Ode to Tim Danielson
You’ve probably never heard of him. That’s a name I hadn’t heard in many years. Like every wanna-be miler of my time, I aspired to be like him, to do what he had done on the track… only better.
I’m a staunch believer in personal privacy. I’m intensely private and keep my personal life close to the vest. Its nobody’s business. Besides, it’s boring.
But every once in awhile I see something in the news I find wrong that cannot be fully explained without relating it to my own experience. Such is the case with this story in the New York Times:
“After the Mile” – Jeré Longman, New York Times, 3/13/2013
The Magic of the Mile
In high school, Danielson did everything right. He immersed himself 110% into running the mile. So did I. In those days it meant year round training and 100 mile weeks coupled with workouts so intense that such rigorous training has not been matched to this day. Stories of Danielson’s iron workouts graced the pages of Track and Field News.
In the 9th grade, my first year of track, Tim Danielson did what only the great Jim Ryan had done before; he became the 2nd high-schooler in history to run a sub-four minute mile. I trained for it, too. My goal was to beat them both. Ryan went on to set a world record of 3:51.1.
All told there have only been 5 high-school runners world-wide who’ve went under 4. Yet it was done three times in a span of only 4 years from 1964-1967. Marty Liquori did it in a 1967 race where both Danielson and Ryan competed. Alan Webb is the other American to accomplish the amazing feat 34 years later in 2001.
Ryan, Liquori and Webb all went on to international fame and celebrity, but not Danielson.
The scuttlebutt among serious runners back in my time was that Danielson should have become the next Jim Ryan, but that he burned out.
That is roughly like being a test pilot lacking “the right stuff”.
Not much was heard from Danielson after that. He disappeared.
Then, out of nowhere, comes the New York Times with a major 5-page, in-depth exposé on Danielson.
I’ve never met Tim Danielson, but we are as connected as brothers.
I’ve run 10s of thousands of lonely miles, like he has. I’ve ran 100-mile weeks, like he has. I’ve pushed the envelope of human endurance countless times exploring my own limits in the never-ending quest for greatness, like he has. I’ve even ran against many of the same runners he competed against.
Shared experience creates an unbreakable bond.
45 years after his disappearance from the sports world, Danielson murders his ex-wife in 2011. He is in jail awaiting trial. Murder is a horrible, inexcusable thing. Senseless circumstances leading up to it is heart-wrenching. Such things are, indeed, newsworthy; perhaps in the San Diego area where Danielson has lived his whole life.
But why does an obscure California athlete become New York newsworthy today for a tragic crime committed over a year ago? It smacks of contrived sensationalism.
I’m outraged over staining the memory of a long-lost runner for no more reason than an NYT version of a human interest story.
For reasons known only to NYT editors, they pulled his name out of the scrap heap of history. The NYT’s ode to Tim Danielson made me deeply saddened over tragic outcomes and angry at the NYT for exploiting them.