SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
March 10, 1980
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March 10, 1980


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Perhaps it's time to recall what the humorist H. Allen Smith said about the index finger. In his essay A Short History of Fingers, Smith noted that in bygone days, Europeans considered the index finger to be poisonous and felt that "if it were used to touch a wound, that wound would never heal. It was loaded with toxins, hence they always kept it well away from their soup."


When menaced by dogs, a bane of their existence, some runners aren't bashful about responding with force. They think nothing of swinging or kicking at small mutts and they fend off larger ones with Mace, sticks and belts. In The Complete Book of Running, James Fixx has proposed a less violent but nevertheless extreme strategy. "When the dog is nearly upon you, turn, make a blood-curdling noise and flail your arms as if demented," he writes. "Even a dog seriously bent on mischief will think twice about pursuing a relationship with so unpredictable a soul."

Now comes Dr. George Sheehan, the running cardiologist and author, to counsel a calmer approach. In a weekly column on running that appears in The Daily Register in Shrewsbury, N.J. and in several other newspapers, Sheehan advises runners to give dogs the widest possible berth. "Keep away from the dog's territory," he writes. "Cross the road to avoid a dog up ahead. Pick up a convenient branch or stone or bottle to brandish. And if all this fails, face the dog (never try to outrun one) and keep talking until the animal cools off."

Sheehan says that he has never been bitten by a dog while running, which may have something to do with the fact that he seldom ventures near residential developments. "Owners of dogs in developments tend to let their dogs loose," he says. Surprisingly, Sheehan sees the automobile, another supposed nemesis of runners, as a potential ally against dogs. He says streets with automobile traffic are "safer for the runner because they are dangerous for dogs, and the owners are more likely to tie them up."


Although male runners compete in the Olympics in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon, the all-male International Olympic Committee has yet to approve a race for women longer than 1,500 meters. Understandably unhappy about this, women distance runners were only partly appeased last fall when the world track and field federation, the IAAF, announced that it would stage world championships for women in the 3,000 meters and another non-Olympic event, the 400-meter hurdles, in August of this year in the Netherlands. But those two events would be little more than an afterthought to the Moscow Olympics, which are scheduled to conclude barely a week earlier.

Thanks to the Olympic boycott movement, though, these stepchildren may yet pull a Cinderella. The boycott would seriously reduce the caliber of competition in Moscow just as a "counter-Olympics" would be diminished by the almost certain absence of Soviet-bloc competitors. Because the two isolated world-championship events in the Netherlands presumably will attract athletes from both sides, they could, ironically, end up as the most glamorous events on this year's track calendar.


There was a new development last week in college sport's malodorous academic transcript scandal. The Los Angeles Community College District asked the FBI and local officials to investigate transcript improprieties at its 10 schools and announced its own inquiry into evidence of "dual and triple enrollments in classes held at the same time." Forged transfer credits from one of the schools, Los Angeles Valley College, had previously turned up on transcripts of athletes at Oregon and UCLA. Dr. Alice Thurston, L.A. Valley's president, says that at least eight athletes at her college had received credit for different courses offered at the same hour. Asked how this was possible, Thurston said wearily, "You'd have to be creative about it. Like you jog through the swimming pool with a tennis racket in your hand. That way you could get credit for jogging, swimming and tennis."

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