Dear Mr. Rono,
Today’s Boston Marathon and the winner’s namesake prompted me to google an early life hero – “Henry Rono”.
In 1977 at the age of 16, I showed up for pre-season Cross Country training at my rural school in northeast Ohio. The Coach said run three miles around the block and having never run more than a basketball court and back, I thought there is no way it’s humanly possible for a human to run that distance. 28 minutes later and behind all the girls I made it back to the track.
I trained hard for 2 1/2 weeks and made last person on the JV team. 4 meets into the season I made the varsity team. And a mere 3 months after I ran my first mile ever, I led the team to a first place win at the District meet in Akron against 20 other regional teams and off we went to the State meet.
I would find out l later that after that first pre-season workout, Coach had asked a few of the seasoned runners to tell me to go home and forget any ambitions I might harbor about making the CC team. I never got the message however and after the District meet Coach gathered the team and said he owed someone a big apology.
I had a pretty good inaugural track season in 1978 running a 4:32 mile. I started paying more attention to what was going on outside my little village and the one name that kept re-emerging during was “Henry Rono”. I was inspired. I had no real guidance but somewhere I had read you had run a lot of miles at this time in your life so I decided to run 10 miles a day x 100 days. And I did.
During the first meet of the season, I shattered the school cross-country record. Course records continued to fall throughout the season and I again led our team to the State finals.
In November of that year I had an opportunity to see you run as I made a pilgrimage to Madison, Wisconsin to see the NCAA Cross-Country Nationals. Salazar won but it was you I had come to see and was mesmerized by. I still remember that feeling of being locked frozen in admiration and awe as you ran by me.
Your story is amazing. I’m glad you made it out and are passing on your wisdom both on and off the track to a future generation.
You are for me and will always be, the Greatest Distance Runner of all time.
San Francisco, CA