Category Archives: History

How it all started

Raising Arizona (AZ’s)

July 9th, Saturday, 10:00 p.m.

Coach’s story;  how Arizona Running Drills became the stuff of legend at North Hunterdon High School.

Every runner who came through the North Hunterdon track program while I was coaching there from 1974 till 2000 will tell you they remember doing AZ’s .  AZ’s are Arizona Running Drills.

In the spring of 1974 many of the coaches at North Hunterdon High School we’re pretty shocked when I was named the new track and field coach. I had been interviewed by the principal, Bill Cromwell, and the former coach.  During the interview the coach asked me how would I handle the situation when the fastest runner on the team would not come to practice regularly. My response was that I didn’t understand the question.  I told him no athlete would be on the team if they did not come to practice regularly.  It didn’t matter if he was the best athlete  or the worst athlete.  I think Bill liked my answer.  Anyhow there I was a head track coach who had never coached before with a team of about 60 runners and jumpers and throwers.  I made the decision that I would coach all the varsity runners.  My assistants were assigned to coach hurdles jumpers and throwers.  I  had to face the fact that I had no idea how to coach a sprinter.  I had a pretty good background in distance running from high school and college, but I never paid a lot of attention to how to coach a sprinter. So I went to the library to look for some information on how to coach sprinters.

Now as an aside: I have to mention that I had recently arrived from Lincoln High School in Jersey City.  In 1970 the Lincoln High School track team had won at the Penn Relays the 440 yard relay and the mile relay.  I am pretty sure they are the last US team to ever accomplish that feat. One of their runners, who was the lead off runner for the 440 yard relay championship team, graduated and attended Arizona State University.  At the time Arizona state was probably the best college sprint  team in America.   In 1972 and 1973 Charlie Wells from Lincoln lead off the Arizona State 440 yard relay to a College Championship of America.  I did a little research tonight and found out that in 1977 every member of the Arizona State track team that attended the Penn Relays came home with a Penn Relay watch!  The ASU  mile relay that year ran a world record  3:04 . Their coach, Senon “Baldy” Castillo, is in the National Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

So when I found an article in the library that talked about the Arizona State Sprint team, I was naturally intrigued.  In the article the coach described the set of running drills that all members of the Sprint team performed every day during practice.  I decided to borrow these drills and I labeled  them the Arizona Running Drills.  My sprinters did Arizona’s everyday.  It turned out that they became in very good shape and we had a very good sprint team. Now, we also had a very good distance team. Coach Pat Pinto and Ed Lavin did a marvelous job with the hurdlers,  jumpers and throwers. The result was the beginning of what became a strong program for almost three decades. After two years Coach Pinto and Coach Lavin moved to Voorhees High School to start the track and field program at that new school. Not long afterward Bob McGivney became one of my assistant coaches. He was intrigued by the Arizona drills and spoke to me often about their purpose and their success. One day, over one of our meetings at the local pub, Bob asked me why I don’t have my distance runners perform the Arizona running drills like the sprinters do.  I told him that they were designed to develop speed.  He asked me, ” Don’t you want your distance Runners to be fast.”   I answered, “Yes, of course.” And he said,  “Then why don’t they do Arizona running drills.”  Of course I had no legitimate answer to that question.  Shortly thereafter I began to interject the Arizona drills into the program for my distance runners.  I was very pleased with the results.  From that time forward ‘Arizona’s for everybody’) was the motto at North Hunterdon track and field. Now remember,  this was in 1977 or 1978 when I first applied the drills to the distance team, and I believe we were ahead of our time.  In the early eighties Mike Paul  joined our program as an assistant coach.  Michael had recently  received his doctorate  in exercise  physiology.  Mike is one of the most knowledgeable coaches I have ever met and his success with athletes throughout New Jersey is widely known .  He told me that the reason he joined our program was because we were the only program he found  when looking around  to become an assistant coach  in Central Jersey  that was doing running drills,  mainly bounding.   Bounding is the most difficult and demanding of the drills. It is also the only one that is a plyometric drill.

It makes me  proud  to say that numerous running coaches, track fans and parents commented to me over the years  that many of my runners had the same running form;  that they ran  smoothly  and with efficiency and with power .  I believe that the Arizona Running Drills are big part of the  reason that is true . Today running drills are a regular part of almost every High School distance running program, and every article or book on distance running includes reference to some form of running drills.

” Grace of motion is a function of power.”



