once took movies of a walker wearing one white shoe and one black shoe. He
concluded that the white shoe was easier to spot than the black shoe, thus more
likely to catch the judge's eye. Since he now functions as a race-walking
judge, it is a case of chickens coming home to roost. McCarthy notices that
some walkers not only use black shoes, but darken the white side stripes with
dye. "When I see a walker with white shoes that have been dyed black,"
says McCarthy, "I just watch him a little closer."
The race walker
not only must survive the icy stares of judges, but while on training walks he
suffers the taunts of small boys and the lunges of hostile animals. Joggers and
long-distance runners face the same problem, but walkers provide slower-moving
targets. In their training walks through parks and along city streets they will
be moving two to four minutes per mile slower than a runner. Following a recent
national championship in Chicago, several walkers gathered at Chris McCarthy's
house. Ron Laird pointed to his thigh, where a two-inch scar served as a trophy
of a battle lost to a German shepherd. Immediately the other walkers in the
room rolled up their pants legs to exhibit similar scars. While training in
California before the 1964 Olympics, Bruce MacDonald was attacked by two dogs;
while he fought off one the other bit him from behind. MacDonald ascended the
nearest porch to get medical help. The people inside the house took one look at
him, standing there in shorts and a painter's cap (to ward off the sun), with
sweat streaming from his back, and refused to let him in. In a national
championship near San Diego, Jim Hanley and Bob Bixby were walking together
when a large dog started running across an open field toward them. Hanley
coolly watched the dog's approach and said to his companion, "If the dog
gets within 50 yards of us, you have my permission to break stride and
Hanley has had
more than his share of problems. One time while he was race walking near UCLA,
someone leaned out of a fraternity house window and shot him in the behind with
a BB gun. (It probably took great skill to hit that elusive a target.) Hanley
occasionally mixes some running with his walk training. One cold winter
morning, wearing three T shirts and a heavy black sweat suit, he was running
past a local church when he saw three police cars parked in front. The church
had just been burglarized. One of the policemen ordered him to halt, but Hanley
had a ski hat pulled down over his ears and couldn't hear him. Hanley looked
around in time to see a policeman sprinting after him, gun drawn. Hanley
stopped and raised his hands. "On the head!" snapped the policeman, but
Hanley didn't know what he meant. Within seconds Hanley had been grabbed from
behind and kicked in the stomach. Eventually, another policeman reported having
seen Hanley running toward the church, as well as away from it. When one of
Hanley's race-walking rivals heard of the incident, he proved unsympathetic.
"That'll teach you to run," he said.
the ultimate comeuppance, however, while training near the Los Angeles Coliseum
just before a U.S.-British Commonwealth meet. A small Negro boy ran up to him
and said, "Hey, can I have your autograph?"
"But I'm not
on the Olympic team," protested Hanley.
on, son," said the boy.
who has been studying for a Ph. D. in political science at the University of
Chicago for about 15 years, says that the type of heckling race walkers receive
varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. He claims to have made a sociological
study of ethnic heckling. While training for the Olympic team, he frequently
would walk from his home on Chicago's South Side to Evanston far to the north
and in so doing pass through a variety of ethnic neighborhoods. He claims that
the bums on West Madison Street (Chicago's Skid Row) act most friendly. In the
Latin American neighborhoods the people whistle. In lower-middle-class
areas—particularly one stretch of lakefront he calls "Boob Beach"—the
walkers attract insults, obscenities and sometimes rocks. In Evanston and along
North Michigan Avenue the people are very polite about their laughter. They
raise their hands to their mouths to hide smiles, or wait until after the
walkers pass before turning to stare. McCarthy and Ron Laird used to train
together and often one or the other would walk 50 yards to the rear to sample
the reactions. They encountered the most hostility southwest of Chicago near
Santa Fe Speedway, an auto racing track. "The people would drive across the
center line of the highway trying to brush us," says McCarthy.
walked through the slums of Chicago's South Side. In the early '60s Negroes
averted their eyes as though unwilling to acknowledge the presence of white
walkers acting like fools in their shorts and funny hats. Within the past few
years, however, the attitude of the ghetto residents has hardened. Now they
stare angrily at the walkers as though they no longer belong in their
neighborhood. One two-mile McCarthy walking course circles through Jackson Park
and crosses a bridge from which Negroes frequently fish. Toward the end of one
workout McCarthy crossed this bridge for perhaps the eighth time and was told
by one of the fishermen, "The next time around, Whitey, we're going to get
you." McCarthy hasn't used that course since.
McCarthy went on a training walk to Evanston with Jim Clinton, a University of
Chicago divinity student. They passed Oak Street Beach, where two teen-age
girls standing under a tree giggled as they went by. As the two walkers
continued northward they got caught in a thunderstorm, and on the way home
passed Oak Street Beach again. The tree under which the girls had been standing
had been split by lightning. "See, that'll teach them to laugh at us,"
shouted McCarthy triumphantly. Clinton was horrified. "Chris," he said,
"they were only smiling."
long-distance runners are individualists and race walkers tend to be even more
individualistic. It takes a certain amount of well, mettle, to strip to your
shorts and swivel-hip down the boulevard before the eyes of people who would
get into an automobile to go two blocks to the drugstore for cigarettes. Many
walkers avoid the public's gaze as much as possible. Jack Mortland does almost
all his training on a nine-lap-to-the-mile asphalt track that Jack Blackburn's
father built in his Worthington, Ohio backyard. Other walkers train on regular
running tracks, where runners offer sympathy. Elliott Denman used to solve his
need for indoor training facilities on rainy days by practicing in a New York
subway tunnel. While living in Norristown, Pa., Ron Laird trained winters in
the tunnels connecting the buildings of a state mental hospital.