My Uncle Tom & Me: Running Buddies. Or, discovering running memorabilia from the 1970-90s.

Uncle Tom on Easter, 1966

After my Uncle Tom passed away from cancer in 2003, I learned that he was a runner. I had no idea about this while he was alive – but it wouldn’t have mattered (much) to me – I didn’t run back then. My mom found all of his race bibs and other race memorabilia while going through his things and preparing photos for the wake, and that was when I first learned about it. 

I was at my parents’ house tonight, and talked to my mom about my upcoming races and she mentioned my uncle (her brother) and his running. I asked her where all of his race bibs and stuff ended up … turns out it was in a box in the family room.

So we went through it.

Not only was he a runner, but for a few years he was on the Illinois National Guard Marathon team in the 1980s. For a period of time, his “orders” from the National Guard were to run. Full-time.

Also, I learned:

  • He ran the Chicago Distance Classic many times … well that race has been taken over by the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon series, and I am running the Rock ‘n Roll Chicago Half Marathon next month! Which is basically the race he used to run! 
  • He ran in many Chicago Marathons, including the first two of this go-round (1977 and 1978). 
  • He did run at least one sub-four-hour marathon. I think that was the only race photo he ever purchased – him finishing under the clock at 3:59 (forgot the exact seconds). Most of his marathon race times were around 4:20ish and up.
  • The Chicago Marathon has had many different routes. And names.
  • He also ran the Lincoln (Nebraska) Marathon many times (I think with the National Guard team) and the Grandma’s Marathon, and an annual 10K in Oak Park (don’t remember the name) many times. 

He saved all of his race bibs and post-race postcards (which his official time, place, etc). On some of the bibs/postcards were his “race reports.” Things like the temperature at the start of the race, the wind, how he did, at what mile he hit the wall. It seemed like for a lot of marathons he started off faster than he wanted, and then ran out of energy around mile 16-17.

He also wrote his even-mile clock times on some of his bibs. While running.

My uncle wrote his mile split times upside down on his bib while running!
Yup, I am totally related to this man.

Anyway, eventually I want to go through all of this stuff, and take more pictures and/or scan some of it – he also saved many of the race program books, and letters/certificates, etc. Lots of good stuff for runnerds!

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.