by Sal Citarella
You ever have the experience, while running down the road, to have some smart-ass kid yell out the window of the car, “Hey, what’cha running from?”
Maybe it’s your own demons?
Depending upon when you started running, you were either already out there on the road and the BOOM just blew by you, or you heard the boom from the comfort of your couch and ran outside to see what the excitement was all about, or, if you’re relatively new to the sport, you may never have heard the boom at all.
The late ’60s, early ’70s were tumultuous times to be a runner: Jim Ryan winning the Olympic mile in 1968, Frank Shorter and Steve Prefontaine in 1972, and Title IX that same year. Money would shortly follow.
Regardless, it affected all of us in one way or another but not always for the best.
There were two outstanding runners from the Boom era who quit racing at the highest levels for personal and inexplicable reasons. Well, inexplicable to me; if you’re a psychologist who runs, maybe you might make sense of it.
Barry Brown and Gerry Lindgren were well known names to runners back in the ’60s & ’70s; both were outstanding middle-distance men.
You can see by his photo that Barry looked pretty serious about things. He bridged the gap from amateurism to running for pay, making the Olympic quals twice but never quite making the team. He ran everything from a 3:59 mile through 2:15 for the marathon, competing as a Masters right up to the end.
In addition to his running, Barry’s passion was to make it as an entrepreneur in real-estate ventures and finance. Unfortunately, in this he was not as successful. On the morning of December 14, 1992, at the age of 48, he was deeply in debt and with no prior hint to his wife and son, he sat in his Mercedes in his garage and ran the engine until he had done his last lap.
Sixteen years later, his son ran sub-four as a collegiate. Perhaps the better part of Barry’s genes had been passed on.
Gerry Lindgren, on the other hand looked more like a computer geek.
His 1964 high school records in the outdoor 5,000 meter and indoor two mile remained unbroken until Galen Rupp in 2004 and Edward Cheserek in 2013, both on greatly improved running surfaces, surpassed them.
He also won the Olympic Trials as an 18-year-old high schooler but an injury kept him off the podium. The only thing more impressive than his racing was his training, at 200+ miles per week.
Gerry continued his winning ways through college at Washington State and in 1965 he was instrumental in the power struggle between the NCAA and the AAU, refusing to let anyone tell him when he could or could not run.
In 1970 he married and three children followed.
He had disappeared from home more than once, the most serious over a child-support issue with another woman but the clincher was the time his wife woke up in 1980 and found this note on the kitchen table, “Get a divorce. Sell the business.” He was only 34 at the time.
Gerry has been seen since, living in Hawaii under an assumed name, not by his wife or kids, but by no less a reliable reporter than Kenny Moore. Neither he nor Gerry himself ever adequately explained that final “run.”
Those of you old enough to remember will have your own versions and anecdotes concerning these runners; those for whom this might be intriguing news can learn more searching online.
And in the words of that famous runner, Dave Barry, “I’m not making this up.”