Touring the Metro with Jim Hogan

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Jim Hogan was and is one of the shining lights in global distance running. A man who has not comprimised himself, his love of life, and his sense of humor come across even if you can barely understand his English through his bit of, for this listener, accent.....

October 13, 2007

Touring the Metro with Jim Hogan

In Ron Clarkes' book, the Lonely Breed, I read the story about Jim Hogan. Hogan was a tough runner, who was in the world record run that Derek Clayton ran when he broke the 2:09 barrier in 1968. Hogan went stride for stride with the late Abebe Bekele, the Ethiopian who won two Olympic gold medals. In the 1964 Olympics, Hogan is seen as leading the race through 15 kilometers. Hogan lead Ron Clarke and Abebe Bikila, before he collapsed, completed exhausted. Hogan was that kind of runner. Give it his best until he could not stand any more. There were more than a few dnfs.This was only two years after Hogan had started representing Ireland. His first international experience was the 10,000 meters in the 1962 Commonwealth games,where he was in the lead group for much of the race, but dropped out with three laps to go. Many do not know that Jim Hogan became involved in distance running at the ripe old age of 28!


But what was strange to me was the reaction to his dnfs. Hogan was, and is, a runners' runner. The runners understood him, the writers did not. The officials did not. The federations, and he ran for the Irish and the British, were not real supportive of Jim Hogan and his modus operandi. They wanted medals. In 1966, Hogan, frustrated with the treatment in Ireland, received his British citizenship and was able to represent Great Britian. It must have done something for him, as he took second on June 11, 1964 in the Chiswick marathon,his first marathon finish.

Jim Hogan was a very good club runner. He was also one of the men who inspired a generation of great British distance runners, such as Ian Stewart and Dave Bedford. Those two men hold Jim in such affection and respect that he is invited to all of the major events in UK athletics each year.

Normally, one finds Mr. Hogan around an athletics meeting, in a nicely tailored suit, with a fine hat as well. Jim is all of 77 this year, and runs a few miles each day. He was raising horses and riding them until about a year ago. Where Jim Hogan goes, so do many of the greats of distance running.

To say that Jim's speaking is hard to understand, is a bit of an understatement. His stories are like looking into a Time Tunnel, when men worked, men ran, men had lives and the running was tough.

Jim Hogan won the 1966 European Marathon Championships by taking the race lead quite early and holding the position until he finished in first. Ron Clarke told the story so well, telling the reader about how many times Jim had come so close to winning, but never getting to THAT level. Jim worked hard, trained hard, and really did not care much for the commentary that would appear about his almost wins. He ran as long as he could, as fast as he could.

At the London marathon in April 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Hogan. Never having been on the London subway before, I had the distinct pleasure of viewing much of the London marathon that year, following Jim Hogan around the various subway stations to watch the marathoners at several places on the course.

Hogan was made for orienteering. At seventy-seven, Jim could still move, running around in his sports tights and jacket and getting us views of the course that only a veteran could know. Cutting in and out of subway stations, Jim showed why he could still ride race horses at his
tender age.

Having held Jim Hogan in such high regard for so many years, it was a bit strange for me to first spend time with him. Such an easy smile and his stories just flowed out, it was easy to relax with him. I also did not want to upset him with the hero worship thing. He would not have tolerated that really well.

In the end, it has been the great times I have had with him over the past two years in our infrequent meetings. If I am in the UK, it is most likely that I am fortunate enough to see Jim Hogan at some gathering. Hogan will show up with his quick one liners, his stories, his smile and his great hats.

The Ron Clarke story on Hogan is a classic. Hogan's wife, Mary, who was quite ill, listened to the radio reports of her husband's marathon run. She knitted next to the radio, as Jim won his first major championships. Read the story sometime, and allow it to take you back to a different time in distance running.

For more on track and field, please check out http://www.american-trackandfield.com

For great picture of Jim Hogan taking second in Chiswick, please click: http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/displayhero.asp?HeroID=1602

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