Friday, March 28, 2008

African American Ultra Runners II

Borrowed from
Not even old enough to drive yet. To help his family this young man faced incredible odds and ran aross the United States. The youth of today can learn so much from the past, share this story with them.

Cotton, Toby Joseph, Jr. (1913–1978)

Toby Joseph Cotton, Jr., was born in Louisiana on March 2, 1913. By 1916, his family had migrated to Portland, Oregon before moving to Los Angeles, where his father worked as an auto mechanic. In 1925, Toby Cotton, Sr. was severely injured when a truck he was working on slipped off a jack. It crushed him, leaving him incapacitated and with his large family facing poverty.Toby Jr., the oldest of three boys, saw a chance to help his family when he read about the $25,000 first prize offered to the winner of the “Bunion Derby,” the nickname for the first footrace across America, scheduled to begin in Los Angeles on March 4, 1928. The prize money, a small fortune in the 1920s, lured this barely fifteen year old high school freshman to convince his parents to let him enter. On March 4, 1925, Toby joined 198 “bunioneers” at the start. He was listed as “T. Joseph” in press reports. He was one of five African Americans in the race. His father and his two younger brothers, Wesley, 13, and James, 10, followed Toby across the nation in the family’s well-worn car. Wesley drove while James brought his brother food and water as he ran. The men averaged forty miles a day and faced brutally tough conditions, including the Mojave Desert and the high country of Arizona and New Mexico. In Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, the black runners endured a hail of racial slurs and death threats from southern whites enraged by the sight of African Americans competing against whites in the Jim Crow South. Toby persevered in spite of the hardships. When the derby ended in New York City, Toby’s dream of saving his family seemed in tatters: He finished in 35th place, the family had used the last of its meager savings, and their battered car had broken down.Things looked bleak for the Cottons until William “Bojangles” Robinson came to the rescue. Robinson, who was in New York City starring in the all black musical, “Black Birds,” at the Liberty Theatre, organized a benefit performance for the Cottons and used the proceeds to buy the family a new car and send money back to Toby’s mother. Harlem philanthropist Casper Holstein presented Toby with a diamond-studded, gold medal for his historic run.Toby Joseph Cotton, Jr. died on July 20, 1978. At fifteen he was the youngest person to ever run across the United States.

Sources:Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); “Benefit to Help Young Bunion Derby Runner Go Back Home, June 19,” New York Age, 16 June 1928; “Tobey Josephs Gets Diamond Medal and Auto From N. Y. Friends,” New York Age, 30 June 1928.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring is Here

This weekend Tanya and I ran at our new favorite trail running spot; Bonelli Park. Spring is here, and the wild flowers are in full bloom. We had a terrific run in a beautiful place. We are looking forward to running the Leona Divide 50 miler in a few weeks. Enjoy the pictures.
Get out there and run! God is everywhere!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Impossible is Nothing

What a cool commercial, I meet Muhammad Ali at LAX when I was 4 years old.I would be incredible to run with such an athlete and an admirable man. He stood and still stands for something bigger than himself. The Greatest of ALL Time Ali, Ali, Ali!!!

Get out there and get FIT, and stay FIT!!
Enjoy MJ

Monday, March 24, 2008

African American Ultra Runners

Borrowed from
After being exposed to Ted Corbitt I thought it would be thoughtful to share the stories of other African American Ultra Runners. I have been inspired by them, and I hope you will be to. I will continue to share their stories as I find them.

Robinson, Samuel L. (1896-1964?)
Samuel L. Robinson was born in Kansas in 1896. He arrived in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in his teens, where he attended the city's integrated high school. He joined the school's football team and became a close friend of the team captain and the future sports editor of the Press-Union newspaper, Lou Greenberg. After serving in World War I, Robinson came home to Atlantic City and fought as a professional boxer. He earned his nickname "Smiling Sammy" because of his seemingly perpetual good mood. He was deeply religious, preaching an ethos of hard work and faith in God to anyone who would listen.In 1928, Robinson entered the first footrace across America, run from Los Angeles to New York City in eighty-four days. The press nicknamed the race a "bunion derby." Sammy had no experience as a distance runner, but he was a superbly trained and gifted athlete. His old friend Lou Greenberg gave him a check for three hundred dollars for training expenses and the promise of fifty dollars for each state he crossed. Robinson joined four African Americans who entered the race out of a field of 199 "bunioneers."The first 2,400 miles of the 3,400-mile course followed Route 66 across the Mojave Desert, the high country of Arizona and New Mexico, the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois to its end in Chicago. In addition to the challenge of running daily ultra marathons, the blacks runners had the added burden of running across the Jim Crow South. Starting in Texas, the three remaining black runners (Edward Gardner, Toby Joseph Cotton, Jr., and Robinson) faced a daily barrage of death threats and racial slurs from whites outraged by the sight of blacks beating white competitors.Despite the abuse, Robinson kept going. Along the way he earned the thanks and support of thousands of blacks who saw him run across Route 66. In Chandler, Oklahoma, he spoke to a packed house of four hundred hero-worshipping students at the Douglass School. He told them: "Don't smoke, don't chew, and don't use strong drink . . . If you want to be at your best, lead clean wholesome lives." A reporter from the Black Dispatch said, "Sammy has a way that really gets over with a crowd."He finished forty-fifth out of fifty-five finishers. Despite his standing, the citizens of Atlantic City gave him a heartfelt welcome when he stepped off the train from New York City. A sea of people swept aside a security detail and surged onto the platform to greet him. One large man plucked him from the crowd and carried him to the waiting car of the city's mayor, who paraded Sammy through the streets to a welcoming ceremony at the Ambassador Hotel.Sammy Robinson apparently died in 1964. He should always be remembered for his historic run across America. He risked his life to compete in the bunion derby, and became a symbol of hope and pride for black America.
Sources:Charles B. Kastner, Bunion Derby: The First Footrace Across America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007); "10,000 Roar Welcome to Smiling Sammy," Afro-American, 2 June 1928; "Bunion Runners Disrupt Lincoln County Track Meet," Black Dispatch, 19 Apr. 1928.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random thoughts

