AN UPSET ON SCHEDULE

Coach Mihaly Igloi had told Jim Beatty just how he should figure out the biggest mile race of the year, and it didn't seem to matter much whether world champion Elliott was in the running or not
June 05, 1960

On a poorly lighted track in a small town in central California last Saturday night an underrated boy from North Carolina ran the fastest mile ever run by an American citizen. He ran it in a race which began with a crushing anticlimax—the withdrawal of the Australian world record holder, Herb Elliott. In winning, short, dark Jimmy Beatty soundly defeated the new beau ideal of U.S. track men, Dyrol Burleson, the Oregon youngster who ran 3:58.6 late in April. Beatty might even have beaten Elliott. He ran 3:58, and he did it by following almost exactly the instructions given him by his coach, Mihaly Igloi, the expatriate Hungarian (SI, Nov. 21, '55) who defected from his Communist-ruled homeland after the 1956 Olympics. Igloi now coaches at the Santa Clara Valley Youth Village in California, for which Beatty runs. After the race Igloi, who seldom says anything, said a mouthful: he announced that Beatty was really a 5,000-meter runner and that he would no longer compete as a miler. "The 5,000-meter at Rome," Igloi said. "No more mile."

Miler or not—and Beatty this week will run the 5,000 meters at the Compton Relays in Los Angeles—the 25-year-old runner's performance in the Modesto Relays' feature race was near perfection. As is almost always true in an event as important as this one, each of the runners had a preconceived tactical plan. Burleson, the favorite once Elliott had scratched, was going to stay up about 15 yards behind the pace setter.

George Larson, an Oregon teammate of Burleson, had a simple assignment—to run each quarter in 61 seconds. Bill Dellinger, an ex-Oregon runner whose specialty also is the 5,000 meters, wanted a fast early pace. He does not have the speed of Burleson or Elliott, and his only hope was to deny them their finishing kick by running them down early.

Beatty and Laszlo Tabori, the ex-Hungarian star who defected with Igloi and who still runs for him, had no idea, even late in the afternoon, what their tactical plan would be. After an early-morning workout—they were out on the track sprinting up and down the grass infield at 7 a.m.—they rested in the hotel in downtown Modesto, waiting for Igloi to tell them what to do.

"I don't know how I'll run," Beatty said. "Igloi hasn't told me. I'll run however he says."

Igloi briefed his two runners only a couple of hours before the race. His instructions were precise and detailed almost to the 10th of a second. The first quarter mile was to be run in 57 seconds, with Beatty setting the pace. The time at the half mile was to be between 1:57 and 1:58, with Tabori leading the way on the second lap. The first 150 yards of the third lap was to be a period of relaxation, with both Tabori and Beatty floating—not running hard but not dropping back, either. Then they were to run hard enough to finish the three-quarters in three minutes flat.

"The last lap was dog eat dog," Beatty said later. "We were on our own."

Herb Elliott had a battle plan, too. But Monday evening, running eight miles over a hilly golf course at Morro Bay, California, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he felt a slight click in his right knee. Tuesday, running at the Santa Clara Valley Youth Village track, where Igloi trains his stable of runners, he jogged for 30 minutes, not running all-out, tentatively testing the knee. It did not bother him. Wednesday he ran 36 holes over the municipal golf course in Modesto, and the knee hurt him a bit when he finished. Thursday he had X rays taken and talked to Dr. R. S. Osterholm, an osteopathic specialist in Modesto.

"He told me it was an inflamed gristle or tendon behind the kneecap," Elliott said. "Like your baseball pitchers get in their shoulders sometimes. A pitcher can throw all-out only about every four days. If he tries to throw more often than that, his arm gets sore. The same thing happened to my knee."

On Saturday, the day of the race, Elliott tried to sprint all-out for the first time since he had felt the click in his knee on the Morro Bay golf course. "All-out, it felt as though I had an iron band around the knee," he said. "It was very painful. Dr. Osterholm told me I shouldn't run. I wanted to compete very much because of Tom Moore. He's a very good friend. [Moore is the promoter of the Modesto meet, and Elliott was his house guest.] But I couldn't have run well. Why run a five-minute mile? It was the worst decision I have ever had to make. And it was the worst emotional anticlimax of my life."

Elliott made his decision not to run about 10 minutes before the race began. He told Moore, and then he walked sadly away across the warmup area toward the dressing room, his face in his hands. He did not watch the race. Instead he dressed and went back to Moore's house.

On Sunday Elliott was still undecided whether or not to run this week at the Compton Relays. His manager on the tour, George Carruthers, was strongly against it and urged Herb to return to Australia as soon as possible, but Elliott felt that he had a commitment to run at Compton. His doctor definitely felt that Elliott should rest for three or four weeks.

Elliott had planned to stay off the pace for the first two and a half laps, then kick for the last 660 yards. None of the other carefully planned strategies in this race—all predicated on what Elliott might do—had anticipated so long a finishing kick.

But Elliott's withdrawal came so late that it had no effect on the tactical maneuvers of the other runners. At the gun, Beatty, following Igloi's orders, took the lead. He is a small man—5 feet 6 and 128 pounds—and he runs nearly straight up, with his chest out, churning away on muscular sprinter's legs. He ran the first lap in 57.9 seconds, less than a second off Igloi's timetable. Just as he finished the lap Tabori, on schedule, took over. Burleson, following his plan, stayed in third place well off the pace.

Tabori hit the half-mile mark in 1:58, right on Igloi's timetable, with Beatty a stride behind and Burleson still following—as he had planned—10 yards behind. And at the three-quarter-mile mark Tabori was in the lead at 2:59.7. Beatty, exactly on the 10th of a second, finished the third lap in three minutes flat, as Igloi had told him to do. Burleson had begun to close up by now, preparing for his strong finishing kick, and he was only a few strides behind Beatty.

