Saturday, September 2, 2017


I just finished reading this one. The story of Emil Zatopek, the greatest distance runner of all time. Since I'm a "runner" and an old guy, I was aware of Zatopek even though he was a bit before my time. When he had his greatest triumph as a runner I was only two years old but his story continued for quite a few years after, including the 1968 Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their Black Power salute from the podium while George Foreman chose to wave the American flag. It was also the year I graduated from high school, there were riots in Detroit and Chicago here in the mid-west and Zatopek was confronting the Russians as they marched into Prague. Interesting times to say the least.

Zatopek was born in Czechoslovakia and competed during the time of Communism, secret police, political imprisonment and all that. Tough times certainly, and it probably helps to understand his story if you are of a certain age as I am and remember the Cold War era. During those years they even tossed the entire Czech hockey team into prison due to fear they were going to defect.

The book does a nice job of covering Zatopek's life as a runner, along with weaving in details about his wife, who also won gold at the Olympics, and many of his contemporaries, including Roger Bannister and the quest for the sub-four minute mile. While Zatopek set many world running records, his greatest accomplishment was undoubtedly winning gold in the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon at the 1952 Olympics. The only man to ever manage that, and probably the only man who ever will.

Good book. Incredible man.

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