The +70 Running Years, Part 2- 2013 to Present





Generally speaking the years 2013 to the present have been filled with a few more notable events. There were some injuries and setbacks. My training gradually increased. My performance is improved, and I made a trip to the National Senior Games in St Paul, Minnesota.


This year started with the inevitable hernia operation in January.  Almost immediately we left for st. Augustine for 2 months.  All of February was recovery with simple walking and jogging near the end of the month. Don’t know where I got the notion it was a good idea,  but I did run for the first time in the St. Augustine Lighthouse 5K.  To my surprise I broke 30 minutes and finish first in the above 70 division.  Things went downhill from there.  In my enthusiasm to restart training,  I overdid it and continued to run barefoot on the beach.  Both of those actions led to severe Achilles issues.  I was forced to attend therapy and rehab for a  month which put me back considerably.   In addition I had a very serious bike accident that tore up my knee in May.  Those two incidents forced me to withdraw from the National Senior Games to which I had qualified in September.  I also skipped the New Jersey Senior Games that year.  My Garmin shows that my training remained at no more than 20 – 30 miles a month throughout the fall and end of 2013. Clearly not my best year.


Things picked back up in 2014. Had some good work in St. Augustine during February and managed to run the Lighthouse 5K in 28:38, placing second.   My Garmin tells me I was averaging 25 to 35 miles a month, and at the end of the year I was actually in the 40 to 55 mile range.  At the New Jersey Senior Games I qualified by winning both the 800m and the 1500m. That race was scheduled for July of 2015.  In October I ran 27:55 at the Atlantic City Shore Medical Center 5K race. That earned me first place in the + 70 age group. I was very excited to see a 27 in front of my final time.  Most of my training throughout this time had been 4 or 5 Mile runs around the Jackson roads.  I did make good use of the Horse Track, which has a 880yd cinder surface. This facility has been made a public park by the town of Freehold.  I began doing some intervals and 30-second pickups on the scene the track. I also did a once a week workout at the local high school rubber track.  I was taking a lot of advice from Dr Mirkin who I have referred to in previous posts. Dr. Mirkin insists that it is important to run at close to full speed at least twice a week in short bursts in order to improve performance.  I feel certain that incorporating this kind of work into my training has helped me to reach new personal bests in the last year-and-a-half.  So 2014 ended on a high note.


The year 2015 got off to another rough start. Just before leaving New Jersey in January for St. Augustine injured some muscle in my right buttocks. It came to a point where I could barely walk and could not sleep at night because of the pain and had to visit a doctor. Spent another 5 weeks in rehabilitation. During that time I also fell and broke two ribs in my right chest.  Life was looking pretty bleak as I had to explain to people that I was jogging behind the mall while my wife was shopping and I tripped over a speed bump. Yes a speed bump.   Undaunted, I decided to run the lighthouse 5K.  I limped through in 31 minutes but I did finish.  After completing rehab and healing my ribs,  I returned to serious training through April, May and June.  Arlene and I made the trip to St.Paul, Minnesota where I ran in the finals of the 1500m only.   It was extremely exciting to run 6:21 and finish fourth in the Nationals.  It was a great visit to a beautiful city.


For the rest of the year I skipped racing but continued to train. I was fortunate enough to  get hooked up with the track coaches at nearby Liberty  High School . They were kind enough to  accept me as a volunteer assistant for the cross country team .  I had a very nice time working with  these  quality young men  at Liberty  cross country.  I plan to return  in the fall of 2016  to help out once again.  These coaches and athletes could not have been kinder to me.

My Garmin tells me I was running an average of 48 miles a month and my training pace had dropped below 10 minutes on a regular basis. I can still remember how impressed I was three years ago when I ran my first mile under 10 minutes on the Hillsboro track.  My weight has remained under 155 pounds throughout the year. At the end of 2015 I was a happy and a healthy Runner. Life was pretty good.


So here we are in 2016. My training was going well and I was off to St. Augustine again. In the Lighthouse 5K this year I was thrilled to run 26:37,another one minute  PR.  While in St. Augustine I also began writing this blog which has been a major focus of my life for the last 2 months. I have been managed get in touch with people I haven’t seen for years.  I’ve become much more focused on my training and the outcomes.  Is exciting to me to think that there are people who are interested in reading my thoughts and experiences.  So I have become plus70runner.  I hope that my enthusiasm does not wane, and that this blog becomes a regular part of my training and competing experience.  And it is also fun now and then sharing some stories about the old days.


