Editor’s note: This piece is being reposted due to the memorial on January 20, 2024, for the late Mike Fanelli. Mike was the cultural historian of our sport, a lifetime runner, a former Reebok sports marketing manager, coach, athlete, agent, elite athlete coordinator, real estate impresario, friend, brother, and husband. We will miss him. I wanted our readers to have a small selection of his pieces on #RunBlogRun over the years. Mike Fanelli, 1956-2023, RIP.
This is supplement two to Day one (October 15, 1968) to the 1968 Mexico Olympics reconsidered, by Mike Fanelli, we repost this series on the 54th anniversary of the Olympics that changed our sport.
This supplement two to Day 1 has personal meaning to me due to its reverence to Ron Clarke, the finest distance man of his generation and the man who put the Scandinavian circuit into being with his 30-35 races a year in the 1960s across Europe. I was told a poignant story of an Aussie medical team member, standing over a prostrate Ron Clarke, tongue swollen, nearly unable to breathe…
I shared a meal with Ron Clarke and Derek Clayton in the late 1980s in Boston; it was a lifetime experience. (intro by runblogrun)
Thanks, Mike Fanelli, for honoring the late Ron Clarke.
CLARKE COLLAPSES...in an earlier posting on this, the 50th anniversary of the Mexico City 10,000, we discussed the medalists… but perhaps an even more significant story took place a little further back. Ron Clarke, arguably the finest distance runner to roam the planet, had taken five months off to prepare at altitude in France and the United States leading up to the 1968 Olympiad. Alas, no acclimatization could adequately close the gap between a flatlander’s ability to transport oxygen with the same efficiency as those who had spent an entire lifetime living at mile-high elevations.
With 4 laps to go, the awesome Aussie was with the lead pack…they had been running 71-73 seconds per lap, and Clarke felt pretty fantastic. Mamo Wolde shifted it down to 68.4 and backed it up with 69…Clarke was still there. However, when Naftali Temu turned the 24th circuit in 64.4, Clarke’s world was turned upside down.
Said Ron: “I just had a lap to go then, but I was really suffering…I went from running as easily as I’ve ever had to suddenly suffer in virtually 200 meters – the straight seemed to take forever. I just remember people passing me. I remember the tape…and I just couldn’t get there. [I] was just crawling to it. I think it was about a 95-second lap, and I was running 68-second laps or 66-second laps, so it was about 30 seconds slower, and it must have all been in that last 200 meters.”
Afterward, he lay on the track, totally unconscious, for nearly 10 minutes. He was administered oxygen via a face mask. Seeing the world record holder as a fallen soldier wasn’t a pretty sight. But Clarke was one tough son of a bitch…and a few days later, bravely raced again in the 5,000 meters.
He left Mexico without a medallion and instead with a broken heart…figuratively and, as diagnosed in 1972, literally.
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