908 – 1990)
Running History: April 19, 1949
Lou White finished third at the Boston Marathon in 2:36:48 and recorded the highest finish ever for an African American. Representing the New York Pioneer Club, he would win national championships in 1950 & 1951 at 15K and 10 Miles.
He excelled in such diversified sports as handball, soccer, swimming and ice skating. His entire life he competed in handball and racquetball tournaments, always placing first or second in the district. Queried about paddle tennis, he laughs, “it took tennis star Bobby Riggs to eliminate me in the Metropolitan tournament.” In 1949, he took third prize in a national photo contest with impressive shots of his Vermont travels. He also published some fiction and nonfiction articles.
Lou was inducted into the Road Runners Club of America Hall of Fame in 1984. He was a charter member of the New York Road Runners Club in 1958. During the 1970s and 1980s he would manually score road races in New York with his dear friends and contemporary competitors Joe Kleinerman, Harry Murphy, and Kurt Steiner.
Theodore “Ted” Corbitt (1919 – 2007) “A Founding Father of Long Distance Running in U.S.”“The Father of Ultramarathon Running in the U.S.”
Running History: July 27, 1952
Ted Corbitt placed 44th in the Olympic Marathon with a time of 2:51:09. He became the first African American to represent the U.S. in this event. The race was won by Emil Zatopek who also won the 5,000 & 10,000 meter Olympic races.
This was Ted Corbitt’s 7th career marathon. He would go on to run 223 marathons and ultramarathons.
Running History: May 16, 1954
Ted Corbitt became the first African American to ever win the U.S. Marathon National Championship in Yonkers, New York. His time of 2:46:13.9 was over a 26.8 mile course.
This occurred on son Gary’s third birthday.
Running History: February 22, 1959
Ted Corbitt wins the first New York City Marathon in 2:38:57. The race was called the Cherry Tree Marathon held in the Bronx at MaCombs Dam Park. This was the first marathon conducted by the newly formed New York Road Runners Club. There were 12 starters, 7 finishers, and New York Road Runners had 47 members. In 2015 the NY Marathon had 49,617 finishers, and membership exceeds 60,000.
New York Road Runner Officers for 1959 – 1960:
President: Ted Corbitt (New York Pioneer Club)
Vice President: Joe Kleinerman (Millrose AA)
Secretary – Treasurer: John Sterner (New York Pioneer Club)
Running History: August 1964
Ted Corbitt published the monograph “Measuring Road Running Courses.” Here’s how he positioned his leadership in course measurement:
“My initiating the accurate course measurement program in the USA is easily the most important thing that I did in the long distance running scene.”
Running History: September 28, 1969
Ted Corbitt places 2nd in the London-to-Brighton 52.5 mile road race. It was his 5th appearance at this race, and at age 50 he recorded his fastest time and an American record of 5:38:11.
Running History: November 28, 1968
Ted Corbitt becomes to oldest athlete to win a National AAU Championship. At age 49 he won the U.S. title for 50 miles beating Wayne Van Dellin in a time of 5:39:43. The race was held in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Running History: November 4, 1973 & October 25, 1970
11/4/73 Ted Corbitt sets an American Record for 24 Hour Run on the track of 134.7 miles. The race was held at Walton-on-Thames in England. Corbitt finished in 3rd place.
Running History: 10/25/70 Ted Corbitt sets an American age group road record for 50 miles of 5:34:01 placing 6th at the National championship held in Rocklin CA. Corbitt was 51 years old. This age group record still stands today after 45 years
Running History: April 15, 1974 & April 17, 1972
4/15/74 Ted Corbitt’s runs his last Boston Marathon at age 55. His time of 2:49:16 was only 34 seconds slower than his first Boston in 1951. Corbitt ran Boston
4/17/72 Ted Corbitt tied Clarence DeMar for a record of 19 consecutive years of running the Boston Marathon under 3 hours. Demar’s streak went from
1922 – 1940.
Lewis C. Olive Jr. (1930 – 2006)
Running History: November 7, 1952
Lewis Olive representing West Point wins the Heptagonal Cross-Country championship at Van Cortlandt Park. His winning time over the 5 mile course was 25:43.5. The Heptagonal division is comprised of Ivy League schools.