Yesterday afternoon while on a 11 mile trail run through Bonelli park these words of Ted Corbitt came to my mind. "You don’t need a goal. You don’t need a race. You don’t need the hype of a so-called fitness craze. All you need is a cheap pair of shoes and some time. The rest will follow.” Those words made me think of the present running and ultrarunning craze that is sweeping America. To me I think it is becoming over marketed and possibly selling out! Seems like every city is rushing to put on a marathon, every organization is rallying troops to raise money for their cause. Don't get me wrong I'm a health and fitness professional, I am an advocate for exercise; but......COME ON! Are these cities and people participating for the right reasons? I have met to many people running because it is a Fad! They are not well coached, trained, or prepared for what a marathon and beyond does to the body. Maybe I'm just rambling and this posted doesn't make sense. I want people to get off their butts and get fit, but if you have been sedentary for 20 yrs and are 40 lbs over weight. Maybe training for a marathon is not what you should start with. You may do more damage then you think. But referring back to the words of Ted Corbitt, don't fall for the hype, just get outside and get in shape for yourself, not because it is "the in thing"!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The father of American distance running

I am sad to say until a few months ago I had no knowledge of this icon of American distance running. Ted Corbitt was a true pioneer. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with our blog readers an article from the NY times written about him detailing some of his accomplishments. I was totally blown away! He was the true "UltraMarathon Man".

Ted Corbitt, a Pioneer in American Distance Running, Dies at 88

Published: December 13, 2007
Ted Corbitt, who began running as a child on his father’s cotton farm in South Carolina and virtually never stopped, becoming a pioneer of ultramarathon running in the United States, died Wednesday in Houston. He was 88 and lived in Manhattan.

His death, at a hospital, was caused by respiratory complications, his son, Gary, said. In recent years, Corbitt was found to have prostate cancer and colon cancer, his son said.

When Corbitt was 55, bronchial asthma ended his elite running career but not his participation in ultramarathons. At 81, he walked 240 miles in a six-day race, with interludes for sleep. The next year, in the same race, he walked 303 miles.

In 1993, the year before he died, Fred Lebow, the founder of the New York City Marathon, called Corbitt “the father of American distance running.”

By his own count, Corbitt ran 199 marathons and ultramarathons, which are typically races of 50 or 100 miles or 24 hours. (Marathons are 26 miles 385 yards.) He won 30 of those races and never dropped out of one until he was 75, he said. He trained by running as many as 200 miles a week. In his heyday, Corbitt — shy and slight at 5 feet 7 inches and 130 pounds — was a United States marathon champion and a member of the United States team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, where he finished a disappointing 44th in the marathon.

At various times, Corbitt held American records in the marathon, the 100-mile run and the 25-, 40- and 50-kilometer events. He also won national American Athletic Union championships in several distance running events. His fastest time in a marathon was 2 hours 26 minutes 44 seconds.

In 1957, Corbitt helped found the Road Runners Club of America; he was later its president. He established guidelines to measure courses accurately for the thousands of nationally certified races. In 1958, he was a co-founder and the first president of the New York Road Runners Club. He was among the first five athletes inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, N.Y., in 1998.

Theodore Corbitt was born Jan. 31, 1919, in Dunbarton, S.C. “On the farm, I ran to the store, to the mailbox and to school,” he told Trishul Cherns in a 1988 interview that appears on the Web site UltraRunning Online.

After moving to Cincinnati, he ran competitively in high school and at the University of Cincinnati in half-mile, one-mile and two-mile events. As a young black athlete, he also encountered racial barriers.

