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"These little old girls get a lot of good out of running," she said. Ellison is 57 and has red hair that has earned her the somewhat inappropriate nickname of Flaming Mamie and, more years ago than she likes to say, she once ran 50 yards in seven seconds.
"Girls who are plain run for attention," she said. "I mean, for a little while on the track they feel like everyone is looking at them and that makes them feel good, you know? Before they start running, they've got no confidence in themselves. They don't think any boys want to look at them, and they walk around bent over with their heads down. Then they start to run, and they prove something to themselves. They begin to walk tall and straight and that does something for their figures, and the running has already helped out there and the first thing you know, they've got dates and boyfriends."
Mamie, chunky and cheerful, works as a secretary for an Abilene oilman, but devotes most of her time to coaching track.
"Some of them quit if they don't win," she said, "but if they stick with it, they get hooked. I dress them up in red suits, fix them up so they look good. I had a stewardess from Braniff ran for me nearly seven years, never really won anything big, but she kept running."
She ran in this meet, too, although not for Flaming Mamie. Her name is Miki Hervey and she is, indeed, a Braniff stewardess. She ran for a Dallas track club, and finished a modest sixth in the women's mile, won by world-record holder Francie Larrieu. Hervey's time was 5:19.2.
"I guess that's too far for me," she said. She has the tight skinned, thin face of a distance runner and a compact, trim body. "My best distance is the half mile. I've won some races at that distance around this area. Once I nearly made the finals in the nationals.
"I got a kind of late start in this. I mean I was 26 when I began running, and I'm 32 now. Well, I'm really nearly 33. But because I started late, I had to work harder. I felt I had to do well against the young girls. I mean if I didn't, they would all be thinking, 'What's that old bag doing out there?' I just like running, I guess. Of course, I like to win, but what I really like is to prepare myself for a stress situation and handle it as well as I can."
She stopped talking to watch a relay race and shook her head sadly when a tall, thin youngster in the red and blue uniform of Southern Methodist finished 100 yards back in last place and collapsed on the infield.
"Poor kid," she said. "I know how he feels. I wish I could help him but there really isn't much you can do. You have to make it on your own. That's what I like about it."
The SMU runner was a freshman from Houston with the faint hint of a beard beginning to show on his narrow face. He sat with his head hanging between his knees, his breath still short, his face drawn. He had run his leg as fast as he could and finished far behind and he looked up angrily when he was touched on the shoulder.