Bob was the 1964 Olympic Champion at 5,000 meters in Tokyo. He held five American and one world record and is the only American distance runner who has won a Gold Medal while being the favorite going into the Games. Picked by Sports Illustrated and Track and Field News to win the Gold Medal based on his having the fastest time in the world that year (13:38) at 5K(world record was 13:35), as well as setting a new world record in the two mile (8:26.4) and ran 3:58.9 in the mile. (All were run on dirt tracks, the 13:38 is equal to a 13:14 on the all-weather tracks).
FROM YOUTH TO NATIONAL RUNNER
Bob was born and raised twenty miles North of Dayton, Ohio on a ninety five acre farm outside of the small village of West Milton. He had severe allergies and as a small child was close to death on two occasions from severe asthma attacks. Although the family doctor told his parents not to place too much stress on his body with physical activity, they allowed him to participate where he could. The worse time of the year was from the middle of July until the first frost, which meant he was always last in cross country at the beginning of the season. As Bob would tell you after the frost, it was as if he had a new body and he would improve overnight to lead the team.
His high school times were not spectacular, 4:34 in the mile; 2:04 at 880 yards and 51.5 in the 440 on a relay. (cinder tracks) As a sophomore at Miami University (Ohio), he ran 4:12.1 in the mile for a new school record. After joining the Air Force he finally was stationed in California in 1960 and a year later he met the famed Hungarian Coach, Mihaly Igloi. In the summer of 1961 the Los Angeles Track Club was formed and quickly became the best distance Club in the nation with such athletes as Jim Beatty, Jim Grelle, Laszlo Tabori, Max Truex, Bobby Seaman and Ron Larrieu. The Club held all the American records from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters. About forty highly dedicated athletes trained with Igloi while Bob was there from september of 1961 to September of 1963. Bob will tell you it was Igloi who made it possible for him to win the Gold Medal. “He taught me how to train my body and my mind. Those two years, working alongside those other great runners, were years to be cherished”
Returning to Miami of Ohio in the Fall of 1963, Bob would put to good use the lessons he had been taught. Training by himself, without an indoor facility, during the Winter was a challenge but the goal he had set for himself kept him going, doing twice a day workouts. With a great Fall workout schedule he went into the indoor season in the best shape of his life. After breaking the American record for three miles in an early meet he and Bruce Kidd of Canada, traded wins in eight meets, neither winning by more than inches in any race. During the outdoor season he went undefeated at 5000 meters, breaking the American records for three miles in 13:15.4 and the 5K in 13:38, running the last lap in :54. (The world record was13:35) Bob stated afterwards, “If lap splits had been given during the race it would have been easy to have broken the world record.” After winning the USA vs USSR meet, the National Championships and the first Olympic trials in June, he broke the world record for two miles. (8:26.4) This was run on a dirt track. He then ran his second mile under four minutes, winning in (3:58.9), again on a dirt track. Winning the Final Olympic trials and having the fastest time in the world, he was picked as the favorite by Track and Field News and Sports Illustrated, the first time an American distance runner had been picked to win a Gold medal. (Through 2012 Bob is the only American to win a Gold Medal in a race over 1500 meters who was the favorite going into the race.) Bob is one of only five Americans to win a Gold medal in an Olympic distance race in Olympic history.