Category Archives: Old School

The Story Behind The Picture

The Distance Medley Team

I like to think that when I make a promise, I keep a promise so this post represents a promise I made to the entire world via Face Book recently. Add to this is the fact that 67% of my devoted followers (yes, 2 people) actually asked for the story behind this picture so here it is.

I posted a picture of a relay team that included me the other day. I last remember seeing this news clipping over 20 years ago and had thought it was long lost. Until a few weeks ago when I discovered it while clearing out old files in our basement!  This is not just any picture, a picture that was published in the Grand Blanc News mid-May, 1970. The relay team consisted of four senior class runners who combined their talents on that day to break three records for the Distance Medley Relay event. In a medley relay event each member of the team runs a different distance. On that day Scott Mitchell ran the 1/4 mile, Dick Hahn ran the 3/4 mile, Mike Pierce the mile, and I ran the 880 or half mile leg.

As the photo’s caption notes, we set three records on that sunny and very windy day in Davison Michigan. First was the record for the Davison Relays event, followed by a new Grand Blanc High School record, and most importantly new record for the State of Michigan High School runners!  However, it was an “unofficial” State record because the event did not occur during a State finals event and the medley relay was not a regular competitive event recognized by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Nonetheless we were as proud as punch and happy to have set each of the records!

Behind The Scene

But that’s not what the story behind this photo is really about. I suppose I can take it all the way back to the mid to late 1950’s when as a very young kid I remember watching a long distance race held on an indoor track on TV. I am guessing it may have been the Millrose Games? Regardless, I vividly remember my dad explaining to me how important that is was for the runners to start their race slow so they can finish faster at the end. That point still remains as perhaps the very best coaching advice I have ever received!  Too bad I forgot about it on race day in Davison. More about that later.

My leg of the race also started a week prior, at the first ever Genesee County HS Track Championships. I had been a 880 (half mile) runner my entire high school career. As a pudgy freshman I had struggled to break 2:20 for the half mile. Early in my senior year I was only a few seconds away from breaking the magic 2 minute mark. Then it happened! My final 880 race of my high school career, I ran a 1:59 and placed second in the county championships!  What I remember most is that it seemed so easy!  What took me so long to achieve this elusive goal?

At the Davison Relays meet a week later I was pegged to run the 880 leg of the medley team.  Our team was stacked with super fast runners for each leg of the race. Mike Pierce who in the coming week would become State Champ in the Mile was capable of running about a 4:15 mile. Scott Mitchell was a very strong and speedy 50 second 440 (quarter mile) runner, and Dick Hahn was a proven 880 runner who was capable of running the half mile near the 1:52 mark. Dick would move up to the 3/4 mile for this relay.  Then there was me, who ran a sub 2 minute half mile the previous week and it felt so easy!

The Race

I don’t recall if I ran the first or second leg of the relay, I do recall it was a warm, sunny, and very windy day that afternoon in Davison. Since my 1:59 performance seemed so easy to me the week prior, I was convinced I could run a much faster time if I simply took off at a very fast clip.  The 880 is a two lap race that is subdivided into 4 x 220 segments or half laps. I remember my first lap as being very fast, somewhere around 52 seconds. I remember feeling strong and confident as I zoomed past the Start/Finish line completing my first lap!

Lap Two

Still feeling my strength and striding long around the curve, this was still “sort of” easy!  It was not uncommon for me to run a 440 in 54-55 seconds as I did this as a part of my regular workouts each week, running as many as 8-12 repeats each session at that pace. So what if I had just ran my PR (personal record) for a 440?

Then came the long straight away, I was still kicking the pace, no slacking, I knew I could do it!.  I crossed the 660 mark (3/4 of my total race distance) somewhere at about 74-75 seconds!  I did not realize it for many years later but I was on pace at 3/4 my way through the 880 to run a 1:40!  Surely that would have been a new National Record!

But it wasn’t to be that day.

The Wall

It only took a few more strides past the 660 (3/4) mark when it happened!  That same dreaded feeling a marathon runner runner experiences somewhere around mile 20 of the marathon, the moment when all life is sucked out of a runners body, the dreaded WALL!

