Where Your Dreams Become Reality
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Subject: RE: Henry Rono training for masters mile record.
Henry, here is what I wrote about you once about the 1978 NCAAs:
Those of us who saw it will always remember we were lucky; we saw running become art.
I sat at the south end of the East Grandstands behind two cackling Princeton athletes. They were completely bewildered by Rono's running, gleefully pointing out to anyone who'd listen how stupid he was to run so 'recklessly.' I sat thinking to myself, 'These two knuckleheads don't understand what they are privileged to see.
Over the years we've all heard many athletes declare themselves to be artists. Rono never claimed anything; he just ran. But if ever there were a 'performance artist' in our sport, it was Rono. His performances were ephemeral. The only record left is the spoken (and written) word. So far as I know, there is no video record of his world records, nor of the joyous romps in Eugene. If there were, I could sell thousands of "The Rono Tapes" from the trunk of my car.
After his 8:18.63 in the steeplechase heats, when the curtain came up again for the 5000 heats, Rono wasted little time. On each straight Rono sprinted, each turn he'd cruise. On the straights Rono had this special way of cocking his head back, he'd lean forward, push his chest way out, pump his arms -- and whooosh -- it looked like he had his own personal wind carrying him down the track.
On the turns he'd float like he was walking on air. He's hit another straight, push that button of his, and the crowd would respond. You could hear the crowd on the other side of the track erupt as he flew down the track. He'd float the turn, push that switch again, and it was our turn to roar.
Rono had taking running to a new level. He wasn't simply running, he was performing.
It has been said that on the West Grandstand straight Rono even passed NCAA long jump champion Larry Doubley as he ran down the runway. I believe it.
Over the years we've all been privileged to see some great runners -- Kipketer, El Guerrouj, Gebrselassie, Tergat. All great runners, all with silky-smooth strides, and yet they all could be described as being mechanical. Rono was a 'runner's runner' who ran for the sheer joy of it, and left anyone so privileged to see his 'work' awestruck.
Let's put it this way: could Gebrselassie ever run 13:22 in a Spokane blizzard? Could an EPO-induced Brahim Boulami ever run 8:05 in a rainstorm during a dual meet in Seattle? I don't think that anyone knows what could have been with Rono. It doesn't matter to me. What I saw was enough.
Without a doubt, my memories of Rono got me through many a rainy winter training run. I'd cock my head back, lean forward, push my chest out, pump my arms and let my body follow my imagination down the road.
I even think there were a few times that I felt what it must have been like.
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