So this weekend I competed in another 5K right here in Freehold.  I was once again thrilled to set a new PR of 25:46.3.!!!  A 5K in 25 minutes was my original goal four years ago.

If you have read my blog of May 8th, you will know that I have no idea where I’m going from here. I know I will continue to run. I will continue to blog. I don’t know how much I’m willing to put my body through or how much it is capable of taking. I guess we will just have to find out. I hope somebody stays tuned. It should be fun!

The + 70 Running Years, Part 1- 2010, 2011 & 2012


My first sketchy log reports from May through August of 2010.  It consists of two or three entries per week indicating that I was walking, swimming, biking and occasionally weightlifting in the Warwick condominium weight room.  There is no mention of running.  At that point in time I was trying to keep active in any way possible but had not thought about running yet.


Logs from early 2011 indicate that I had actually started to jog. I was still bike riding hand walking frequently. But I did run some 3 4-mile efforts. I checked in at 177 lbs at that time. The logs are detailed about distance and time. I would run 4 miles once a week at 56 minutes or so. At this time I was using a heart monitor and my heart rate at the end of runs would frequently exceed 170 beat per minute. By August I decided to run in the annual Jason Memorial 5K at Hillsborough High School. This race was held to remember a state champion 800-meter Runner named Jason Walton who had died tragically. Jason and I were very close and I attended this event annually. For the first few years I was an honorary starter or some other official. This year I decided to run. It was a pitiful 35:39 for 5k.  I barely finshed.

Undaunted, I continued to increase my frequency and distance of what were essentially my jogs. A workout that I noticed frequently in my log was a walk- run- walk type effort. I would walk for 20 minutes jog for 20 minutes and walk for the final 20 minutes. This was an hour of work that did not wipe me out too much. By September I was capable of actually running 4 miles under 50 minutes.   Always finishing with a very high heart rate  in the 170’s. That seemed quite an improvement and my weight was dropping into the mid-160s.  I had lost almost 10 pounds in a year. I was doing four mile runs usually once a week. The rest of the time was walking swimming biking or weight lifting. Being able to do all of this on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City made it a lot more pleasant. In September,  I actually ran my first mile under 10 minutes.  (9:45)   I have no logs for November or December of 2011.


Still using heart monitor and recording rate at 165 BPM frequently after runs. Runs have increased 2 two to three times a week and consistently around 4 miles. In January.  I recorded my first Four Mile Run under 48 minutes. I hurt my back in the weight room which caused me some training days for a while. In February we drove to St. Augustine for the first time to spend some winter weeks away from New Jersey. I have logs of 3 to 4 workouts a week running Barefoot on the beach. Managed to reach 5 miles under 60 minutes and broke 9 minutes for the first time for the mile. All of this being done in the wonderful weather of Florida in February and March. It was during this time that I first see recordings of Achilles pain in my legs. I was later told by a orthopedic doctor that running on the beach causes Ahilles to stretch out too far resulting in inflammation. But I was starting to feel the rush and push the pace probably to my detriment. This began what has been a continual lower leg issue for the last 3 years. Each time I try to up the intensity of my work my lower legs cry out.

Back home in New Jersey my achilles tendons were very sore and I actually took 10 days off at one point because of the pain. But I did take a lot of Advil and ride bike and my weight in April was 162 pounds. May is the log of a lost month with just walking. June I was back to running and completing 4 miles and 44 minutes on the boardwalk. I was beginning to think I really could compete again. I remember telling Rich Refi around this time that I was setting as a goal to run a 25-minute 5k. There are a lot of entries beginning with BOB standing for Barefoot on Beach.  So exhilarating but, in retrospect, not very smart.

On June 29th, I logged 159.5 pounds. First time under 160 pounds in 25 years! Very exciting. Then I actually did a few interval workouts on the Atlantic City High School track. My log for this phase introduced with the words, ” Full Boat Time.”  I was set to go all out.  I was actually starting  to think like a runner again. The majority of my training with still biking, swimming, walking and weight lifting with running three maybe four times a week Max. I was very excited getting ready for the Jason 5K run in August. My log said, “Doing some form of work out everyday. Getting fit.”

