Browning Ross: The Father of American Distance Running, by Jack Heath: A RunBlogRun book review


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RunBlogRun opines: Our sport has a colorful history, with characters who devoted their lives to our sport. Characters is a word use with much respect. It is this writer's given that most of us humans learn from failures and challenges. While those challenges and failures make great fodder for historians, there can be, from such situations the equivalent of hell on earth.

Browning Ross is one of the true characters of our sport. Jeff Benjamin, a long time writer for American Athletics, American Track & Field and now, RunBlogRun is a high school teacher who specializes in American history. Jeff provides us with a series of book reviews at his leisure. This is one of them.

Book Review by Jeff Benjamin
If running history aficionados were to look up the names of runners who helped launch the "boom" in the 1970's, names like Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Tommy Leonard and Fred Lebow, amongst others, would be reflective of the era. Prior to the 1970's the names of Ted Corbitt, Buddy Edelen, Bob Schul, Jim Ryun, Billy Mills and others as well would permeate the era.
In a new book, Jack Heath lays claim to THE pivotal figure of our Sport over more than half a century being Browning Ross. His book, "Browning Ross: The Father of American Distance Running," is no doubt a labor of love written in tribute from one of Ross's friends, supporters and contemporaries. (Heath ran under Coach Ross and then coached with him). Yet, Heath does something that many one-sided tribute bios of the past cannot seem to do; Heath backs up his claims of Ross's influence and impact with solid, consistent facts, facts which are also verified from other illustrious sources in the book.

Ross was a Villanova competitor who competed on the 1948 and 1952 U.S. Olympic teams as a 3,000-meter steeplechaser. He also won the Pennsylvania Berwick nine-mile race (known as the "Run for the Diamonds") 10 times against top competition, as well as other top national competitions.

Aside from his stellar competitive record, Browning worked on the other end of the Sport as well, helping to found the Road Runners Club of America in the late 1950's.

But perhaps Ross's greatest achievement was publishing the first-ever national magazine on distance running, which was known as the Long-Distance Running Log. That publication became a precursor for the rise of future running magazines, some of which are still in publication to this day.

Like others who try to bring about change in the Sport, Ross would run afoul in the eyes of the AAU, leading to changes which have led to the betterment of the Sport nationally. Later on, his coaching and officiating of athletes would influence new generations who would join in on a path perhaps set forth by the actions of Ross.

Is Browning Ross the true "Father of American Distance Running?" You be the judge.

To order--

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