For the past couple of months two of the world's best milers have been training together in San Francisco. One is Ron Delany of Ireland, the winner of the 1,500 meters, or so-called metric mile, in the 1956 Olympic Games. The other is Don Bowden, the first and only American to run the mile in less than four minutes. Not present but very much on their minds is Herb Elliott, the world mile record holder, who has been training savagely on raw oats and raisins in Australia (SI, Jan. 18).
Delany and Bowden are unlike Elliott. While both are dedicated athletes, they are not ascetics. Delany is not above taking a glass of wine now and then "for the good of my digestive system," and neither he nor Bowden would ever think of stocking up stamina on raw oats. "We just eat the bark off trees," says Delany.
A Villanova graduate, Delany came to San Francisco last January as a sales representative for Irish Air Lines. He lives in a view apartment in an old house atop Russian Hill. All in all, he has taken nicely to life in California, though he still keeps his wristwatch on Irish time so he can keep in mental tune with the folks back home. A charmer, Delany says that he not only kissed the Blarney stone, but sat on it as well.
Bowden, 23, is two years younger than Delany. A California graduate, he is now an Army second lieutenant stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco. After he completes his service, he plans to study law.
On weekdays Delany and Bowden run on the polo field at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. On weekends they generally go to a log cabin the Bowden family owns near Santa Cruz. The cabin is in a delightful setting, ringed by giant redwoods, with the Pacific only 10 minutes away by car.
A recent weekend, while rainy, was typical. ("I run like hell in the rain," Delany confided.) At 3 on Friday afternoon (or 11 at night by Delany Dublin time) they met in Golden Gate Park for a workout. They did exercises and a half dozen laps around the half-mile grass field.
After a shower and a change of clothes at Delany's apartment, they drove to San Jose for dinner with Bowden's mother and father. On the way down they talked about training in tandem. "When your body's weak, you have to have someone to push you," said Delany. "You run longer and farther together than you would on your own."
Friendship, however, counts for naught in competition. "He'll be out to kill me, and I'll be out to kill him, 'said Bowden. "If there's a space we both want, say the inside lane, we'll both go for it."
After dinner (cracked crab, avocado salad, ice cream, cookies and milk) the two runners drove over to the cabin. Delany started a fire, and they both flopped down to talk. Bowden picked up an old copy of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED with Anne Quast, the golfer, on the cover, gazed at her dreamily and sighed, "Oh, baby, would I like to have a date with you."
"Ah," said Delany, "she may have muscles in her arms."