Dave Wottle and the Age of Innocence

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    • #10739
    • #26706

      Thanks for posting this GTF it is a good read and very appropriately titled. 

    • #26707

      Forty-seven years old.  That's how old I am.  A good age to be during this time because those were my heroes and I am still young enough to draw strength from those memories.  This running thing was pretty new when I started and I owe part of my love for running to my parents who relished the Olympics.  It was the only real spectacle back in the day.  My brother and I were fortunate to have some sport skills so we both competed well in HS.  He attained every honor and championship level you could reach in HS football at our school.  I choose running and that turned out to be and even more difficult challenge.  I did okay, no regrets, but I fell in love with the sport because of guys like Dave Wottle, John Tuttle, Park Barner, Sam Bair, etc.

      Running was fresh.  We had no preconceived ideas on how to go about it.  No limits.  Go out and hammer and be ready for your next event in 15 minutes.  We need points.  I would not trade it for the world.  Sometimes I ran 9 races a week.  I won races I should never have and lost races badly because of poor judgement.  I missed records by tenths of a second and have a couple that stand to this day.  All because of the same mentality.  Run hard as long as you can.  Zero coaching.  Track was coached by the football coaches and CC by the shop teacher.  It may have been better for me. 

      I never did what I knew I was capable of.  I never reached State.  But I loved it because you could line up with the countries best in smaller fields…..and dream.  I remember in college we would run as far as we could with the leaders for grins and die when we were freshman.  When my buddy beat Bill Rodgers in the 10k one year with about a 31 flat (Bill was in his early forties) we went crazy.  One guy started winning decent size races (a 29 guy) the Atlantic City Marathon, 2nd at NCAA Nationals DII (twice), etc. and now were having some real fun.  I could tell dozens of stories of the crap we pulled.  One year we showed up to the JFK CC Championships and because I was a local guy I recruited everyone I knew before the race from HS, penned a roster, named myself coach and raced the damn thing.  We won in an upset (who are these guys?) and still have the picture from one of the publications somewhere, me holding the award as head coach.  The Tri-County Track Club.  A bunch of Podunk kids from Western PA, but most were sub 10:00 2 milers who knew the course and had already been racing in snow for weeks.

      We would go race every weekend if we could.  You might have a field of 300-600 and run a 35-36 and probably not crack the top 100 at times.  Back then, there were 20-30 guys in the field who thought they could win.  I miss those days.  I went back home a few years ago. The field was 100-150 and I won with a time like that by over 2 minutes.  Pretty sad….it is not the same.

      Sorry for the ramble, the article brought back a lot of good memories. 

    • #26708

      Always – and I mean always love to read the “rambles” of Double!  I can tell when we meet at events like Al's that Double truly loves to get after it and run his best.

      Thanks for the “ramble” Dave –

    • #26709

      when my older bro talks about running in the late '60s early '70s it's so different from today.  Running marathons without aid stations!  In high school, I can remember answering the door to his weirdo running friend and having to drag my brother out of bed at 6-7 in the morning on a Saturday and they'd go out running and not comeback until supper.  People would call our house complaining about him running around town and wanting to know why or what kid of hijinx was going on and my mom saying “he's running”  “why? what's he running from?”  😀

    • #26710

      What a great read. My favorite part:

      Aside from his ability to accelerate off of almost any pace, the key to Wottle's success was similar to many great athletes: He hated to lose. Sink had the same fire. He had tripped and fallen in a mile race, and we rushed over to him to help him up and make sure he wasn't hurt. Sink proceeded to tear off his shoes and hurl them into the infield and curse himself for being tripped. Then he returned shortly after and took out his anger on the field in a 3-mile, cruising to an easy victory.

      What seriously competitive runner hasn't experienced that feeling, that hatred of losing, that rage at a tactical error during a race? To me, this is the true spirit of a competitor. Sure, you can lose gracefully but graciously congratulating your opponent isn't the same as not having that absolute hatred of not living up to your own standards.

      I remember the Conference Championship my junior year of high school. Sure, I wasn't running for the win but I was running for All-Conference and for a team title. I completely blew it and, after the race, I lost my cool I was so mad at myself. I could have outwardly handled myself better but it was that fire, that absolute disgust with my performance, that absolute determination to avenge that run eating away at me for just over a week that got me out there at the Sectional meet ready to avenge my bad race. I had what I would still rank as one of the best races of my life, finished in the top 10 against all the teams in the conference as well as additional very strong teams after barely cracking the top 20 a week earlier, and helped my team qualify for State.

      When I think back on my running life, it's not always the case but many of the best races of my life came immediately after the worst races of my life. It's that hatred of losing, of not living up to my own expectations, that forced me to push myself in that next event to doing something that would even surprise myself in some cases.

      I have a feeling a lot of us have experienced that hatred described in the article. It may not have taken us to the level Wottle, Sink, and their teammates but that is the internal drive that takes us to the pinnacle of personal success. It's also something that, while it still exists, seems to have become increasingly more rare over the past decades.

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