The Kiwi & The Chairman!
By Jeff Benjamin
1983 began as a very rough time for Eamonn Coghlan.
The Millrose Wanamaker Mile Legend had lost both his Coach Gerry Farnam and his Father Bill In the early winter months and then saw a possible indoor world record mile performance dashed for a few weeks due to heavy snowstorms in the NYC area.
Yet, on a magical night at the end of February, Coghlan, known as “The Chairman Of The Boards,” raced around the wooden board track in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on a track he helped design, Coghlan became the first person to run an indoor mile under 3:50, clocking a time of 3:49.78 before a raucous crowd (including this writer!).
As Spring began, Coghlan now had one more all-out goal he hoped to accomplish.
To win the Gold Medal in the 5K at the Inaugural Helsinki World Outdoor Championships.
As Summer beckoned, Coghlan found not only a training partner but a kindred spirit!
“You know, as a young runner, I always looked up to the great New Zealanders Rod Dixon, John Walker and Dick Quax,” recalled Coughlin.
“But then, to not only compete against them but to become friends with them was just an incredible thing!”
“Rod won the July 4th Pepsi 10K championships in Purchase, New York, and I was there and living in Rye and found out Rod was living in the area, so we decided to get training in together.”
That partnership didn’t just pay dividends physically for Dixon and Coghlan but mentally as well.
“You know, Rod and I both had something to prove,” said Coughlin, reflecting on their Olympic experiences.
“Rod had finished 4th in the 5K at Montreal in 1976, and I had also finished 4th in the 1500, which is truly the worst place one can finish…so I had the goal to try and win in Helsinki, and Rod was racing the NYC Marathon.”
“Rod’s enthusiasm and positive aura was just great,” said Coghlan, as he reminisced about their training runs through Rockefeller State Park 4 decades ago.
“He always had that drive and desire, and it was contagious!”
“You’d think after I ran the 3:49 indoor mile that I would be mentally strong, and I was, but Rod’s attitude and positivity took me over the top!”
Going into the World Championships Coughlin also carried with him dirt from both his Father’s and his Coach’s graves in the pockets of his racing shorts!
Brian Baker, Eamonn Coghlan, Rod Dixon, photo by Jeff Benjamin
That drive and enthusiasm paid off, as Coughlin, joyously celebrating with 150 meters to go, would exorcise his demons and win that covered outdoor title he had so badly wanted!
“After the race, telegrams came in from everywhere,” recalled Coughlin.
“One of the first ones to arrive came from Rod, and it read –
“To the Chairman of The Boards – Congratulations! – You’re now a World Champion! – Rod”
“Getting that from Rod was just great, and I knew I’d have to be around New York City for his race in October!”
But before New York, Dixon would have to sharpen his skills at some local top-level races in the tri-state NY, NJ Pennsylvania areas.
One of those stops would be where this writer would meet him for the first time.
The August Asbury Park 10K!
P.S. You might want to support Brian Baker, who is running his 11thy NYC Marathon (first time since 1987) to race money for Rod Dixon’s KIDS Marathon program