At the Jason’s Memorial 5K Iran 31:07. That was a 4 minute and 30 second improvement over the year before and I won the + 70 division.  It was a very, very hot and humid  day and I struggled mightily in the last mile. As I approached the track for the finishing 300 meters I was looking pretty broken down. When I came up on a number of my athletes from Hillsborough cheering me, I regained a little composure and finished with a little dignity. After the race one of my young cross-country runners said to me,  “Hey coach, I think you went into the Black Box.”  Now, anyone who has been coached by me will understand the meaning of the Black Box. This is a concept developed by Coach Bob McMivney and I in the 1980s to try and help young athletes face the fear of getting tired during a cross country race. The Black Box represents that place where it is very frightening to enter during a race. You don’t know what’s in the Box, you’ve never been in it, and it could mean total destruction, maybe even death.   Who knows?  A runner has to convince himself that he can run through the Black Box because on the other side of the box is the glory. It is the runner who refuses to go into the Black Box, or slows down to let the Box receed that remains an average Runner and never achieves his full potential. This is the courage of the long distance Runner.  You can imagine how much of a source of great pride it was for me to hear one of my own athletes is telling me that I had gone into the Black Box.

2012 finished in a whirl. In August I found out I had a hernia and needed an operation. In September we bought a new house and moved to Jackson. Also in September I qualified for the national Senior Games in Cleveland by taking second place in both the 800 and 1500 meters at the New Jersey Senior Games. I had a lot to think about and a lot of work to do to set up a new home. My logs crashed in October, November and December, and what I have indicates very shaky training. I did find that running the roads in Jackson was quite pleasant. There’s not much traffic and there are nice 4 and 5 mile loops. Things had kind of come to a standstill on the running front.

So, 2012 ended with a great Christmas party for the entire ORourke Family at the new house in Jackson.  Life was  good!


The Coaching Years 1974 – 2012

IMG_1323Winning wasn’t everything, or the only thing.  But it sure was fun!


It is a daunting task to attempt to capture 38 years of coaching a single post. The idea of this blogging adventure was never to talk about my coaching career.   There are truly thousands of memories.  Each athlete was special, each competition thrilling. The coaches that I worked with and competed against became special friends each.  For 24 years at North Hunterdon we had successful season after successful season.  Some were spectacularly successful.   I am proud of everything we accomplished.  But perhaps the nicest thing that anyone has said to me was a compliment  from a good friend, Roger Shutack.   Roger coached basketball with success, intelligence and class for many years at North.   I have a great deal of respect for Roger’s knowledge of sports in general. That is why his compliment was so meaningful to me.   In a conversation we had after I retired he said,

“Bobby you weren’t just successful, you changed the game. Not many coaches can say that in any sport.”

I’ve been fortunate to receive many honors  for the success of my career as a running coach . But I, honestly, can’t think of a higher compliment.  Now, I would bet Roger doesn’t even remember saying that to me.  But just the fact that a fellow coach might think of my career in that manner fills me with pride.  And I like to think he’s right!

Someday I may decide to write a  biography of my coaching career with all of its successes, failures, great characters and stories.  But that is for another time.

In February  of 2011, at the age of 69, I decided it was time to get fit again. Then, in March of 2016, I decided to write about the trials and joys of training  and eventually competing as a plus70runner.   So here we are.



History #3

The Circle Completes 

After graduation in May of 1965 I headed to Belmar for the summer.  My running career had fizzled at Seton Hall.  All that was on my mind that summer was the fact that a 22 year old young man without a draft deferment was likely to be in a rice paddy in Vietnam in a couple of months.  So I spent the summer at the shore drinking, chasing  girls and betting at Monmouth Racetrack.  I picked up part time jobs from local tradesmen  I met at Gallagher’s bar. My buddies and I had rented a bungalow for the summer.  Since I was the only one without a full-time job,  I was alone in the house for the whole week.  Weekends were kind of crowded and wild, usually a party that was ultimately broken up by the Belmar Police.  So I was fancy free and not thinking one day into the future.   I stopped home for a few days sometime in August and my dad and I had a conversation. He said, “Robert,” he always called me Robert,  “didn’t you graduate from college this year?”  I answered,  “Yes, I did.”   He said, ” Don’t you think you should be looking for a job?”   I told him that I was expecting a draft notice any day.  He said that while I was waiting I should be working also.  He also told me that Uncle Joe,  Dad’s brother who owned a Tavern in downtown Jersey City,  knew a fellow who  was principal of Lincoln High School in Jersey City. Charlie Fitzpatrick had told Uncle Joe he would be able to help me get a teaching job at Lincoln High School.  So Dad and I stopped down at Uncle Joe’s bar to make arrangements for me to meet Mr. Fitzpatrick. The following conversation occurred when I was ushered into the principal’s office at Lincoln High School two days later.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, “Hello Mr. O’Rourke. Welcome to the staff of Lincoln High School.  What subject do you teach?”

