(Nov. 2019) Don Kardong should have won the bronze medal in the 1976 Olympic Marathon. He finished fourth that day in Montreal, but winner Waldemar Cierpinski is widely believed to have doped under the state-controlled East German system. No matter. Kardong is not one to cry over spilled milk. He quickly moved on, and had a profound influence over American road racing as director of the famed Bloomsday race in his hometown, Spokane, WA, and as an early advocate for professional road racing. For many years, Kardong, now 70, was also a feature writer at Runner's World magazine, treasured for his sense of humor. Surely you remember, "Without ice cream, there would be chaos and darkness"? And: "Runners like to train 100 miles a week because it's a round number, but I think 88 is a lot rounder."
Career/profession? I moved to Spokane in 1974 to take a job as a sixth grade classroom teacher. After three years I left to open a running store. I sold that
nine years later and worked as a writer for various running magazines, including Runners World. After that I took a job for two years as director of the Children's Museum of Spokane. In 2004 I was hired as race director of the Lilac Bloomsday Run after founding the run in 1977 and serving on the Board of Directors over the years.
When did you start running and why? I started running in the fall of 1964, my sophomore year of high school, to get in shape for basketball. By the end of that first cross country season I figured out I had more talent as a runner than as a hoopster.
Peak training periods? The year after I graduated from Stanford, I was training very seriously trying to make the 1972 Olympic team. I had a couple of weeks over 140 miles, which was really too many. Over the next few years I typically trained about 105-110, with occasional periods where I topped 120. That high mileage always included two days per week of interval training.
Top races? In 1974 I ran a three-mile at Hayward Field in 12:57.6 behind Prefontaine and Shorter. And of course my 1976Olympic Maratho n in 2:11:16, good for fourth place, was pretty sweet.
Can you estimate your total lifetime miles? 100,000
How much are you running and cross-training now? I run four days a week. That's three 5-mile runs and one 9-10. The other days I ride a bike or stationary bike for about 45 minutes. The only strength work I do is to strengthen the
musculature around the knees, and some sit-ups to stabilize the core.
|Kardong leads Prefontaine in a collegiate|
Does it bother you that you are slower now? My aging running buddies and I laugh about how slow we are
now. Laughing together helps. It doesn't normally bother me, because that's what life has in store, and I'm mostly just amazed and thankful that I can still trail run for nearly two hours once a week in the state park three miles from where I live. But when I read about some of the incredible times that some runners my age are posting, I do sometimes think, "Why not me?"
How have your diet and weight changed through the years, if at all? As a rule, I eat whatever is served. I did make one major change a few years ago after I gained 20 pounds following meniscus surgery. I thought the weight would drop off after I started running again, but only about half of it did. To lose the final 10 pounds, I cut way back on breakfast and lunch, mostly just eating a protein bar and a bottle of Ensure. That knocked off the final 10. Overall I'm still about 35 pounds over my weight at the time of the 1976 Olympics.
Injuries or health issues? I've been very lucky with injuries over the years. I have had three meniscus surgeries, but other than that it's mostly been aches and pains. Usually cutting back has solved those minor issues. When that doesn't work, I see a physical therapist. I start with PT, because physical therapists seem to have the best understanding of how the body works. Occasionally they aren't able to solve a problem and I've had to move on to surgery (e.g. meniscus).
Favorite inspirational quote: "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."--The Little Engine That Could
|Kardong won the 1976 Peachtree Road Race ahead of|
Jeff Galloway (far left), Bill Rodgers (left) and Eddie
Three tips for hopeful lifetime runners?
1) Be the best you can be at whatever stage you're in. If
you're in high school, be the best high school runner you can
be. And so on.
2) Find good running partners.
3) Enjoy the journey.
How does running and fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? Running gives good health, a balance to my life, the opportunity to share time with running partners, a chance to greet the sunrise, and a connection to life on planet Earth.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? I've distilled lessons learned from running to these five:
1) Work matters--If you want to improve, you need to work at
2) Teamwork helps--Whether it's an official team, a group of friends, or just people supportive of what you're doing, social support helps.
3) Failure--Every story of success, in athletics and
elsewhere, includes times of profound failure. Getting past
those is the key.
4) Patience--Improvement in running takes time. So does
success at almost everything else.
5) Believe in yourself--If you don't believe in yourself,
nothing is possible.
Philosophy of life? My philosophy of life was summed up by Agustus "Gus" McCrae (Robert Duvall) in the movie "Lonesome Dove: "If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things – like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”