Almost instantly my arms, legs, chest, and entire body felt paralyzed! Some how I managed to keep moving although it felt as it I was the subject of a slow motion film.  Then to make matters worse, as I rounded my last turn the winds hit me and hit me hard!  No less than a 40 mph gust!  If I was still somehow managing to move, it surely had to be much slower now. It seemed to be taking forever to round the curve.

I did manage to run that last turn and hit the final short straight away (the start was in the middle of the straight away). I was simultaneously experience extreme agony and embarrassment. I had felt like I let my team down. That next exchange point in the relay could not come soon enough.

The Pass

With only a few more slow motion strides to go, I could hear my coaches screaming at Dick Hahn to get up to the exchange line and take that baton away from me ASAP!  And so he did, my toe could not have been more than an inch past the line which is actually before the official 880 distance, when Dick grabbed the baton and took off!

I was relieved my agony was over and nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to change the race. Where I had been running about 25 seconds for each 220, my last 220 split was closer to 50 seconds!  I still managed to contribute a decent 880 split but nowhere near what I had hoped to do.

The Photo

Each of my teammates ran outstanding legs of the relay and we did end up with several records that day.  We stood on top of the podium, received the team trophy. Following the award presentation the photographer from the Grand Blanc News asked us to pose. Take a close look at the photo.  Granted, it’s old and a bit faded, but look very closely.  You will see I am smiling. If you have looked closely enough you will see the reason why!  Hint: my good friend Dick Hahn was always a bit of a prankster.

Following the picture taking each member of the relay team insisted that I keep the trophy and take it home with me, forever.  I instead insisted that it be placed in the trophy case of the school along with many others and envisioned the day long into the future when I could come back and revisit my memories.

Many years later, perhaps 20-25 years, I traveled to Flint to once again compete in The Crim 10 Mile Road Race. The night prior to the Crim I took my young daughters Bridgett and Alexis with me to see the Expo, enjoy a pasta meal. Later we visited the halls of GBHS to search out the trophy and tell my story behind the trophy to my girls.  Well, the trophy was long gone, who knows for how long and who knows where.  The story was never fully told until now. Now the entire planet has access to this story.

The Moral

It really does not matter what the race distance is, the smartest advice any coach can provide is to start slow and save yourself do you can finish faster at the end.  That same advice my Dad had provided to me nearly 60 years ago now.

I hope you enjoyed this story, learned a lesson, and I thank you for your time and interest.

Run Happy 🙂

Coach Lee

PS:  I met up with my coach many years later at a class reunion.  We relived that race and Coach Stallcup confirmed that I had hit the 660 mark at 75 seconds. He had always issued meticulous split times of every runner the day following every meet.  I wish I had kept the mimeographed copy of his report from the 1970 Davison Relays.  Who knows, I  did find the photo after 20+ years of being lost, someday that mimeographed report may surface too.

PS, PS: I still relive that race nearly every time I train on the track, always wondering…




A New Age For a New Year

While most folks are focusing on the year ahead part of my mind remains in last year. Last year was one of my most memorable years of running. Not because of fast race times but more because I am still running at my age and competing at a solid level.

The year began in Boston where I shared the road from Hopkinton with more than a dozen friends from my training group. But imagine, the true highlight was not the Boston Marathon but a race back where my running career started in prep school, Flint Michigan and the Crim 10 Miler. I was very honored to join 19 other runners as we were inducted into the “30 Year Club”. A club that has at least a 29 year waiting list to join!  Yes, my 30th running of the Crim was very special.

The start of the 2016 Crim 10 Miler, for a few brief miles there were only 3-4 runners ahead of me and over 10,000 runners behind me. (30 Yr. Club runners get a 15 min. head start)

Unfortunately for me, the year ended with knee injury. Adding to my grief was the fact that the injury was not running related. I had twisted my knee only slightly on a wet floor and that’s all it took to hamper but not prevent me from keeping my streak alive and running each and every Brooksie Way Half Marathon.  My knee required significant rest and rehab. In other words, I was gaining weight and running much less, not a good combination for a competitive runner. This is why part of my mind is back in last year, yearning to return to my pre-injury fitness level.