Lewis would win the Heptagonal outdoor mile championship in 1953 and 1954 in 4:16.8 and 4:15.5 respectively.
Charles”Deacon” Jones (1934 – 2007)
Running History: November 28, 1955
Deacon Jones becomes the first African American to win the NCAA cross-country championship representing Iowa. He beat the favorite Henry Kennedy by one-tenth of a second in 12 degree temperatures. The 4 mile race was annually held in East Lansing MI.
Deacon represented the U.S. in the 3,000 meter steeplechase for both the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.
He was a two- time NCAA champion and seven- time Big 10 champion representing Iowa.
Seven – time Big Ten champion representing Iowa.
Deacon won three U.S. national championships.
During the 1957 track season, he was undefeated in college one and two mile races.
His steeplechase best was 8:42.4 set in 1961.
Running History: June 8, 1956
Joe Tyler sets an American record for 10,000 meters of 30:31.9 in the Southern Pacific AAU meet.
Joe was an outstanding runner with tremendous range from 1500 meters to the marathon.
His first marathon was Boston in 1956 where he finished in 8th place.
James “Jimmy” Borden Founder & Coach United Athletic Association
Running History: March 23, 1957
Jimmy Borden representing the New York Pioneer Club wins the Junior National 30K Championship in 1:57:06. The race was held in Brighton, MA.
In 1960 Jim Borden started a New York based integrated running club following the model set by the New York Pioneer Club.
Running History: November 17, 1958
Ron Gregory competing for Notre Dame takes second place in the IC4A Cross Country Championship to Crawford Kennedy at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, New York. Ron time over the 5 mile course was 24:38.
Ron was one of the best distance runners ever to come out of the St. Louis area.He was three time (1954, 1955, and 1956) Missouri high school state cross-country champion. Ron held the high school one mile record in 1956.He held Notre Dame school records in 13 different categories including the 880, one mile (4:10) and two mile (9:14).He recorded a world best for 880 yards on an indoor dirt track of 1:50.5 in 1960.His brother is civil rights activist Dick Gregory who also excelled in track.
Leon Dreher Early Long Distance Running Pioneer & Age Group Legend
Running History: January 28, 1962
Leon Dreher representing the Delaware Valley AA finished third at the Shanahan (Philadelphia) Marathon in 2:46:58. He trailed Ted Corbitt and Jack Barry.
Leon Dreher was a frequent competitor in the Philadelphia area. His competitive record was stellar. He would often place among the top 5 finishers at all distances. Leon was part of a legendary group of athletes that built the foundation of road running in the Mid-Atlantic region. These runners included Browning Ross, Moses Mayfield, Dick Donahue, Bob Chambers, Tom Osler, Lou Coppens, Herb Lorenz, and Ed Dodd.
He would become internationally known in the 1970s competing in Masters – Age Group competitions. Leon’s consistency and amount or records set were legendary. At age 56 in 1977, he placed third in the 10,000 meters at the World Master meet in Sweden setting an American age group record of 35:37. He would also set a world one-hour age group record of 10 miles, 215 yards that year.
Source: Runner’s Gazette by Gary Fanelli “Two jobs crimp Leon Dreher’s training, but he keeps setting age-group records”
San Jose State Cross Country Team
Running History: November 26, 1962
San Jose State became the first integrated team to win a Division 1 NCAA title. The five person cross-country team had 3 black runners; Ron Davis, Ben Tucker, and Horace Whitehead and beat the perennial power Villanova by 11 points. The other team members were Danny Murphy, and Jeff Fishback.
In 1963 San Jose State would again win the NCAA Cross Country title with Fishback, Murphy, and Tucker all finishing in the top 10. The race was 4 miles held annual in East Lansing.
Harold Harris A Chicago School Teacher & Competitive Runner
Running History: May 24, 1964
Harold Harris representing the University of Chicago Track Club (UCTC) finishes in 4th place in the U.S. National Marathon Championship in 2:56:28 at Yonkers, New York. This is one of history’s most all-time famous U.S. road races. It was one of two Olympic trial races in 1964 conducted at 12n in 92 degree temperatures along with high humidity.
