Eddie Hart, a 1972 Olympic gold medalist, likes to go where he feels the love. He returned to San Quentin State Prison July 20 for the 11th annual Eddie Hart-Ralph Ligons Track Meet to share his time, story and running tips.
“When I first came here, I was a bit concerned for my safety,” the 69-year-old Hart said. “Now I look forward to seeing the guys. Where I am getting love from is where I want to be.”
For the fifth time since 2013, Hart stood before members of the 1000 Mile Club, a group of incarcerated runners. Club sponsor Frank Ruona wore an autographed hat from Hart’s first visit. This year, fresh from an Olympic clinic in Atlanta, Hart wore a black Olympic jacket and held his gold medal.
“I had never met an Olympian before,” new 1000 Mile Club member Mark Jarosik said. “He’s inspiring. I’m grateful he took time out of his schedule to give us some running tips and share his life experiences with us on and off the track. It gives us hope for our futures.”
As Hart began to tell his story, an alarm sounded, which signaled a disturbance somewhere in the prison. While all the incarcerated people sat on the ground, he shared about the race he never ran.
“I’ve loved to run since I was a little kid,” Hart said. “I wanted the title that goes with winning the Olympic 100-meter race: ‘the world’s fastest human being.’”
Hart trained religiously for 10 years to reach the Olympics, setting the 100-Meter World Record along the way.
Once in Munich he awaited the event that he had prepared a decade for; however, his coach had the wrong start time. Hart ended up seeing the race on TV while trying to get there.
“It felt like someone took my 10-year-old child,” Hart said. “I learned how to respond, not react to life’s circumstances.”
Still, Hart achieved a gold medal as the anchor for the U.S. 4×4-relay team.
Hart shared the following running advice.
For long distances, plant the ball of the foot before the heel. (The faster you run, the higher up on your toes you should be.)
Relax. Don’t run stiff.
Keep arms at 90 degrees.
Breathe in rhythm of your stride.
Rest. Your muscles get stronger during the recovery phase.
Afterward, the runners got to apply the advice in several different races. Larry Ford, who is 62 years old, broke the 60-years-and-over half-mile record with a time of 3 minutes, 22.51 seconds.
Newcomer Erik Rives won the open 100-yard dash. (15.6 seconds)
Tone “Barefoot Tone” Evans, in his first running event since an injury two years ago, ran the 50-years-and-over 100-yard dash without shoes or socks. He had the lead two steps from the finish line, where he suddenly pulled up, and Clifton Williams dashed by to take first place in a time of 14.63 seconds. Evans came in at15.19.
“I felt my muscle cramp and pulled up off it, but I’m fine because the ankle isn’t reinjured,” Evans said.
The 1000 Mile Club’s fastest long-distance runner, Markelle Taylor, won the One-Mile Race in a time of 5:16.66.
In the 1600 meter relay, a team of newcomers and veterans won. New members Kevin Rojano and Charles Simmons teamed up with veterans Chris Scull and John Levin to win with a time of 5:21.84.
Scull and Jarosik battled for the open half-mile race. Scull pulled ahead at the end to win 2:46.91 to Jarosik’s 2:51.64.
Rojano won the 200-meter dash with a time of 29.79 seconds.
For the 50-years-and-over 200-meter dash, Larry Ford edged out Tommy Wickerd 43.02 to 43.21 seconds.
The 400 meter race went to Taylor with Wickerd and Ford winning their respective 50-and-over and 60-and-over divisions.
In the final event, the Distance Medley Relay, Steve Reitz, Jarosik, Ford and Wickerd won by a second over Scull, Rojano, Jonathan Chiu and community volunteer Mark Stevens.
“It’s awesome for me to be out here,” Stevens said. “It’s cool for me to come in and be able to be a teammate; there’s camaraderie amongst this team.”
Their respective times were 16:18.97 to 16:19.95.
“Wow, that was close,” community volunteer Jim Morris said.
The event ended with the 1000 Mile Club members thanking Hart for his time. Hart said he came to help because that’s what he does.
“No matter where you are in life, having support and relationships is good,” Hart said. “No man’s an island.”