I was floored.

I answered,  “My major certificate is in social sciences.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick said,  “We don’t have an opening in social sciences.  What else do you teach?

I said, “My minor is in English.”

He said, “We’ve got an opening in English.   Report to room 100 and meet your new department chairwoman, Miss Wing.  I hope you will enjoy teaching at Lincoln High School.”

I had a job!  This was the most common way to get a teaching job in Jersey City in the 1960s.   It was all about who you knew.  I never filled out an application, had an interview or signed a contract.   That is how I became an English teacher at Lincoln High School for the next  seven years.  Without my prior knowledge, it turned out that this job came with a bit of serendipity.  Because I had a teaching position in an inner-city school, I was considered essential personal by the Jersey City Board of Education.   At their request, I  received a draft deferment (2A) from the Jersey City Draft Board annually for the next seven years.   As a result I never did receive that draft notice in the mail.      Thank you Dad, Uncle Joe, and Charlie Fitzpatrick.


For the next four years I  lead the life of a single, 20-something guy.  Then I met and married  my beautiful wife, Arlene, in 1969.  We built a chalet in the Pocono Mountains, and she convinced me to pursue my master’s degree.  By 1970 I had a  MS in Political Science.  It was then that I began submitting applications to schools throughout New Jersey for a new teaching position. There was one school on top of a hill in Hunterdon County that we had passed  numerous times while visiting Arlene’s family in “the country”.  North Hunterdon Regional High School contacted me for an interview and ultimately offered me a contract to start teaching social science.  After lengthy consideration, we decided to make the move to the country. This was a big step for 2 people who had lived in the city for their entire life.  In the summer of 1972 we started a new adventure in our life story.

During this 7 year period I continued to be very interested in running.  I worked out on a semi-regular basis. With my brothers I annually  attended the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden and never failed to show at the Penn Relays at Franklin Field,  Philadelphia.

During my second year on the job in North Hunterdon the head track coach position became vacant.  I applied for the job, was interviewed and  hired.  Every time I look back at critical events in my life,  I’m amazed at how the puzzle game together. The principal of North Hunterdon High School at the time was it a man named Bill Compton.  He was a former football coach and very much interested in athletics his whole life.  In  seeking  this position  I was up against two very talented and experienced gentlemen named Pat  Pinto and Ed  Lavan.  They were applying for the head position as well.  Both of them had been track coaches for a number of years. They clearly were more qualified for the job than I was.   But Bill Compton told me he selected me for the position because I had run in college.  He thought someone who had competed at that level would be better qualified for the position.  So, I guess all those afternoons of running at Seton Hall had a payoff after all.  In the spring of 1974, I became the Head Boy’s Track and Field coach at North Hunterdon High School.   I held that position for the next 28 years.  Thank you Mr. Bill Compton and Coach John Gibson.



College– Can’t ‘beat’ a workout

This has been a very difficult post for me to create.  I never thought it would be,  but I have been thinking about it for almost two weeks now.   College was a very disappointing,  frustrating and confusing time for me.   I didn’t become a national class runner.    I didn’t make it to the Olympics.  I didn’t improve any of my times from high school.    I graduated from Seton Hall with a degree in social sciences,  a minor in English and the required minor  in theology/ philosophy.  I’m very thankful to Seton Hall University and Coach John Gibson for the opportunity to attend the college for four years with no payments.   I actually enjoyed the academic classes in college.    Philosophy, history,  government,  politics  and classical literature were all interesting to me.    I learned how to write.   I learned how to think logically.   And I graduated with a teaching certificate that allowed me to get a job thanks to a wise counselor who transferred me into Department of Education as I ended my junior year.    All athletes were required to have their schedule approved by a counselor for each semester. I think that is a very wise policy.

But running was a totally different matter. Let’s just say that in  for years of college I never beat a single workout.  My muscles were constantly sore  and I was frequently too seriously injured to train.   As an 18 year old I never figured out why this was so.  Strangely,  I haven’t thought much about it for over 50 years.  That may have been just acceptance of defeat,  or possibly just repression .   So,  when I started writing this blog and decided to talk about my history as a runner,  I had to go back and think about what happened in college.  I now have about 40 years of experience as a coach to draw upon to try to help explain this turn of events. So here goes.

