Henry Rono (front) held world records for the 3k, steeplechase, 5k, and 10k all over a crazy eighty-one days. As a college sophomore at Washington State, Henry broke four world records; 5,000 (13:08.4), steeple (8:05.4), 10,000 (27:22.4) and 3000 (7:32.1). No one has come near that amazing summer of 1978! His battles with Alberto Salazar, in collegiate events plus as both were elite athletes, are legendary. Rono has suffered from the same human frailties as many of us, and has fought back to regain control of his life, which is why I admire him. He wrote an autobiography last year, called: A Story of Triumph.
To describe Henry Rono, I will quote George Malley, former AR in steeplechase (8:21.72), who wrote about Rono running 13:21.79 in the heats of the NCAA’s:â€œThose of us who saw it will always remember we were lucky; we saw running become art. Over the years we’ve all heard many athletes declare themselves to be â€˜artists.â€™ Rono never claimed anything; he just ran. But if ever there was a â€˜performance artistâ€™ in our sport, it was Rono. His performances were ephemeral.”
Henry Rono running the Keep LA Running 5k/10k, July 2009
My own story with Henry dates back to the 1980 NCAA District 8 meet, Pac-10s at Stanford. On one side of my college team, Santa Clara, was Washington State, and on the other, was the University of Oregon. They year before, 1979, I had helped Henry and Samson Kimombwa find their team station on the line. Standing between such teams ( Oregon had Steve McChesney, Rudy Chapa, Ken Martin that year, and maybe Don Clary), was a bit disconcerting for me, as my then pb was about 32 minutes and change. for 10k.
The gun sounded and the race was off. The dust brought up by the hard charging field of two hundred was impressive. I hit the mile, near the back of the pack, in 4:59, with Henry Rono on my right side. I remember taking a double take: I was shocked. Here was a four time world record holder running next to me. The dream ended soon after that. Quickly, Henry took off through the pack and he was gone. The next time I saw him was near the end of the 10,000 meter course, as Henry and Alberto Salazar dueled over the last mile of the course, I believe that they covered that mile in about 4:14. From my place, 3/4 of a mile behind, I had a superb view of their last charge before the sprint to the finish; they were two runners in a classic battle.
I have emailed Henry on a few occasions and he has been most gracious to me. It is great to see him running once again….
Special thanks to Don Franken/World Class Sports for the photograph.
To find out more about Henry’s book, please check http://www.team-rono.com
To learn more about the world’s oldest sport, athletics, (that means running and track & field ) check out http://www.runningnetwork.com