Greatness of Gerry Lindgren

Prefontaine & Lindgren

Just back from 3-Days at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships and discussing our sport with my lifelong buddy Don Janicki. As we met and discussed running with Matt Centrowitz the topic of Gerry Lindgren came up.


Don and Matt are some serious running company, Don having ran Marathons all over the World for 13 years- most at 2:11-2:12 and Matt a 2-Time Olympian, Former American 5,000 meter record holder and father of Matthew Centrowitz who was just 4th in last summer’s London Olympics 1,500 and is World Bronze Medalist from 2011.Who was Gerry Lindgren? 


  • What made him so “FAST” way back in the early 60’s as a High School kid?
  • What made him think he could run with World Record Holder Ron Clark of Australia as a High School Kid and set a Indoor 2-mile Record of 8:40 in 1964 at the San Francisco Cow Palace on a Tiny Stuffy Indoor Track? 
  • A Record that stood from 1964 to just recently in February 2013 at the Millrose Games on a Much Bigger and much airier 200-meter Indoor Banked Track. Gerry ran the record on an 11-Lap to a Mile, 160 yard Board Track, or 22 laps for 2-Miles.
I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing athletes over the last 35 years, and Gerry’s results still stagger me, so today I called him to ask a few questions about what makes him tick. He is very special and I have the opinion that Icons like Lindgren, Ryan, Shorter and Mill’s and the such should be remember, and documented. Don And I created OTS to be a place we can post short Blog’s like this about people we have known or get the chance to meet, in this case call.    
                                        
When I asked Gerry today: “What would you consider the best Race of your Career?” Gerry now 67-yrs old answered the 1964 USA vs. Russia a showdown during the cold war at the Los Angeles Coliseum with 50,000 Cheering Spectators in tow.


Imagine that today, 50,000 fans at a Dual Track Meet? My short hairs stood up yesterday in a crowd of about 5,000 as I watched Will Leer lean at the finish of the Mile in 3:58 at Altitude in Albuquerque N.M.. I attended the 1984 Olympic Games Athletic Events, so even though I have seen the Coliseum full, somehow 50,000 for a Dual Meet is Just as staggering to me as Gerry Lindgren is himself . Here is what Sports Illustrated had to say about Gerry after beating the Russians:

“…
The mysterious ingredient that allows Gerry Lindgren to run long distances with a tenacity most boys his age reserve for securing the car keys moved inside him "Heart," said Mike Larrabee, who had won the previous event, the 400 meters, and was watching. "That kid has more heart than any two athletes I know." Quickly Lindgren was past Dutov and on his way to catch Ivanov. On the stretch side of the Los Angeles Coliseum he passed Ivanov at such speed as to startle the Russian. The 50,000 people in the huge stadium were up now, lending voice to the possibility of the most upsetting upset—for the Russians—since the track and field meets between the nations began six years ago”. Sports Illustrated 1964

My Questions for Gerry who was so fun to talk to were simple. How did he come to run so fast?  His answer was that he:
  • Loved to Run, and ran 20-30-40 miles a day!
  • He basically used Running as Transportation
  • He worked hard, very hard.
  • He was a wimpy kid who got picked on
  • He found early on that if he took the pace out fast the other would be too tired as they passed him to pick on him.
  • He found a sense of service as he would "Rabbit" races and "Help" everyone out.
  • He also found that after a while he became  a "Rabbit" no one could catch.
When I asked him about his progression in terms of time, mile time that we can understand:
  • He set the his high school sophomore record at 4:32
  • He won the Washington State HS championship as a Jr. in 4:18
  • He ran a Post Season Meet as a Jr that Nike Founder Bill Bowerman put on in 4:12.7 
  • He ran 4:01.5 as a High School Senior and became a role model for the up coming Jim Ryun to chase.
His best marks in High School are nothing short of AMAZING by anyone's Standards. He set the High School 5,000 meter record at 13:44 in 1964 that did not get broken until 2004 by Galen Rupp who was Olympic Silver Medalist in last summers London Olympics 10,000.

Gerry also set the High School Indoor 2-mile record that same year of 1964 at the Cow Palace whilst Pressing the, then World Record Holder Ron Clarke for 22 laps of the 11-lap to a mile indoor board track with a 8:40 2-mile to Clarkes 8:37.  Amazing.  So amazing this record from 1964 has lasted until just last month February 16th 2013 at the Millrose Games in New York on a much larger 200 meter backed Tartan Track with a 8:39.1 foreign born Edward Cheserek.

Gerry Lindgren was and is a very special athlete, one that we should always remember.

There is more to tell and I will add to this as information comes in.  All you kids out there, never stop dreaming, do not put limitations on yourself.  Get out there and Train Hard, Be Smart and do not be afraid to take the the pace out and test your limits, you may be surprised what you find.  Think of Gerry.  

tim@olympiatrainingsystems.com

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