1957 Boston Marathon champion

The great wheel turns, and thus are we all ground into dust.  Such is the Rib-Taker’s design, and so must we all be delivered.  I just returned home from covering the 34th America’s Finest City Half-Marathon here in San Diego, another celebration of the fullness of life, only to hear of the passing at age 80 of 1957 Boston Marathon champion John J. “The Younger” Kelley at his home in Connecticut.  An e-mail from John’s protégé, great friend and fellow Boston Marathon champion (1968) Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World brought the sad news.

Anyone who had been a part of the New England running scene over the last sixty years would have tales to tell of Young John, a man who would’ve been as comfortable in Revolutionary times – perhaps even more so -than in these currently devolving ones.   To fully understand and appreciate the life and legacy of John J. Kelley, I urge you to read Amby’s moving tribute. John J. Kelley, RIP, 1930-2011: 1957 Boston Marathon Winner; America’s First Modern Road Runner.

As his nickname implies, John “The Younger” was a man who shared a name (though no relation) with a marathon runner of even greater renown. Before Young John came Old Kel, John A. “The Elder” Kelley of Massachusetts, the legendary two-time Boston champion (1935 & `45) and 62-time Boston starter.  Both Kelley’s lived to run, were  two-time Olympians, and became as famous for their non-wins at Boston as for their victories.  Ten years spanned Old Kel’s wins, while Young John was the lone member of the BAA to ever wear the olive wreath of victory at his club’s grandest race.  Yet between the two they claimed twelve second place finishes at Boston (seven for Old Kel, five for Young John).

And so today, my sympathies lie with Tesfaye Alemayehu of Ethiopia and Ariana Hilborn of Scottsdale, Arizona, runners-up in the 2011 AFC Half.  Alemayehu came up just five-seconds shy of race winner Weldon Kirui of Kenya following a race-long duel through the cloud-covered skies of San Diego. Tucson, Arizona’s Ian Burrell claimed third position in an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying 64:22. Ms. Hilborn, 30, of Scottsdale gave way only in the final mile to California’s Mary Akor, who was competing in the AFC for the first time. Akor’s margin at the Balboa Park finish was ten seconds, 77:17 to 77:27.  San Diego’s Natasha Labeaud, 24, finished third in 78:15. Continue reading