Indoor track and field got under way last week (page 46), and it signaled the beginning of a long, promising season of track competition that will culminate next October in the Olympic Games at Mexico City. In recognition—or anticipation—of the dramatic possibilities that always seem to develop during an Olympiad, we begin in this issue (page 18) a three-part story on the colorful era of Ron Delany.
It has been a bit more than 11 years since Delany, his arms stretched wide apart, a delighted grin on his long Irish face, sprinted through the tape at Melbourne to become one of the truly glamorous figures in all of sport—the Olympic 1,500-meter champion. But before and after that great moment in his life, Delany's fame as a runner lay indoors rather than out. He charmed a generation of indoor track enthusiasts with his extraordinary prowess and success on the boards; he was undefeated at all distances for five seasons, and he won 34 straight times in the most demanding of all indoor events, the one-mile run. He also consistently annoyed and irritated a large sector of the gallery, those who were put off by his aggressive running tactics and his adamant refusal to go all-out for records every time he raced. Against inferior opposition he preferred to lope home an easy winner, and never mind the pedestrian time.
Delany appeared unperturbed by the boos and catcalls of his antagonists. "Winning is the thing," he explained, and went on winning, running in record time only when he had to—as in Melbourne. His path from the crowded little circles of the indoor arenas to the winner's stand at the Olympics was often a tortuous one, and now he has written a remarkably fresh account of those turbulent and triumphant days. He has a lot to say about collegiate running, and he has some candid opinions of certain runners and officials.
Delany wrote the story by himself, using no professional help except for a typist who transcribed the handwritten copy. He composed it in Dublin, his home town, which he left in 1954 to come to the U.S. to enter Villanova University and where he returned when his running days were over. Today, nearly 33, he is married, has three small children, lives in Foxrock, a residential suburb, and works in Dublin as marketing manager for the B & I Steam Packet Company. The company's business is travel, and Delany is on the move two or three weeks out of every six, visiting major European travel agencies. He gets back to the U.S. about once a year, not on business but usually as a guest speaker at sports banquets and similar functions. Next month, for instance, he will come over for the Philadelphia Inquirer Meet.
But just to watch. He doesn't run anymore, even for exercise. Instead, like the young businessman he is, he plays squash twice a week.