Walt Murphy is one of the finest track geeks that I know. Walt does #ThisDayinTrack&FieldHistory, an excellent daily service that provides true geek stories about our sport. You can check out the service for FREE with a free one-month trial subscription! (email: WaltMurphy44@gmail.com ) for the entire daily service. We will post a few historic moments each day, beginning February 1, 2024.

by Walt Murphy’s News and Results Service (WaltMurphy44@gmail.com), used with permission


This Day in Track & Field/X-Country–March 20


1969–Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, the winner of the Marathon at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, was involved in an automobile accident that caused a cervical spine injury (neck) that left him paralyzed from the neck down. His injuries ultimately led to his death in 1973.




Abebe Bikila, trading card from E-Bay


1971—Doris Brown (Heritage) won her 5th (and final) World (International) X-Country title (2.8 miles) in San Sebastian, Spain, leading the U.S. women to a 3rd-place finish. England’s Dave Bedford and Nick Rose, a future NCAA Champion (1974/Western Kentucky), won the men’s senior (7.5 miles) and junior (4.35 miles) races, respectively. England swept all 3 team titles. (The U.S. only entered the Women’s team!)

Doris Brown Heritage, circa 1967, by Wikipedia (public domain)

Other notable finishers

Senior Men: 9. Ian Stewart (Scotland), 10.Rod Dixon (New Zealand), 12.Gaston Roelants (Belgium); DNF-Emiel Puttemans (Belgium).

Junior Men:18.Eamonn Coghlan (Ireland/destined to become the “Chairman of the Boards”), 24.Neil Cusack (Ireland/1972 NCAA Champion-East Tennessee/winner of the 1974 Boston Marathon)

Women: 11. Beth Bonner (USA/Unofficially the 1st female “winner” of the NY City Marathon-1971)


Mo Farah with David Bedford, former London Marathon impresario, WR holder of 10k, and unofficial spokesperson for Guinness, photo by Jane Monti, 2013, used with permission


1971—Running in a quad meet on his home track in Eugene, Oregon, sophomore Steve Prefontaine won the 2-mile in 8:33.2 to equal the Collegiate (and Oregon school) Record set by Knut Kvalheim in 1968. Following the instructions of coach Bill Dellinger, Pre gave new meaning to the phrase “negative-split.” He coasted through the race’s first half in 4:28.0 before coming home with a 4:05.2 final mile!

Kenny Moore, Steve Prefontaine, 1974-1975, photo by Jeff Johnson, supplied by Walt Chadwick, and used with permission of both of these kind and thoughtful human beings.

From T&F News


1977—Winner Thom Hunt and Mark Spilsbury’s (5th) top-10 finishes led the U.S. to a narrow win over Spain (36-40) at the World X-C Championships in Brussels, giving the Americans their fourth straight title in the Men’s Junior Race. Other U.S. team members: Marty Froelick (12th), Chris Fox (18th), who would coach Syracuse to the 2015 NCAA XC title, Harold Schulz (33rd), and Jeff Creer(34th).

Sue Kinsey’s 8th-place finish helped the USA win the silver medals in the Women’s race.

Other Races:

Senior Men (12.3k/Belgium)-1.Leon Schots (Belgium) 37:43, 2.Carlos Lopes (Portugal) 37:48…24.Jeff Wells (USA)… 37.Rob De Castella (Australia), 42.Gary Tuttle (USA), 44.Jos Hermens (Netherlands), 45.Dave Bedford (England), 91.Ray Treacy (Ireland), 99.Tom Wysocki (USA), 103.Steve Jones (Wales), 104.Tony Sandoval (USA), 106.Jon Anderson (USA, 109.Neil Cusack (Ireland), 111.Ric Rojas (USA), 112.Steve Flanagan (USA/Shalane’s father), 132.Roger Robinson (New Zealand/running journalist), 159.Donal Walsh (Ireland/ex-Villanova)

Senior Women (5.1k/Soviet Union):1.Carmen Valero (Spain (17:26), 2.Lyudmila Bragina (Soviet Union) 17:28…8.Sue Kinsey (USA), 9. Anne Audain (New Zealand), 11.Kathy Mills (USA), 14.Julie Brown (USA), 15.Paula Neppel (USA), 48.Doris Brown-Heritage (USA), 54.Eryn Forbes (USA)