Harold Harris’s range of high performances spanned from 3 miles to the Marathon. Here are examples of some of his races from 1962 to 1964:
National Cross-Country U.S. Championship 10K – 21st 32:16
National 25K U.S. Championship – 2nd 1:32:23
National 15K U.S. Championship – 7th – 45:26
Mid-West Central AAU 15K Championship – 3rd 50:18
National Cross-Country U.S. Championship – 24th 33:09
3 Miles Indoor – 14:46.1 – Age 35
Windy City Marathon – 4th 2:39:31
Mid-West Central 25K AAU Championship – 2nd 1:29:36
Oscar Moore – “Speed & Grace”
Running History: September 15, 1963
Oscar Moore defeated Pete McArdle in the New York Metropolitan 20K Championship on the RRC Harlem River 4.01 miles course at MaCombs Dam Park and Yankee Stadium.
This is considered one of the greatest road races in New York City history. It was McArdles’s first defeat in the NY area in 4 years. Four course records were set by Moore. He ran the last lap in 20:17 to beat the previous one lap record of Jim O’Connell. He ran the last 2 laps in 40:40 to beat McArdles’s two lap record.
Running History: October 16, 1964
Oscar Moore becomes the first African American to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games for the 5,000 meters. The Olympics were held in Tokyo and Oscar finished 8th in his heat in 14:24
Running History: August 23, 1964
Ron Davis representing the Long Island Striders takes 2nd place in the U.S. National 25K Championship held at the New York World’s Fair. He placed second to John J. Kelley in 1:32:24 on an extremely hot day.
Ron was a member of the San Jose State Cross-Country team that won the NCAA Championship in 1962 where he finished in 6th place. His specialty was the 3,000 meter steeplechase where he place in the top 6 at NCAA Championships for two years.
He would go on to be a track & field coach for over 40 years both domestically and internationally.
Running History: November 23, 1964
Elmore Banton representing Ohio University wins NCAA Cross Country Championship in 20:07.5 at East Lansing. He would become the second African American to win this prestigious race.
Banton became the first African American to be a head coach for Ohio University. He would go on to be a nine-time Mid-American Conference Coach-of-the-Year in Track & Field and Cross-Country.
Running History: September 13, 1968
Lou Scott became the second African American ever to make the Olympic team at 5,000. He finished 3rd in the US Olympic trial qualifying race beating Gerry Lindgren.
In June 1962, Lou won what was known as “Michigan’s Greatest High School Mile Race” over Dick Sharkey in 4:13.2. He was Michigan Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 1962 and 1963.
He attended Arizona State University and his best times were 4:04.9 for the mile, 8:35.2 for 2 miles, 13:12 for 3 miles, and 13:46 for 5k.
Lou placed 2nd in the 1967 Pan American Games for 5,000 meters.
He was one of America’s top distance runners during the 1960s competing for the Motor City Striders.
Jared R. Beads (1928 – 1996)
Running History: October 1969
Jared Beads was recognized in “The Guinness Book of Records” for having the longest nonstop run of 121.25 miles in 22 hours, 27 minutes. This performance also exceeded the American Record for 24 Hour Run. The run took place at Dulaney High School track in Baltimore.
Jared was nicknamed “running machine.” For 20 years he jogged 15 miles a day.
He would run the Boston Marathon six times.
In 1974 he ran his fastest marathon of 2:42 at Boston.
Running History: July 26, 1969
Fred Ritcherson won the U.S. National One Hour Run Championship. His distance was 12 miles, 23 yards and was the third best performance ever by an American on the track. Buddy Edelen and Mike Kimball were the only other Americans to have ever run better at this distance.
Running for Selesian High School in Los Angles, Fred was one the greatest high school distance runners ever. In 1968 he was Junior National AAU Marathon champion with a 2:27:01. In 1969, he ran 8:55.2 for 2 miles which is one of history’s all-time best high school performances.
He went on the run for USC.
Running History: November 29, 1970
Moses Mayfield wins the Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:24:29 to become the fastest African American marathoner of all-time. He would go on to win this race again in 1971 with the exact time 2:26:44 that Ted Corbitt achieved in the 1958 edition of this race. This was the first year the race became known as the Philadelphia Marathon. In previous years it was known as the Shanahan and Ruthrauff Marathons respectively.