This may be a bit long so you may choose  to completely avoid reading it.   But I want to put it on paper for myself.

In the two recruiting classes of 1960  &  61 Coach Gibson had brought in 9 half milers who had run 1:58 or better in high school and myself at 1:59 flat.   I was a classic cross-country runner.   I never broke :53.5  for a 440.  That was running from start to finish full out.    I spent four years running incredibly difficult workouts designed for middle distance runners who run 1:53 for the 880.   My conclusion is today that those workouts  did nothing but  shred my long fiber, slow twitch,  distance running muscles.    Five of the guys recruited in those  two classes did run 1:53 or better before graduation .   The other five of us never improved one second.    I would run the first few intervals of these workouts with those very fast guys and then my calf muscles would seize and I had to quit the workout.   Coach Gibson came to the conclusion that I was not trying very hard.   He  told me that I should appreciate more the opportunity  that the university was giving me to get a free college education.   He also told me that my brother, John,  threw up  on the track every day during  his workout for 4 years while he was at Seton Hall ,  every day!   That,  I am sure  he concluded,  was a demonstration of someone who appreciateed his scholarship.  So, I tried harder and continued to fail, constsntly exhausted.   It is truly a sad story.   I’m not sure if I realized how sad at the time,  but I know I was very depressed.   I even trained on my own down at Lincoln Park on days off hoping maybe I could catch up.   But it wasn’t to be.

This brings us to the title of the post today.  I never beat a single workout in 4 years of college.   Every day I left practice defeated, exhausted and discouraged.  Unlike in High School,  I dreaded going out to practice each day.   I have to say the guys on the team were great to me.   Every time I nearly completed a full practice they would encourage me and tell me I was getting better and things ware going to get better.  They were all very nice young men.   I left college still loving track but disappointed in my own career.

There is a happy ending though.  Eight years later I became a running coach.   I vowed that my athletes would never be ‘beaten’ by a workout.   It is a policy I have followed for 40 years, and I believe the results speak for themselves.

During my coaching career I have had the pleasure and honor of coaching some of the most outstanding High School distance runners in the state of New Jersey.  Four of them Andy Martin, Brad Hudson, Brendan Heffernan and Chris Robinson won the New Jersey Meet of Champions.  Brendan was also National Champion .  One thing all of these guys had in common was they could not break 53 seconds for 400 meters and ran 800 metres just under two minutes. They were classic distance runners like me.  Now I am self- coaching my 70+ slow twitch muscles and having a blast.

Further details of my coaching career will follow in the next history post.


History 2 – High School Daze

Schoolboy RobbyThe more I think about it the more I believe that I could write about high school endlessly.  However, there are three themes that dominate my memories of high school.  First, endlessly laughing and laughing and doing stupid stuff with the guys.  From the Lexington Ave. gang to all the new friends I met in high school, it was a nonstop ball.  I have no idea how the poor Sisters survived.

Next there where the girls.  I was equally attracted to, mystified by and  totally terrified of the pretty girls at st. Al’s.  You’re looking at a guy who was an altar boy through 12th grade and  went to Confession every Saturday,  unfortunately with nothing to confess.

But most of all there was running.  Running dominated everything.  I could not wait for practice at the end of every day and for the next competition.  In 10th grade I made Varsity cross-country.  Training with Kevin Hennessy , who  had replaced his brother Brian as the running alpha male in the area, forced me to get better and better.  With Eddie and Jack Healy and Richie Brown we won all the Championships.  Next year Eddie graduated and joined the Marines.  My childhood buddy, Richie Graham,  joined the cross country team for the first time in 11th grrade.  Richie was an All County basketball star.  Kevin and I dominated, and with Rich’s help we again won the major championships.  In Spring at the Penn Relays I was offered a full scholarship to run at Seton Hall by Coach John Gibson.  I had  run the 3/4 mile leg of the Distance Medley Relay again, this time in a pretty memorable 3:18.  Now, that’s pretty average today, but in 1960 it was pretty solid. That year Al Adams of St. Michael’s in Jersey City anchored the Distance Medley to win the Championship of America.  He was awarded High School Athlete of  the Meet for running a 4:23 mile.  Today that is considered pretty average too.  I’m certain that a good deal of Coach Gibson’s offer was due to the fact that John was running at the Hall at the time , and Coach Gibson lovedJohn!  Nevertheless, I was getting faster and  sitting on top of the world.  Summer after jr. year I trained harder than ever to prepare for my senior season. Summer training was not as common back in the 50s, so I think that gave me an edge.  By this time Willie was also running Varsity cross-country and along with Cliff Sprague, Richie and Billy Marino,  Pete Doody and Kenny Beil, we again won a number of championship titles.  I had a dream senior season winning City, County and Catholic Conference titles. I broke all of Brian and Kevin Hennessy’s records , set a new course record at Lincoln Park and was selected Runner of the year by the legendary sports writer  Ed Grant.  I was flying high and ready to conquer the world.   Next was Seton Hall University and probably the Olympics.