Last December I also turned over another calendar in my life, not only moving up to a new (older) age group but also hitting that special number many people focus on since the start of their careers.  The magical number of 65 years old!  Most people see that as their retirement age. Not me! Thanks to my career as a runner I do not intend to retire anytime soon. Which also works hand in hand with being an architect too.

For you see the architectural profession is one where most practitioners do not even begin to hit their professional prime until the have 30, 40, or more years of experience.  It is not unusual to see many talented architects practicing their profession well into their 80’s and beyond.  My doctor tells me I should zoom past my 80’s and would not be surprised to see me running at 110 or more!  Of course he also always follows that with a cautionary note for me to drive carefully too.

This is all quite a contrast to my father who passed away 34 years ago this week at the age of 52.  I also recall my maternal grandfather turning 65 and his retirement from a life long career at Chrysler.  I was 14 at the time and remember my grandfather complaining that it was not fun growing old. I witnessed his life in retirement and thought that was just the natural course of life.

Five years later I started my college days at University of Detroit, only a few blocks from my grandparents house. I visited each of them every Sunday for the day (and a good home cooked meal too). What I witnessed was the slow decline of my grandfather’s mind as dementia eroded the balance of his life and placed a tremendous hardship on those around him. He left us at 74.

Today, as I both look back and ahead, 74 seems so young! When I turn 74 I plan to join the Crim’s “40 Year Club”!

Old school sketching, design, and detailing

My point to all of this is that the number associated with one’s life on this planet does not necessarily need to align with society’s expectations. In today’s world it is much more common for older adults to be very active and participate in marathons, triathlons, and generally simply being physically active. For those who have been blessed to enjoy their career path, they stay in the work force as long as they can. Both the physical and work activity help to extend the lifestyle of active people.

So as I begin 2017 I am happy to still be working full time and looking forward to another year of competitive running. The numbers would indicate that I should sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.  Sorry, that has simply never been my style for the past 65 years.

Thank you for taking a moment to glance at my blog, I resolve to be a more consistent contributor this year, and I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, an Active New Year!

Coach (and still Architect) Lee




Gone But Never Forgotten

Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec 12, at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec. 1, 2012 at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Coach Stallcup.

They say there are only three types of speeches. The one you prepared, the one you gave, and the one you wished you would have given.  This post is about one I wished I would have given. I did deliver a brief speech the evening of December 1, 2012 at the Genesys Health Club in Grand Blanc.

I had traveled back to my hometown that evening to attend the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and dinner honoring my former high school coach, Bob Stallcup. He was being honored yet once again for his outstanding career as a cross country and track coach. Of course people rarely receive such high honors if they do not already possess strong moral character and integrity, Coach Stallcup certainly possessed both. I had intended to only give a brief speech to him, actually only saying thank you for his inspiration and to let him know the extent of impact he had on my life as a person, an architect, professor, and yes even a running coach!

As expected there  was only a brief moment where we had time to chat. I was told his eyesight was not well, his face light up  with his huge and familiar smile when I finally had the chance to shake his hand and introduce myself following the ceremony. He certainly did remember me. He was both surprised and glad to meet again. I told him about my continued running career in less than two sentences. I was able to sneak in another sentence about how he influenced my running and now my coaching efforts. He then proceeded to recall several of my special races during May of 1970, he even recalled my split times!  Time was pressing but we managed to pose for a picture together with another influential coach during those years, Coach Moore, Stallcup’s assistant and my JV basketball coach.

That was the last I saw of Coach Stallcup. The evening of Sept. 11, 2014 I learned of his passing earlier in the day. What follows is the speech I wished I would have had the opportunity to say.