Arthur “Art” Hall (1947 – 2011)
Running History: April 22, 1975
Art Hall wins the Penn Relays Marathon in 2:27:32. He would go on to record his personal marathon best of 2:22:07 at the 1978 Boston Marathon. Many consider him to be the greatest long distance runner ever from Staten Island, New York. A street in Staten Island is now named Art Hall Way to honor this legendary athlete and person who had a tremendous impact on people.
The First Ladies of African American Long Distance Running Marilyn Bevans & Ella Willis
Running History: April 18, 1977 - Marilyn Bevans finished second to Miki Gorman at the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:51:12. She would record her personal best marathon time of 2:49:56 in 1979 at Boston. She was the first sub 3 hour, world class Africa American female runner achieving this at the 1975 NY Marathon.
Running History: October 26, 1975 - Ella Willis wins the Detroit Free Press (Motor City) Marathon in 3:13:51 becoming the second African American female to win a marathon. She would go on to win this race four times with a personal best of 2:38:22 set in 1989. Her winning time in 1988 was the all-time fastest marathon ever by an African American female. She held this distinction for an amazing 18 years.
Alan Price An American Centurion Legend
Running History: September 23, 1978
Alan qualified as an American Centurion for the first time at age 31. His time of 18:57:41 was a new American record for walking 100 miles. Centurion is a club for which race walkers are eligible who have completed a distance of 100 miles within 24 hours. Alan Price would go on to do this an amazing 23 times from 1978 to 1993. Alan was considered America’s greatest ultra-distance race walker. He passed away at age 68 in January 2015
Running History: September 9, 1979
Herm placed 5th at Nike/Oregon Track Club Marathon in a time of 2:11:52. The race was won by Tony Sandoval and Jeff Wells who finished in a tie 2:10:20. The race was held in Eugene. Herm Atkins has held the distinction of being the fastest native born black American marathoner for 36 years. This is truly an amazing running history milestone.
African American History Timeline (1880 – 1979) Middle Distance Running History
Dr. Philip Aaron “Phil” Edwards Canadian Five Times Olympic Bronze Medalist (1907 – 1971)
Running History: August 4, 1932
Phil Edwards representing Canada places third in the 1932 Olympic 1500 meters in Los Angeles. His time of 3:52.8 placed him ahead of American Glen Cunningham.
Edwards earned the name “Man of Bronze.” Here is his five Olympic bronze medal performances:
1928: Amsterdam – 4 X 400 Meter Relay
1932: Los Angeles – 800 Meters, 1500 Meters, and 4 X 400 Meter Relay
1936: Berlin – 800 Meters
Phil Edwards is a graduate of New York University and McGill University. He became a highly regarded physician and expert of tropical diseases.
John Youie “Long John” Woodruff First Great Black American Middle Distance Runner (1915 - 2007)
Running History: August 4, 1936
John Woodruff wins the 1936 Olympic 800 Meter Gold Medal in 1:52.9 over Mario Lanzi and Phil Edwards.
Woodrfuff from 1937 until 1941 enlistment into the army was never beaten at the 800 meter distance outdoors. He won three NCAA 800 Meter titles representing University of Pittsburgh from 1937 – 1939 and was U.S national champion in 1937. His American for 800 meters of 1:48.6 set in 1940 lasted for
After college he became an Army career officer, serving in World War 11 and Korea and retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
James T. “Jimmy” Smith Greatest Black Long Distance Runner of His Era(1913 - 1999)
Running History: July 3, 1937
Jimmy Smith representing Indiana University places 2nd to Glenn Cunningham in the U.S. National Championship 1500 meters. His time was 3:54.0
In 1936, Jimmy Smith set an Indiana collegiate mile record of 4:11 that stood for 29 years.
He was a business major and graduated in 1938. He became a public accountant and was owner of Smith’s Big 10 Grocery.
John Borican – All-Around Great Athlete (1913 – 1943)
Running History: June 20, 1942
John Borican wins the U.S. National 800 meters championship over William Lyda in 1:51.2.
John was an amazing all-around athlete winning national titles in the pentathlon (1938 and 1939), the decathlon (1941) and the 800 meters (1941 and 1942). It was indoors, however, where Borican posted his most impressive achievements. His best season was 1939, when he won 11 of 15 races and set world indoor best in the 800 meters, 880 yards, and 1,000 yards. He won four straight national indoor titles at 1,000 yards from 1939 to 1942.
He died at age 29 from anemia. He received a master’s of arts degree from Columbia University and was a candidate for a Ph.D. at the time of his death. His early passing prevented him from realizing his dream of becoming the first Negro mile champion.
Frank T. Dixon 3d (1922 – 1977)
Running History: November 29, 1942
Frank Dixon representing New York University wins the AAU National Cross-Country title in 31:52 in Newark, New Jersey.
Running History: February 27, 1943
Frank Dixon beats Gil Dodds to win the National Indoor Mile Championship at Madison Square Garden in 4:09.6. The outdoor world record by Gunder Hagg at the time was 4:04.6.
Rudolph “Rudy” Gordon Simms U.S. One Mile High School Record Holder - 1943(1925 – 1971?)
Running History: June 5, 1943
Rudy Simms a recent graduate of De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, today broke Chesley Unruh’s 18 year old national high school record for the mile with a 4:18.2 clocking. This record stood until 1954 when Deacon Jones ran 4:17.8. It took 64 years before Rudy Simms received recognition for this record. Thanks to Dave Johnson, Penn Relays Director, for researching this issue as there was uncertainty about his birth year.
In May 1971 a series of stories about racial incidents in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn that left a Rudy Simms dead at the hands of a white police officer. It still remains unconfirmed if this is the same Rudy Simms.
Rudy competed for New York University and the New York Pioneer Club.
Robert “Bob” Kelley (1921 – 2001)
Running History: June 18, 1944
Bob Kelley wins the U.S. National title at 800 Meters in beating Johnny Fulton in 1:51.8. He would again with this national championship in 1945.
Bob was a three-year letter winner in track at Illinois, winning the 880 yard race at the 1944 NCAA Championship in 1944 and the Big Ten Conference titles in the 440 and 880 in 1945. He registered 67 career victories in college.
Kelsey “Swifty” Brown (1927 – 2000)
Running History: 1948 – 1950
Kelsey Brown representing Morgan State was South Atlantic Champion recording 4:22 mile and 9:24 for two miles. He was New Jersey AAU mile champion in 1949 and the New Jersey AAU Cross Country winner in 1951. He considered his best race ever to be a 3:56.7 1500 meters in the 1950 AAU Junior Nationals.
Kelsey Brown was a regular competitor in road races in the New York and New Jersey area competing for the Central Jersey Track Club. He ran in the Masters Track meets into his late 60s. He also competed in World Veteran Games in Germany , New Zealand, Sweden, Australia, Italy and Finland, taking home two silver medals for the U.S. team. He held several world records in his age group in the 800 meters events. He also ran the Boston and New York Marathons several times.
Kelsey was elected into the Morgan State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978.
He was chemistry major and worked as a chemical engineer.
Lang Stanley (1932 – 2015) 1953 NCAA Champion
Running History: June 21, 1953
Lang Stanley competing for San Jose State wins the NCAA 880 Yard Championship in 1:52.4.
Running History: May 27, 1950
Lang Stanley representing Jefferson High School in Los Angeles set a high school national record for the 880 yard run of 1:53.9. The race was the California State High School Track and Field Championship in Sacramento. His effort broke the old record of 1:54.4 set by Ross Bush of Sunset High, Dallas in 1933.
Lang just missed making the 1956 Olympic team with a 4th place finish in the 800 Meters in 1:47.9. He was a consistent finalist in half-mile races at the NCAA and AAU Championships in the 1950s.
Lang Stanley was an original member of the Southern California Striders in 1955 with Mal Whitfield, George Brown, George Rhoden, and Meredith Gourdine.
Running History: November 11, 1950
Dick Gregory of Sumner High School wins the Missouri State Cross-Country Championship in 9:48.6. The race was held at Forest Park in St. Louis. His brother Ron would win this title three consecutive years from 1954 to 1956.
He competed for Southern Illinois University where he earned seven letters in track and cross county setting a school record at 880 yards of 1:54.1. He was the first black student athlete to become Athlete of the Year in part recognizing his fight to integrating the Carbondale area.
Dick Gregory became well known as a comedian and civil rights activist.
He ran across the United States in 1976 at age 44, and competed in the Boston Marathon.
Roscoe Lee Browne (1922 – 2007)
Running History: February 18, 1950
Roscoe L. Browne wins the AAU National Indoor Championship at 1,000 yards at Madison Square Garden. Representing the New York Pioneer Club he beat Phil Thigpen in 2:15.6
In 1951, Roscoe had the best time in the world for 800 meters with a 1:49.3. He was a favorite to make the 1952 Olympic team but due to an injury was unable to compete in trials.
Roscoe Browne became well known as an actor of the stage, and in film and television.
He was a 2015 inductee into the National Black Marathoners Association Hall of Fame.
New York Pioneer Club (NYPC)
Running History: February 17, 1951
The NYPC made history at the National AAU Indoor Championships at Madison Square Garden. Led by individual winners Ed Conwell (60-yard dash), Hugo Maiocco (600-yard run) and Roscoe Lee Browne (1,000-yard run), the Pioneers took their first National team title, beating out Seton Hall University and the New York Athletic Club (NYAC). The NYAC had won the National Indoor championship 17 times in the previous 19 years, but would not add African-American athletes to its lineup until the 1980s.
The NYPC is history’s most unique athletic team founded in 1936 by three African Americans; Joseph J. Yancey, Robert Douglas and William Culbreath in 1936 in Harlem, New York. Robert Douglas was manager of the Renaissance Casino and the Harlem Rens Basketball team.
NYPC was one of the first large scale integrated clubs in any sport amateur or professional.
Larry Thomas Ellis (1928 – 1998) The First African American coach of an Ivy League school
Running History: June 16, 1951
Larry Ellis representing New York University places 3rd in the NCAA 800 Meters. His time was 1:51.1. He would run a 4:14 mile while in college.
Larry Ellis competed for the New York Pioneer Club where he considered his coach Joe Yancey a mentor and father-figure. He started his coaching career at Jamaica High School, Queens, New York where one of his star athletes was Bob Beamon.
In 1970 he became the men’s track and field and cross-country coach at Princeton University.
Larry reached the pinnacle of his coaching success when he was named the 1984 US Olympic men’s track and field coach.
Mal (Marvelous Mal) Whitfield (1924 - 2015)
Running History: July 22, 1952
Mal Whitfield wins the Olympic 800 meter gold medal over Arthur Wint in 1:49.2.
Mal was considered the greatest middle distance runner of his era. His record includes two Olympic 800 meter crowns, six world records and eight National AAU titles. From 1946 to 1955, he won 66 of 69 races at 800 meters.
In 1954, Mr. Whitfield became the first African American to win the James E. Sullivan Award presented each year to the country’s top amateur athlete.
Reggie Pearman (1924 - 2012)
Running History: July 22, 1952
Reggie Pearman places 7th in the 800 meter Olympic finals with a time of 1:52.1. The race was won by Mal Whitfield.
Reggie won seven national and major collegiate titles for New York University in events of 440, 600, 880 and 1,000 yards. His fastest times were 47.6 for 440 yards and 1:51.5 for the 880. His greatest impact came as the relay anchorman for New York University and the New York Pioneer Club.
Harry O. Bright
A Quintessential Middle Distance Runner of the 1950s
Representing the New York Pioneer Club (NYPC)
Running History: January 22, 1954
Harry Bright wins the John Borican 1,000 Yard run at the Philadelphia Inquirer Games in a time of 2:11.3. The win was over the meet record holder Carl Joyce.
Running History: February 13, 1954
Harry Bright wins the Matt Halpin 880 Yard run at the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) meet at Madison Square Garden. Harry’s win was over Paul Raudenbush – U of Penn, Lt Carl Joyce – USMC, and Roscoe Lee Browne – NYPC. His time was 1:53.4. Later that evening Harry ran the second leg for the NYPC one mile relay team with a 440 yard split time of 48.2. The NYPC time of 3:17.9 was the season’s fastest one mile relay time.
Mr. Bright was inducted into the Seton Hall Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. His competitive running career spanned a decade including five straight years (1954 – 1958) of winning the indoor Metropolitan (Met) AAU Championship at 1,000 yards, and six straight years (1954 – 1959) winning the Met AAU 400 Meter Hurdle Championship.
He's been called a true Renaissance Man; athlete, gifted musician, educator, and community leader.
