For those of you who haven’t heard of Gerry Lindgren, he was a running prodigy from Spokane Wahsington. He came from the no-pain no-gain more-is-better school of running. In the 1960s that was the way. The book is written by “The Shadow of Gerry Lindgren”… Gerry himself. This is actually of interest because of his background. He grew up in an alcoholic family. He was the proverbial 90 pound weakling with a high pitched squeaky voice. He was also molded by the 1960s social revolution. Running was his escape… his strength… his empowerment.
From his high school years, with his coach’s encouragement, his running philosophy was to “run to lose”. He would run to exhaustion. It was up to everyone else to stay with him. His high school coach, Tracy Walters, instilled this in him. Indeed, he was successful at certain levels. He did set American records and high school records (4:01.5 – mile, 13:44 – 5000) and had 11 NCAA championship runs (cross-country & track). In 1965 he tied (yes, a tie – back then there were no photo finish cameras) with the great Ron Clarke in a then 6 mile (nope not 10k in the US) world record 27:11.6. He is in the Track & Field Hall of Fame (2004 inductee).
It is an interesting read for the fact that you will shake your head in amazement at what he did for workouts. He would run his team workouts then run a “secret workout” at 2:00 AM of 10 miles. He ran upwards of 25 and even 35 miles a day of running. Yes, he says he was running up to 200 mile weeks. There is no reason to doubt what he writes. It is rather mind-boggling. It is not your typical “how-to” running book. It’s enmeshed with philosophical propositions on running and life.
His running was left behind soon after his college years at Washington State University. He ranked in the top three Americans in the 5000 & 10,000 meters from 1964-1969. The 1971 and 1972 seasons saw him drop to 10th in the 10,000. He never ranked again. Gerry disappeared for years. Little was heard of him. His book only discusses his life through his running career. Other than lists of times and championships the narrative covers only events through his Olympic experience (9th in the 1964 10,000 meters; won by Billy Mills).
What’s not in the book:
So, what happened to him in those intervening years? This book was published in 2005. Steve Friedman in the July 2004 edition of Runner’s World catches us up. He was discharged from the Army after only 47 days with a bleeding ulcer. He had Achilles tendonitis that kept him out of the 1968 Olympics and was hit by a car during his preparation for the 1972 Olympics. In one account, he was running up to 50 miles a day in preparation for the ’72 Olympics. In the 70s he was married, fathered a child with another woman, ran away from home (really… just up and left one day). After being tracked down by his wife three months later they settled back down in in Tacoma, WA. He opened a couple running shoe stores. In 1980 he left again. He lived under an assumed name for years. There are various accounts how and why he used the name. He has remarried – maybe. He works as a manager of some parking garages. He has since lived in Honolulu for over 20 years and coaches. He has no contact with his son (now in his 30s). Gerry is now 60 years old and still runs 50 miles per week. It seems his runners seem to view him as a philosopher as much as a coach. He has a website: www.gerrylindgren.com .
From my distant perch I can only say he appears to be a tortured soul. Since it is stated in several places that his humor is sometimes missed; I withold judgment as to the veracity of all his anecdotes and miles run. The book is interesting but disjointed, incomplete and far from riveting though historically interesting. In any event there is no doubt that runners such as he, Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Jim Ryun and others ushered in the running boom of the 1970s.