“The color line was drawn even in some of the meets in Cincinnati, so I could not participate in them,” he said in the 1988 interview. “In the Midwest, places like Illinois and Indiana, there were track meets, but I was a little reluctant to take part in them because I did not know what type of reception I would get and what problems I would have getting a place to stay and getting something to eat.”

After graduating from Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in education and serving in the Army in World War II, Corbitt moved to New York, where, as a night student, he earned a master’s in physical therapy at New York University in 1950. He ran his first marathon, in Boston, in 1951.

In 1959, as the president of the New York Road Runners Club, Corbitt organized the first ultramarathon event in the United States, a 30-mile course through the Bronx and Queens and into Westchester County, said Gail Waesche Kislevitz, a coordinator for the New York Road Runners Foundation. Corbitt won that race, called the Cherry Tree, a forerunner of the New York City Marathon, and went on to organize many more.

Corbitt championed running for exercise long before it became popular in the United States. He never smoked, he said, and had only one drink in his life, a can of beer while in the Army.

His training regimens were legendary. For a time, he ran 200 miles or more a week, often in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. He once ran the marathon distance every day for a month. He often ran a 31-mile loop around Manhattan in about 3:45. Sometimes he did two loops. He also trained with weights.

Corbitt was the chief physical therapist at the International Center for the Disabled on East 24th Street in Manhattan. Until 1973, he ran to work every day, sometimes making a 20- to 30-mile detour through Westchester.

He also taught physical therapy at Columbia and N.Y.U., wrote widely on athletics and physical therapy, and officiated at races. On at least one occasion, he ran connected to electrodes to study the effects of running on the body.

He retired from his job in 1993 but remained a full-time physical therapist into his 80s. His wife of 42 years, the former Ruth Butler, died in 1989. His son, Gary, of Jacksonville, Fla., is his only immediate survivor.

“The marathon demands patience and a willingness to stay with it,” Corbitt was quoted as saying in a 1998 book by Ms. Kislevitz, “First Marathons: Personal Encounters With the 26.2-Mile Monster.” “You must be willing to suffer and keep on suffering. Running is something you just do. You don’t need a goal. You don’t need a race. You don’t need the hype of a so-called fitness craze. All you need is a cheap pair of shoes and some time. The rest will follow.”


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Haile Gebrselassie pulls out of Beijing marathon

Haile Gerbrselassie considered to be one of the greatest distance runners of all time pulls out of the Beijing Olympic marathon due to pollution in the city. After reading and seeing this video regarding his choice to do so I began thinking about how smog here in Southern California is affecting my health and my running. By no means do I claim to be an elite athlete, but I do value my health and I do take my training seriously.
Well what I did was compare my average pace and heart rate over the last 3 weeks. What I found was that during morning runs and 2 beach runs compared to my lunch hour runs their was a significant difference in the two values. In the morning runs of the same distance compared to the afternoon runs of the same distance (different days) my average heart rate was 12 bpm less and my average pace was up 30 seconds less per mile. I also noted less perceived exertion. Yes this was a very small and short experiment and I did not address many variables such as mood, temperature, fatigue, course,etc... But studies of a air quality state that morning hours are best for runs due to lower smog levels, and that beach air is often less polluted due to the ocean breeze blowing the smog inland (where I live).
So I say Kudos to Gebrselassie "Health is Wealth" without it what do we have. He has made a great choice that will send incredible shock waves.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

2008 Los Angeles Marathon

For the first time in I think in 7 years Tanya and I did not run the Los Angeles Marathon. Instead we acted as spectators and cheered the ocean of people living their marathon dreams. LA was my first marathon,it does hold a special place, but I thought it was time to step back and watch. It was a rare treat to be able stand on the sidelines and watch others run. To see the elite athletes motoring by at such a blistering pace was incredible.

LA has the "Challenge" of sorts. The elite females start before the elite males, and the men have to try and catch them. I don't like the idea, but it is a nice payday for the overall winner $100,000. The goal of the organizers is to create faster times by making the men chase the women. I don't think it has worked yet!
Man these brothers can run!! not that it is unusual at the major city marathons; but 7 out of the first 10 finishers were Kenyan! WOW! Standing and watching them cruise by was incredible. The ease at which these men and women are able to cover 26.2 miles just blows me away. I have learned to love to run, but these athletes were born to run!!
It was great to see so many of our friends out there having a ball. In the crowd we saw Ultra friends Andy K., Alex S, Jorge P,Maria L, Dirty Girl XY, Fred P, Deb. It was great seeing them all, but I was blown away when I saw Gary H. who less than a year ago was fighting for his life after being in a motorcycle accident. Gary you are the man! Just read his bib "One Kidney".

Bernadette K. what can you say. This was Bernadette's 5th time finishing the Los Angeles Marathon. She is an inspiration; so many people sit back and say that is crazy I could never do a marathon. Not Bernadette, she wants to challenge her human spirit and rise to new heights. Way to go Berni!
Also a BIG Congratulations to first time marathon finisher Jason S. You got it done brother!