Arnold “Arnie” Sowell
April 6, 1935
Olympian & National Champion
Running History: March 16, 1955
Arnie Sowell wins the Pan American gold medal in Mexico City for the 800 Meters. His victory was over Lon Spurrier and Mal Whitfield with a time of 1:49.7.
Running History: June 25, 1955
Arnie Sowell wins the 880 Yard National Championship over Tom Courtney. The time of 1:47.6 and was one-tenth of second off the world record. At the time the race was considered the greatest 880 yard race ever.
Running History: November 26, 1956
Arnie Sowell places 4th in the Olympic 800 Meters race in Melbourne. The race was won by Tom Courtney in 1:47.7. Arnie led for a good portion of the race and finished in a time of 1:48.3.
Mr. Sowell won six national AAU Championship and two NCAA titles while at the University of Pittsburgh. His range of running excellence included a 5thplace finish in NCAA Cross-Country Championship. Arnie’s time over the 4 mile course was 20:11.
Theodore Stanley Richardson “Ted” Wheeler
Running History: June 30, 1956
Ted Wheeler places 2nd to Jerome Walters in the 1500 meter trials race for the Melbourne Olympics. African Americans were first and second in the Olympic trials race for 1500 meters in 1956; a black running history first.
Ted competed for Iowa Hawkeyes, and Chicago Track Club. He was one of the great runners of his era excelling at distance from 440 yard to 2 miles. His personal best 440y – 48.6; 880y – 1:50.3; 1500m – 3:48.0; One Mile – 4:04.7; and 2 Miles – 9:16.0.
He became one of the first black coaches at a major university, serving as the University of Iowa head track coach from 1978 to 1997 and cross-country coach from 1979 to 1987.
Running History: June 21, 1958
Jerome Walters run the fastest mile ever by an African American of 4:01.7 in the AAU Championship at Bakersfield, CA. He placed 5th in a race won by Herb Elliott.
Jerome was an Olympian for the U.S. in 1956 at the 1500 Meters.
He was 1956 national champion at 1500 meters defeating Fred Dwyer in 3:48.4.
One of his most memorable races was running the anchor leg for the Los Angles Striders in the distance medley relay May 1957. He beat Don Bowden who three weeks later would be the first American to break the 4 minute mile barrier.
Lillian Greene Chamberlain & Rose Lovelace Thomas The First Ladies of Women’s Middle Distance Running in U.S.
Before there was Joan Benoit Samuelson, Grete Waitz, Nina Kuscsik, and Kathrine Switzer, there were ladies from 1958 to 1966 who paved the way for the sport of women’s long distance running. There have been many milestones that has taken women’s running from when the longest distance allowed was 220 yards in the 1950s and today where many road races have more women finishers than men.
The names of these pioneer “First Ladies” include Grace Butcher, Chris McKenzie, Pat Daniels, Doris Brown Heritage, Judy Shapiro Ikenberry, Arlene Piper Stine, Julia Chase Brand, Lynn Carmen, Merry Leeper, Sara Mae Berman, and Roberta Bobbi Gibb to name a few. African Americans Lillian Greene Chamberlain and Rose Lovelace Thomas were two of the earliest women middle distance running champions.
Running History: July 5, 1958
Lillian Greene representing NY Police Athletic League becomes the first* U.S. national champion for 880 yards. Lillian set American records for 880 yards of 2:19.4 and 440 yards of 58.4 in 1958. She was the first African American to represent the U.S. in the 400m and 800m in international competition.
Running History: July 15 -16, 1960
Rose Lovelace representing Cleveland Recreation finished 2nd in the Women 800 Meters trial race for the Rome Olympics. Pat Daniels set an American record of 2:15.6 in winning with Rose a close second in 2:15.7. This was an historic race for the following reasons:
*This was the first time the Women’s 800 meters would be contested in the Olympics since 1928.
*Historians consider this the starting point in the evolution of women in long distance running.
Jim Dupree U.S. Champion 880 Yards: 1961 & 1963
Running History: June 25, 1961
Jim Dupree wins the national championship at 880 yards over Jerry Siebert in 1:48.5. He would again win this title in 1963 over Morgan Groth.
Jim Dupree was one of the premier half milers in the world in the early 1960s. Representing Southern Illinois, he won the NCAA title in 1962 for 800 meters with a time of 1:47.6.