Now, the reader might have noticed that  there’s no mention in this entire High School discussion of academics.  That is actually because I don’t remember anything about academics in high school at all.  I must have learned some algebra and how to diagram some sentences and maybe even some history and English literature.  That is because I actually do know some of that stuff.   I think  a comment by my brother Eddie helps too explain a lot of this. He told me one day, “The only things I remember from any class in high school are the things my teachers told me about themselves.”  I have tried to remember that during my 35 years teaching in High School.  I took every opportunity possible to tell students about things going on in my life. Not personal things, but unusual things like about my dog chasing  a skunk or my car catching fire in the driveway.   And Eddie’s words come back to me everytime I meet a former student and they tell me,  “Hey Mister O,  remember that story about your dog chasing skunks ? That was hysterical!”  Hardley ever does the conversation turn to the War OF 1812 .

History – How it all started

My first memories of track and field are of my older brothers John and Eddie running in track meets at Persian Field in downtown Jersey City. I don’t know if I ever ran there, but I do remember that they were very good and came home with medals and ribbons. My brothers are John, Eddie and Willie. Everybody called me Robby. To this day nobody in my family knows who is “Bob” the adopted name that I was given as a track runner and coach. John was always John. However, there is a family legend of the Jersey City street name for John, Chico. The origin of Chico has never been explained. John was a type A,h first born child. He was as straight as an arrow and as tough as nails. Those qualities probably helped him become an outstanding quarter mile runner in high school. Running 51 seconds for a 440 in the mid-fifties was enough to earn John a partial scholarship to Seton Hall University under coach John Gibson. He entered Seton Hall University in 1957 as I entered st. Aloysius High School as a freshman. Eddie, entering his junior year, was also on the track team. So it seemed pretty much determined that I would be joining the track program as I entered High School. It turned out I was a pretty good distance Runner. Legendary coach Bob Short, who had produced many quality distance runners over the past 10 years at St. Aloysius, seemed to think I had talent. Coach Short is the first adult I ever remember calling by a first name. He told us to call him Bob. He called me Bobby.

Two key events I remember from freshman year set the stage for a lifetime in track and field. I finished in second place in the Freshman division of the North Jersey Catholic Track Conference Championship in Lincoln Park. Bob and my brother Eddie were both very impressed with that performance. Their words made me feel very important, maybe for the first time in my life. I was going to be a cross country star like Brian Hennessy, the reigning city and county cross country champion from St. Al’s!

The other event was the surprise that in the spring I qualified for a spot on the distance medley relay team scheduled to compete at the Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. This was a huge deal. As a fifteen-year-old I had never been away from home overnight or stayed in a hotel. This was kind of a culture shock taking a trip to a big city with the team. There were too many new experiences that weekend for me to list here. If anyone would like to hear them all, leave me a note and I’ll write a separate post. But the one event that I have said changed my life occurred at the stadium, Franklin Field. My race itself, three-quarters of a mile leg on the distance medley relay, was unmemorable. I was so overwhelmed by running in a large stadium in front of probably thirty thousand people at the time I could not even absorb it. But later that day I witnessed the St. Francis Prep High School mile relay run the first-ever sub 3:20 mile relay to win the
Championship of America. By then there were more like fifty thousand people in the stadium who were chanting wildly as this team of four boys took a Victory lap around the Franklin Field track. That moment is embedded in my brain. I was hooked for life.

Catch up

“I’ve got a schoolboy’s heart.”

+70 RUNNER is the name of a blog that I am starting to chronicle my experiences as an old guy training to get into shape, and enter and eventually compete in distance races. Today, March 14, here in Old St. Augustine, Florida, late at night, alone, trying to avoid watching coverage of the primary election races on tv, I have figured out how to create a document on my notebook. And so I begin this long threatened adventure. Don’t know where this will take me, but I do feel that there is a story to tell. My wife, Arlene, my son, Rob, and daughter, Kristen, and good friend, Coach Rich Refi, have urged me to begin such an effort for quite a while. I have never felt worthy of such an enterprise and wondered if I was capable. I guess that I have decided that I am worthy, and I will leave it to others to decide whether I am capable.

