Updated December 11, 2016, update Rick Riley’s correct name spelling.
Among my favorite Facebook daily checks is the photos and history moments from my friend, Mike Fanelli, a track geek beyond compare. His garage is a museum like few others to the sport of athletics and each day, his friends are treated to athletic moments that take us back to your youths, or even earlier (pre conception).
Today’s column on Michel Jazy, the French super stud, taking the likes of Shorter, Reilly and Prefontaine out for a jaunt with a ‘retired’ runner. Jazy put them to the test. But, read on, let Mike Fanelli take you back to that moment!
Special thanks to Mike Fanelli for the permission to run his column.
FLEET FOOTED FRENCHMAN Michel Jazy is perhaps best known for what he did not do and that was win the 1964 Olympic 5,000 meters after leading much of the race and attacking ferociously with just under a lap to go…he in fact still had a two meter leading coming out of the final turn but ran out of gas when passed by a surging Bob Schul, Harald Norpoth, and Bill Dellinger…calamite…des
What even some ‘track dorks’ don’t recognize (unless they are of a certain vintage) is that Jazy ran in 3 Olympics (1956, 1960 and 1964)…that he was the silver medalist behind Herb Elliott’s WR in Rome…that he set 9 world records including 7 individual standards and two relay marks…the one mile (once), the 2,000, 3,000 and two mile (twice each) and then as a member of the French 4 x 1500 on two occasions. Most probably also don’t know that he only competed once in the United States and that was when Don Franken brought him in to the 1962 LA Times Indoor Meet…he got pipped at the tape in that one by Jim Beatty as both ran 4:04.
Shown here circa 1970, a long since retired 34 year old Jazy takes a few Americans (who happened to be in town for the USA versus France dual meet) for a run in the Bois de Vincennes…a session that would prove not to be your ordinary jog in the park. You see, in his day, MJ trained here regularly on a 2200 meter circuit dubbed the ‘Jazy loop’. The workout started innocently enough but with 800 meters remaining on the first go around, Jazy suddenly surged hard to a near two minutes for the final half mile. He then settled back into the completely casual conversational pace. On the second lap, and precisely at the 800 to go mark he took off yet again…this was apparently repeated for all 5 laps. Oh, and as legend has it, wherever the affable Jazy went, a crowd of admiring fans appeared…and so on this morning a handful dotted the course while wildly chanting the ubiquitous ‘Ja – Zy, Ja – Zy, Ja-Zy’
How much would you give to have been part of this cadre of tracksters on their Parisian fun run…completely and utterly priceless.