If you will remember the last exciting episode, Gerry Lindgren, miniature long-distance runner, was thrashing his way through fields of Russians on his way to Tokyo for the 1964 Olympic Games. Describing childlike uppercuts with his skinny arms, gritting his teeth and getting the maximum from his pink little body, Gerry was awakening America to distances it had never been interested in before because nobody thought American runners could run that far without rest stops. His surging style—run awhile, then really run awhile—was defined by his coach as "eclectic," a mini-mixture of Z�topek, Elliott, Snell and a pinch of salt.
Lindgren, then 18 years old, beat the favored Russians at 10,000 meters in Los Angeles that year, and Bob Schul did it at 5,000, and, though Lindgren injured his ankle and did not win at Tokyo, Schul did and so did Billy Mills for a U.S. sweep of the Olympic 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs. Since then, America has gone from hopelessness to being pretty blas� about its excellent distance runners, so much so that it has begun to turn its attention back to the sprinters, who do not work as hard but who make considerably more noise.
Now it is the Olympic year 1968, and Lindgren, the pink little boy runner, has grown up. He has become a pink little man runner, with an ulcer. His tireless training (he has covered 44 miles in a single day) and eclectically engineered footraces make him an international favorite who is again worthy of attention. Last weekend in Berkeley he won the 10,000 meters as he pleased in the NCAA championships and then paused to lecture the republic on the stupidity of the NCAA-AAU feud—"I've been waiting for a chance to get this off my chest," he said. On the third day, though dog tired and hurting, he won the 5,000 meters with a blazing finish to complete a three-year sweep of the distance events. No runner has ever so dominated NCAA competition.
Lindgren's achievements did not quite prevent the insatiable University of Southern California team from winning the meet for the second year in a row, and the 25th time in 47 years. USC won by one point over Lindgren's Washington State team, 58 to 57, and Villanova finished third with 41. Some of the USC boys stimulated the evenings around the Durant Hotel in downtown Berkeley with firecrackers, but a firecracker is a minor annoyance in a place like Berkeley; in the daytime, Earl (The Pearl) McCullouch, Lennox Miller, O. J. Simpson and the other USC jet streams got more attention piling up points. McCullouch won the high hurdles by a hair from Villanova's surprising Irv Hall, Miller took the 100 meters and just missed the 200, and they all ganged up—Lennox, Earl, O.J. and Fred Kuller—to win the 400-meter relay.
USC's team victory was set against a background of impressive individual performances. Lee Evans, San Jose State's powerful quarter-miler, again demonstrated his superiority by defeating Villanova's Larry James at 400 meters in 45 seconds fiat, only .5 second off the world record. James, who had been ill all week, in turn proved his worth in the 1,600-meter relay when, set off 12 yards behind, he made up all that on the anchor leg and carried Villanova to a two-yard victory. Villanova's other star, Dave Patrick, beat a first-rate field in the 1,500 in 3:39.9. Dave Hemery, an Englishman discovered at Boston University, moved into Olympic gold-medal contention in the 400-meter hurdles with a 49.8 victory. Dick Fosbury of Oregon State, who starts his high-jumps frontward and ends up backward, back-flipped to a meet-record 7'2�". Byron Dyce of NYU won the 800 meters by four yards in 1:47.3 as the seven men who followed him to the tape all finished within .8 second of each other. Kerry Pearce, the blond Australian from the University of Texas at El Paso, scored an easy win in the steeplechase.
Tennessee's Richmond Flowers had been obliged to withdraw earlier from the meet because of a badly pulled muscle. Kansas' Jim Ryun could not make the meet, either, though he seems to be winning his bout with mononucleosis and has resumed high-altitude training at Flagstaff, Ariz. By not being there, Ryun missed Lindgren's passionate address on his ( Ryun's) behalf. Barely off the track and still in a sweat after winning the 10,000 meters. Lindgren declared that he would not run in this week's Amateur Athletic Union meet in Sacramento. He said the AAU had deprived Ryun of a world record in the half mile two years ago, and he would henceforth do whatever he could to dramatize injustices done track athletes by their rulers. Lindgren admitted his was a practical decision. Had he not qualified in the NCAA meet—the first six U.S. finishers automatically advanced to the Olympic trials June 29—he would have been obliged to try again in the AAU meet. He said, too, that it was not the AAU he minded so much but the people who run the organization. Likewise, the NCAA. "Their pride and hate for one another is hurting the athletes," he said.
Lindgren's convictions are strong ones. He once gambled his college career by defying an NCAA edict that would have made ineligible any college athlete who competed in the 1965 AAU meet at San Diego. He considered the threat high-handed and shameful, and he went to San Diego anyway. So did a few others. The NCAA quietly did nothing.
Ryun ran the celebrated non-world record—880 yards in 1:44.9—at the U.S. Track and Field Federation Championships in 1966. The record was not recognized because no AAU sanction for the meet had been applied for or given. As a crusader of 22, Lindgren does not look much different from the wunderkind of 18. A concerted effort to put on weight—plenty of ice cream and beef stroganoff—has enlarged him in four years from 118 pounds to 120. His principal addition is an ulcer. Between meals he now munches vanilla wafers and sips from a container of half cream, half milk. He eats cottage cheese and peaches by the peck, and when he goes off into the sunrise for one of his all-day runs he carries a blue plastic bottle of Mylantal to serve as first line of defense in case of stomach rebellion.
Lindgren, far from being the silent ulcer type, has developed a curious language all his own. Something that bothers him—-a blister on the toe, a fouled-up dinner date—is "bad berries." "Out of my tree" is a catchall phrase for things like fright (" Clarke scared me out of my tree") or body condition ("I had the flu right out of my tree"). He lapses into Cockney accents for days at a time and answers the phone in the Japanese manner, "Moshi-moshi."
Lindgren says he probably got his ulcer trying to learn Russian at Washington State. He is one of only 11 Russian-language students of the 10,000 people on campus, and he practices his Russian on whoever is available. Take the time he was visiting Marie Mulder, the dark-eyed girl distance runner who has become, with blossoming good looks, an avid collector of the hearts of track-and-field boys. She and Gerry held hands from New York to Kiev and back in 1965. They remain close friends. One afternoon they were sitting by a lake when a boatload of vacationers passed. Lindgren leaped up and began shouting at them in Russian. When the boat had gone, Marie asked Gerry what he had said. "I said, 'Hello. How are you? The weather is fine. I am fine. Edward lost his toothbrush.' "