Hello Coach, I would like to thank you for setting the seed of inspiration in me during my days as a proud member of the Grand Blanc High School Track and Cross  Country teams between 1966 and 1970.  I showed up for my first practice as a pudgy freshman with ambitions of running in very important distance races.  Almost from the very first practice session you saw something in me and you designated me to be a “half miler”.  There were many times I was thankful I was not one of those long distance 2 milers yet there were times I dreaded having to “sprint” an entire half mile. It truly was a sprint if we were to meet your expectations. To this very day, my favorite workout are doing half mile (or 800m in today’s track lingo) repeats. As a pudgy freshman, I first struggled to break 2:30 for a half mile race. I was at the back of a long pack. Through your consistent belief that all of your runners could achieve success beyond our expectations I continued to press on with each workout, each rep, each mile, each time. Over the time of each season my time goal for the half mile  diminished.

I did break the 2 minute barrier in the half in my second to last race for GBHS. It was the first Genesee County County Championships. I finished second to my friend and teammate Dick Hahn. I still relieve every stride of that race remembering that I felt strong and fast throughout both laps.  I took that experience to the next and final race of my career the following week at the Davison Relays.You had stacked our medley relay team with our four  fastest middle distance runners. I ran the 880 (half mile) leg. I ran the first 660 in what had to be a record time.  I think it was somewhere in area of 74-76 seconds. Then I “Hit The Wall”! Yes, the wall can be hit in a half mile race too. We still managed to set a State of Michigan Record, unofficial since it was not in a State meet. I learned much from those two races that would go on to continue to inspire me as an architectural student and ultimately in my career as an architect.

Both distance racing and architecture require a great degree of dedication, tough work, consistent effort, disappointment, joy, and ultimately, rare moments of spectacular achievement that only the individual ever believed could be achieved.

Thanks to your influence, 48 years ago, a pudgy freshman runner became a thin and fast sub 2 minute half miler with claim to a State Record. That same person overcame large odds to become an architect. But not just any architect. As I look back on my professional career I have achieved what many others only dream of achieving in this profession. My work has won awards from my peers, been published in national journals, I am well known among my local peers. I have also been a leader in my community. All because of the power of belief and work ethic you had instilled in me decades previously.

Oh yes, I continue to run, continue to stretch, eat, and train the same way you taught us years ago. You were well ahead of your time in many of those methods!

My running career includes hundreds of road races all over the country including marathons in Boston, New York City, Detroit, Vancouver, Honolulu, and in Raleigh where I took first place in my age division! I am currently in the final weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon (Oct. 12). I have found myself sharing running stories with Frank Shorter and racing along side of Bill Rogers for the final 7 miles of a half marathon (btw he out kicked me at the end). I don’t run anywhere near as fast as I did nearly 48 years ago but I am often on the awards podium following many of my races.

Lee Bill Rogers run (1)
A candid shot of me racing against, and slightly ahead of, perhaps the best hill runner of all time, Bill Rogers, at mile 9 of The Brooksie Way Half Marathon in 2008

I am a proud member of the Running Fit 501 training group from our area too. I help to lead runners train for their races. Little do they know they are being trained by your methods.  Most every Saturday we find ourselves on long runs in Kensington Metro Park. At about the 3.5 mile mark of our normal route I run by that stinking hill you made us run up so many times, again and again. Only now I smile as I run past.

It’s not unusual for our runners to run 10-20 miles each Saturday in Kensington. They think it’s a lot of miles. That’s when I tell the story you relayed to me several years ago at a reunion. You reminded me that you had us running a marathon a day, six days in a row during cross country camp in the heat of August!  What I really would like to know is our average pace during those runs. I imagine our lead group was somewhere around a 5:30 pace? We never had an “aid station” either.

I also remember the mimeographed race results that were posted following each race. I still have a few of those. The one I would love to see the most and likely never will, is my splits during my 880 run at the Davison Relays. I really am curious to know of my time. While this information would be nice to know, the most important items are the fond memories of those times and the inspiration you provided to me and no doubt hundreds of others like me.

Thank you Coach. You may be gone but will never be forgotten.

Lee Mamola AIA  GBHS 1970

PS:  Link to article about Coach Stallcup’s induction: