It was one of the defining races of the original running boom era, a veritable Who’s Who of the sport coming together for a competition that came and went with the speed of a flash mob. The 1980 Midland Run 15K in Far Hills, New Jersey had arguably the best elite field in road racing history (at the time). So glittering was the collection of running stars that Sports Illustrated even sent a reporter to cover it. And when Joe Marshall’s story came out in SI on May 12, 1980, it featured one of the best opening lines ever penned about a race site: “Not all of New Jersey looks like the back of an old radio. It only looks that way.” (reference was to the fact that Far Hills, N.J. was one of the wealthiest towns in America.)
But it’s not the SI coverage, or the star-quality of the lead pack that grabbed my attention when somebody re-posted a thread on Midland 1980 yesterday on Facebook. No, forget about Bill Rodgers (5), Lasse Viren (second from left), Henry Rono (9), and the other legends who came together that May day in 1980 to gallop through New Jersey’s tony horse country. Instead, I want you to look at the string of runners behind the stallions.
The lead pack may be 10-wide, but notice how the entire field is held in a solid string, no breaks at all. In other words, look at all the racers who came out to play back then! (more…)