It is just after 10 am. I am sitting in my hotel room in Urbandale, Iowa, writing for the next couple of hours about the USATF Outdoors. Even in an off year, and with the wonderful weather today, this meet will be fascinating. The decathlon begins at 1 pm, and the women’s discus final starts at 2 pm. Also in the afteroon, the women’s javelin at 5 pm. At 5.15 pm, the women’s triple jump, and then, round 1 of the men and women’s 100 meters, with women at 5.45 pm and men at 6:10 pm for men’s 100 meters.
The evening will finish with distance races, the women’s 10,000 meters at 7 pm, the men’s 10,000m at 7:40 pm and the men’s 20,000m RW at 8:40 PM.
And now, for some stories….
For me, the first day of the decathlon reminds me of my earliest experiences in meeting decathletes. I go back to 1975-1976. Most days, I would run down Hamilton avenue with Bob Lucas, Chris Schenone and Peter Dolan, both classmates at Bellarmine Prep. On the way back from our afternoon run, we would run by and watch these guys throwing the javelin or the discus. On another day, we would see them practicing the shot put, as we did a morning run. One day, I went over and watched these guys throwing and was curious about the guys who were throwing each day. I recall meeting Bruce Jenner, who was quite nice to us. I did not know exactly what the decathlon was, except that Jim Thorpe had won it, and that it had ten events (latin does come in handy). In the early 1990s, I would spend some time with Bruce once again, as part of the VISA Decathlon program. I have tremendous interviews with Bruce, Bob Mathias, Milt Campbell, Bill Toomey, on the nature the event. I would not see Bruce, now Caitlyn again, until 2012, when he supported Ashton’s new WR at the Olympic Trials.
This brings me to a tremendous story about Daley Thompson, the great British decathlete. A couple of summers ago, I was fortunate enough to go to a Steve Cram event where they were roasting Daley Thompson. Daley Thompson has a wicked sense of humor, and he exhibited it at this event (you can listen to it here: https://www.runblogrun.com/2016/08/daley-thompson-interview-by-steve-cram.html). Daley was asked his thoughts about Caitlyn Jenner. Now, remember, for Daley Thompson, nothing is off limits in terms of humor. Daley Thompson changed his demanor. He noted how he had lived with Bruce Jenner for the twelve weeks prior to LA Olympics and how Caitlyn had provided advice. Then, he added that must be terribly painful to live in a body for sixty plus years with which you are not comfortable, in refering to Caitlyn Jenner. Thompson had shown his class, and respect for fellow decathletes.
When I think of the decathlon, and multi events, and also the class of athletes, I remember Thompson’s words.