Days to Remember, June 1, 2009

Peeping Through the Keyholes of History

Anniversaries are like peeping through the keyholes of history. They occur randomly but are always fascinating. The centenary of the 1909 Great Marathon Derby was celebrated last month ("Footsteps," May). Here now is a sampling of other anniversaries that fall in 2009, all significant as something more than a fast race.

75 YEARS AGO: In 1934, the United States took possession of world middle-distance running. On June 16, the Kansas Ironman, Glenn Cunningham, smashed the world 1-mile record with 4:06.7. Two weeks later, in the AAU championships in Milwaukee, Princeton's big Bill Bonthron came from 15 yards behind to shock Cunningham on the line, "flashing one of the greatest sprint finishes in running history," said one report. Bonthron's 3:48.8 lifted the 1500m world record from Italy's Luigi Beccali. The U. S. has held both records at two other periods, from 1912, with John Paul Jones and Abel Kiviat, and from 1967, when Jim Ryun held both.

50 YEARS AGO: 1959 was the year of John J. Kelley, the poetry-loving Massachusetts marathoner. Second at Boston, when bitter winds favored Finland's Eino Oksanen, Kelley won Yonkers by nearly 8 minutes, broke the U. S. 10-mile track record, and then won the Pan American Games marathon, in searing Chicago heat, by 5 minutes, the first U. S. victory in a championship marathon since Johnny Hayes at the 1908 Olympics.

25 YEARS AGO: The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics saw many wonders, but there's no contest for the most historic race of the games – the first Olympic marathon for women, and Joan Benoit Samuelson's take-no-prisoners victory. Like Joanie that day, women's marathoning has never looked back.

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