In the last lap—the "dog eat dog" lap for Tabori and Beatty—Igloi's wisdom was quickly apparent. He had planned the race to destroy the finishing kicks of both Elliott and Burleson. Now Burleson, worn down more than he realized by the killing early pace, tried to pass Tabori and Beatty, who had moved into the lead, on the backstretch. He got past Tabori, but Beatty, hearing him coming, began his own kick and held him off by half a yard. They went around the last turn a yard apart. Then Beatty, running very strongly, drew away and left the laboring Burleson eight yards behind at the finish. His time was 3:58, Burleson's 3:59.2, Tabori's 4:00.0.

"This is the first time since I've been running that I didn't have any kick at the end," Burleson said after the race. "I made that last turn and said to myself, 'Where's the kick?' and it wasn't there. They burned it out of me. That Beatty is America's best miler. I'll have to train hard to beat that guy."

Of course, if Igloi's plans materialize and his new star concentrates on the 5,000 meters, Eurleson may not have to run against Beatty any more. Beatty? He agrees with Igloi.

"We do what he tells us," he said at Modesto. "I don't even know how much running I do in practice. Igloi says run so fast for so many yards, and I do it and come back, and he tells me what else to do. I don't worry. He knows how fast I can run and what distance I should run. He told me here to run the first quarter in 57. I was surprised, but I knew if he said I could do it I could. So I did—nearly. If he says run 5,000 meters, I'll run that. I have complete faith in him."

Beatty first encountered Igloi at the University of North Carolina, when Beatty was an undergraduate. Jim was a competent but comparatively obscure distance runner in his varsity career (1955-57) at Carolina. He won the Atlantic Coast Conference mile and two-mile titles indoors three years running, and he won the outdoor mile twice. He won the two-mile run at the Penn Relays twice but lost to Lew Stieglitz by inches in 1957 when both runners did 9:01.7. In 1955 he finished second to Oregon's Ken Reiser in the National Collegiate two-mile championship, and in 1956 he finished second to Oregon's Bill Dellinger in the NCAA 5,000 meters. He tried but failed in 1956 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team at 5,000 meters.

Beatty met Igloi after the Olympics when the Hungarian spent four months at Chapel Hill. "I decided then that if I ran after graduation, I wanted to run under Igloi," Beatty said. "After I graduated, I went into the Army, and when I got out, I didn't run at all. Then last October, with the Olympic year coming up, I decided to run again. So I quit ray job and came out to Santa Clara to Igloi to train because I thought I owed it to myself to do my best. I've been working with him six months. It's hard work, but it's rewarding. He's a great coach."

This past winter Beatty beat Max Truex in the two-mile run at the Los Angeles Invitational in 8:57 and then brought off the upset of the indoor season when he caught Burleson at the tape in 4:05.4 in the Baxter Mile at the New York Athletic Club meet in Madison Square Garden. The week after the Baxter Mile he married his college-days sweetheart, Barbara Harmon, in Charlotte, N.C. Both Beatty and his wife work at Lockheed's Missile and Space Division in Sunnyvale, Calif., near Santa Clara. He is a statistical clerk.

Igloi is a most secretive teacher. Bud Winter, who coaches the San Jose State track team, has been watching Igloi in action for a couple of years now and says that he has no idea what his system is.

"We run relaxed," Beatty said. "Maybe that's part of Igloi's secret. We didn't think about winning the race. He thought we could win, but he didn't give us the responsibility of winning. He believes in work. His favorite saying is, 'Hard work must make.' "

Igloi tells his runners what to do, times them, then tucks his stop watch in his pocket without telling them what kind of time they ran. He has 16 runners training with him at Santa Clara and is already planning for the 1964 Olympics at Tokyo.

PHOTOPHIL BATH1ST LAP: BEATTY LEADS TABORI AROUND TURN BY STEP PHOTOPHIL BATH2ND LAP: TABORI PACES BEATTY WHILE BURLESON LAGS BEHIND PHOTOPHIL BATH3RD LAP: TABORI LEADS BEATTY, BUT BURLESON CLOSES THE GAP PHOTOPHIL BATH4TH LAP: BURLESON LABORS AS BEATTY PULLS AWAY PHOTOPHIL BATHEX-HUNGARIAN COACH MIHALY IGLOI HAS A NEW PRIZE IN AMERICA'S JIM BEATTY ILLUSTRATION2
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ILLUSTRATION2
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ILLUSTRATION2
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ILLUSTRATION3
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Chart of race shows lap-by-lap progress of one-mile run at Modesto Relays when Jim Beatty (1) upset Dyrol Burleson (2) and Laszlo Tabori (3) in 3:58 flat. Numbered circles indicate relative positions of the three runners (there were seven starters, but none of the others was a factor at any time) in key segments of the track at various points during the four-lap race. Each circle is equivalent to about one yard of distance. Lap times and cumulative times of each of the three runners are also indicated.

LAP 1
TABORI 57.7
BEATTY 57.9
BURLESON 58.5

LAP 2
TABORI 1:58 (60.3)
BEATTY 1:58.2 (60.3)
BURLESON 1:59.6 (61.1)

LAP 3
TABORI 2:59.7 (61.7)
BEATTY 3:00.0 (61.8)
BURLESON 3:00.4 (60.8)

LAP 4
BEATTY 3:58 (58.0)
BURLESON 3:59.2 (58.8)
TABORI 4:00.0 (60.3)

1=BEATTY 2=BURLESON 3=TABORI

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)