Beginning to run again is without a doubt the best decision I have made in the last 15 years!
I have chosen to share my experiences in the hope that readers might enjoy or even take some inspiration from the story. I had been a moderately successful runner in high school and college, but had not run for more than 40 years as I taught and coached high school runners. I weighed 177 pounds when I began. Today I weigh 153 pounds.
It has been a life changing experience for me.
Maybe a sedentary 1960’s high school athlete like I was will decide to take the plunge.
Maybe some current +70RUNNERS will find it helpful to read about the trials and tribulations and triumphs of a fellow road warrior.
Maybe running fans of all ages will get a kick out reading the ramblings of an old coach trying to coach himself.
This is my story and my journal going forward.

March 15, 2016 64* and sunny
Good morning reader,
Just finished probably the most exhilarating run of my +70RUNNER experience! So many things have come together to make that remarkable 7am morning workout on the beach possible. I am a lucky man! I intend to describe in detail the workout and the circumstances that led to it as I sit here with an ice pack on my left Achilles tendon. Achilles has been tender for a while, but not preventing me from training. So it gets iced just to be careful. Since returning from the beach run I have had chocolate milk, a shower, coffee and oat cookies.

So the workout:
Total of 6.96 miles, 90 minutes, both the longest in 4 years of training, with 12 pickups of 50 to 150 strides. Pickup pace drops from 7:50 to 6:30 as run proceeds. Sequence; walk 10 minutes north, jog 10 minutes south, strip off sweats, continue south with 10 pickups of increasing length and speed, turn back for 2 more pickups and long easy jog/walk home.
Only stopped for fear of injury, not fatigued! Great workout!

Now the circumstances:
1- Did not run yesterday because of both legit and weak reasons. Legs always feel better after a day off. Monday was 86* and very windy. I could not face the heat after sleeping till 11:30. Also last few days have been shorter runs because of less bouncy legs after my 5k race PR on March 5th. (Details of that race to follow.)
2- Have been pretty pumped up to try to take my training to a new level since running a 1:20 PR 10 days ago. Waiting for a breakthrough workout to signal that move.
3- Starting my new blog last night lit a bit of a spark. Made a plan to set alarm for 7am.
4- Actually got up motivated at 7am and went to beach to start workout before sunrise.
5- Most wonderful were the environmental conditions on the beach. A perfect runner’s paradise! The pre- sunrise temperature was 64* with a cool southern wind. The beach was as flat as an airport runway and the sand was firm yet forgiving. I watched the sun rise as I walked my warmup and took pictures. After I stripped off my sweats the rising sun warmed my body while the gentle breeze kept me cool. It was pretty extraordinary, and as I have said, it felt like I could have run at a solid pace for a long time. But forced myself to stop to allow myself to run another day without injury. That is something that I had to learn over the past 4 years. Numerous injuries and setbacks over that period (most of which I will no doubt regale the reader with at some point) have made me smarter and, hopefully, wiser.
That is all for now.

March 16, Wednesday – 67* cloudy
100% humidity!
Can’t remember ever doing a workout in 100% humidity. Isn’t that just water?
Icing Achilles tendon again after a 7:30 a.m. long slog on the beach. Two days in a row awake at 7 a.m. is unprecedented. Today’s workout was slow and tedious. I covered 5 miles in about 85 minutes. My legs were quite sore and my achilles tendon was tender and annoying. Began the effort with a 20 minute walk and concluded with 60 Minutes of very slow jogging. This was not surprising after yesterday, which included the longest and most demanding workout and an evening of learning some cool new West Coast Swing moves at the weekly Mardi Gras’s session with Adam and Janine.
Despite all of that I was happy to get 5 miles in today and surprised that my body held up.
My run today was consumed with thoughts about what sort of things to write about on this blog and in what sequence. So many things come to mind about running, training, coaching, fellow coaches and athletes present and past. So much fun and heartache, learning and preparing, friendships, triumphs (really big wins!) and disappointment, remarkably diverse experiences and mostly more fun with a gallery of amazing and unforgetable coaches and athletes. Plus I had the joy along the way of coaching both my son and daughter. I