Not long ago on his home turf at the Astrodome, Judge Roy Hofheinz, carrying topweight of 230 pounds, lost a race to Louie Welch, the mayor of Houston. It was Hofheinz's first defeat in three races with the mayor, and the outcome delighted the thousands of Houstonians who looked on.
The race was unusual not only because the judge—who owns half of Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey, all of Astroworld and the Houston Astros, as well as baseball's most majestic paunch—lost. Hofheinz's previous races with the mayor had been political. This one was from home plate to first base and was the feature event of what may well have been the world's first, but probably not last, Jog-In, an extravaganza promoted by Disc Jockeys Mack Hudson and Irving Harrigan of KILT, Houston, in which 6,300 people, most of them clad in sweat suits and running shoes, showed up at 6 a.m. to trot three times around the inside of the Astrodome in support of jogging.
Dr. Denton Cooley, who has transplanted more hearts than any other surgeon in the world, was on hand to start the race and to accept the gifts of various vital organs for The Living Bank. (The organs, of course, were for future delivery.) Hudson and Harrigan handed out free sweat shirts, but the lure that drew the crowd was jogging itself. The sight of Hofheinz trundling down the first-base line, clad in a gray sweat suit with HERE COME DA JUDGE lettered on the chest and DERE GO DA JUDGE on the back, was merely an added attraction, as were young ladies in bikinis who served as pacemakers, and two penguins from Sea-Arama Marineworld, who served no evident purpose.
The Houston Jog-In was evidence of the booming popularity of jogging in the U.S. Fifteen years ago a few solitary eccentrics jogged. Today there are more than 10 million joggers. No longer do small children run alongside making faces and snide remarks, and dogs bark only perfunctorily at the previously extremely barkable spectacle of middle-aged men lumbering down the road.
July 27, 1969
Just a couple of weeks after the Jog-In, the Long Beach Community Hospital sponsored a mass Witness to Fitness meet to celebrate the dedication of 34 jogging trails situated on the grounds of 14 public parks, three high schools and 13 junior highs.
As at Houston, the affair took place early in the morning—a time when joggers habitually emerge. At 8 a.m. 500 joggers, myself among them, showed up at a running track on the campus of California State at Long Beach to bear witness to their fitness. I have been running seriously for a year, after running haphazardly for four or five. In my travels I have run all over the country, and I may well hold the world indoor record for having run on the greatest number of YMCA tracks, but this morning I only watched.
Of the 500 joggers some 60-odd were doctors, all adherents of the theory that running maketh a whole man. One of the doctors was Dr. Kenneth Cooper. A lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force fitness program, Dr. Cooper has probably had more to do with the jogging boom than anyone else.
Dr. Cooper is a lean man. Most people feel they are in the trim if their bellies don't dangle more than a finger span or two over their belts. If you are lean in the sense that Dr. Cooper means when he says lean, you can't pick up more than half an inch of skin between your thumb and forefinger at the waist. Indeed, Dr. Cooper looks almost emaciated; there is so little fat between his skin and muscle that he would be hard put to pinch himself at all. Dr. Cooper ran the mile in 4:30.9 at Putnam City High in Oklahoma City. At the University of Oklahoma he brought his time down to 4:18, which he might easily have bettered had he not been intent on his premed studies.
Dr. Cooper is best known for his book Aerobics, which has sold almost two million copies in hard-cover and paperback. In it he analyzes the problems facing the fat and sedentary, and describes simple tests to determine a person's physical well-being.
When I first read Aerobics I had just recovered from a heart attack. I had been running sporadically before the heart attack, kidding myself into believing that the minimal exercise I took was enough to keep me hale and hearty. It was, as it turned out, better than no exercise at all. As I was walking out of my apartment one morning, I felt a numbing, constricting and acute pain across the top of my chest. I lay down and asked my wife to call the doctor.
I survived—barely. My doctor told me later that I might well not have lived had I not been running off and on. In my youth I had been an athlete—a swimming champion, a strong-side end at the University of Texas, catcher on the flying trapeze. Before my heart attack I had run and built up my heart, which is a muscle like any other muscle. If I hadn't strengthened my heart, it would have been unable to survive the physical damage of the attack. It did, and when I finally got out of the hospital I wanted to run again to restore my heart, as nearly as possible, to normal function.