Running History: April 13, 1963
Harry McCalla competing for Stanford runs the mile in 4:01.5 setting an all-time best by an African American. The race occurred in a dual meet vs. Oregon.
Harry won the Pac 8 three mile title and was an NCAA All American in Cross-Country in 1962 and 1964.
He would also run the 880 and Steeplechase for Stanford and was inducted in Stanford’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971.
Harry would hold the distinction of being the fastest African American miler of all-time for 8 years.
Many years before Byron Dyce, Reggie McAfee, Denis Fikes and Tommy Fulton there was Harry McCalla and Ben Tucker making black running history in 1963-64 for the mile.
Running History: June 28, 1964
Ben Tucker runs the fastest 1500 meters ever by an African American of 3:40.8 during the AAU National Championship held in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Ben's 1500 meter time converted to a 3:58.4 mile. He finished in 7th place in race where the first 4 runners; Tom O’Hara, Dyrol Burleson, Jim Grelle, and Jim Ryun all broke the American Record.
Ben competed for San Jose State and was member of the 1962 and 1963 NCAA Cross-Country Championship teams. He set school records in the 800 and 1500 meters. The 800 record stood for 15 years, while the 1500 meter school record was tops for 11 years.
Many years before Byron Dyce, Reggie McAfee, Denis Fikes and Tommy Fulton there was Ben Tucker and Harry McCalla making black running history in 1963-64 for the one mile.
Madeline Manning Mims
Running History: October 19, 1968
Madeline Manning wins the 1968 Olympic 800 Meter gold medal at Mexico City in an Olympic record time of 2:00.9. Her victory was memorable in how she dominated the race in winning by over 10 meters.
Madeline participated in three Olympics 1968, 1972, and 1976.
She competed for Tennessee State University and a member of the famed TigerBelles.
From 1967 to 1980, she won 10 national indoor and outdoor titles and set numerous American records.
Madeline has been the Chaplin at each of the Olympic Games since 1988.
She is an author, speaker, and contemporary gospel recording artist.
Running History: May 16, 1971
Bryon Dyce became the first African American with dual citizenship (Jamaica) to run a sub 4 minute mile at Franklin Field in Philadelphia at the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Games. Byron placed 3rd in 3:59.6 in the Dream Mile where Marty Liquori defeated Jim Ryun. This race was special in African American running history where the 3 top African American milers; Byron Dyce, Reggie McAfee, and Denis Fikes were in this race. The race video is on YouTube.
Running History: February 22, 1974
Robin Campbell wins the National Indoor One Mile Championship over Doreen Ennis at Madison Square Garden. Her time was 4:50.7. Robin was a two time Olympian at 800 in 1980 and 1984.
Her range in racing distances and longevity competing at a national championship level was special.
She was national champion at 440 yards in 1975, 800 meter in 1983, and one mile in 1974.
Robin competed in every Olympic Trials between 1972 and 1984.
Running History: April 21, 1973
Reggie McAfee representing the University of North Carolina runs the first sub-four minute mile by a native born African American. His time of 3:59.3 placed him second to his teammate Tony Waldrop in the Big Three Meet in Raleigh, NC. He would go on to run three sub 4 minute miles this season with a personal best of 3:57.8. Reggie is considered by many to be the greatest high school distance runner to compete in Cincinnati.
Tommy Fulton (1952 – 2013)
A Herculean Distance Odyssey
Running History: May 25, 1973
Tommy Fulton completed an incredible 51 hours; 8 Races, 15.5 miles of track competition at the NAIA Championships representing Texas Southern University. This performance still remains unparalleled in distance running history.
Here was his eight race schedule:
I mile heats– First Place
880 heats – First Place
3 mile heats – First Place
880 semi-finals – First Place
3 mile final – First Place
1 mile final – First Place 3:57.8 was an all-time best for an African American at the time.
880 final – Second Place to Mike Boit
6 mile final – Second Place
Denis Elton Cochran Fikes
Running History: April 27, 1974
Denis Fikes representing the University of Penn runs a 3:55.0 mile in the 1974 Penn Relays’ to place second to Tony Waldrop in the Ben Franklin Mile. This performance was the fastest mile ever by an African American. He would hold the distinction of being the fastest African American miler ever for an amazing 18 years.