Physically, that's no problem. All you have to do is place one foot in front of another long enough, with discretion and under the direction of your doctor. Psychologically, it's another matter.
Until very recently most people didn't look with equanimity at joggers. Not long ago, for example, in Bournemouth, England, a jogger, clad in the usual costume of shorts, singlet and shoes, was padding serenely along when a driver leaned out his window and jeered. The jogger retorted, "Knickers!" Now knickers in the U.S. means only a type of short britches gathered at the knee; in England it is a pejorative comment on manhood, and the driver took exception to this. He attacked the jogger, broke his nose. The driver got a three-month sentence.
I have experienced the same antisocial behavior, which is one reason I prefer to run indoors, safe from the envy of the sedentary. A few times I have been forced to run in public, and always to my regret. The YMCAs have espoused jogging wholeheartedly, and most of them have little indoor running tracks, 20 to 30 laps to the mile. Once, however, when I was staying at a motel near the Los Angeles International Airport, I visited a Y that didn't have an indoor track. Instead, the Y provided maps of the neighborhood.
"When you leave the Y, run north on Sepulveda to 83rd Street," the athletic director told me. "Turn right on 83rd and run to Kempton Boulevard, turn right and run to 80th, then turn right again and run back to the Y."
Feeling a bit conspicuous in my red nylon running pants and blue shoes, I set out down Sepulveda, running a bit faster than is my wont. Two young ladies passed me and one of them said, respectfully, "Good morning, sir."
"Aargh," I said, calmly.
"The church is on the next corner to your left," said the other, mysteriously.
They were, of course, on bicycles.
After reading Dr. Cooper's book, I began running timidly. I had already read another book, Jogging, by Bill Bowerman, the track coach at the University of Oregon, who developed some of America's finest distance runners. Bowerman, a man of my own age (middle 50s), had discovered his lack of fitness on a trip to New Zealand, where he went to consult Arthur Lydiard, who trained Peter Snell, among others.
"Lydiard asked me if I would like to go out with him for an early run," Bowerman told me. "I went out and began trotting for awhile and trotted and trotted and trotted. I thought I was in good shape, but we went by six miles and my tongue was hanging out, and then we hit the hills. By now I was barely walking, and an 80-year-old man came by me and said, 'Come on, laddie, you're flagging.' "
When Bowerman returned to the States, he began his own jogging program and, in collaboration with Dr. Waldo Harris, wrote his book on the subject. But not until Aerobics was published did jogging take off.
Dr. Cooper's office, at Lackland Air Force Base, is tiny; Cooper, who is 38, is himself a small, intense man and, fittingly enough, he lives on Inspiration Drive in San Antonio. He runs three miles every morning and another 1½ miles in the evening when he comes home to his wife Millie, a lovely brunette who is almost as lean as her husband.
"I was getting fat," Millie said recently. "I didn't take any exercise. I thought Ken was a nut. Then, after he wrote the book, he looked at me one night, and I guess there was a lot of me to look at. 'Millie,' he said, 'I can't afford to have a fat wife. You better start losing or looking.' "
However, Millie didn't take her husband's advice until a bit later. "Another night we were sitting in front of the fireplace and Ken asked me to take his pulse," she says. "I took it and his heart was beating at something like 55 beats a minute. Then he took mine and mine was going 80 beats a minute. So he said, 'Millie, tonight while we're asleep, your heart is going to be working more than a third faster than mine and wearing out a third faster. How do you like that? When yours is worn out, mine will still be going strong.' I got to thinking, and I thought about some other girl coming in and taking over when my heart wore out, and I'm a very jealous woman. I started running the next day."
Millie runs 1½ miles a day, and Dr. Cooper runs with her. Mind you, this is after having run his three miles in the morning. And he has another small handicap. Dr. Cooper pushes Berkley, their 3-year-old daughter, in front of him in a stroller up and down Inspiration Hill as he paces his wife. "I can't fall behind," he says. "Berkley doesn't like it."
Despite the euphoria of joggers, this is not the easiest way to keep fit. It is not as pleasant, say, as playing golf or tennis or badminton. But golf, tennis and badminton are not really as taxing as jogging, in the sense that they fail to tax the cardiovascular system enough to make it respond and grow stronger. "Golf," someone once said, "is a good way to spoil a walk." True, at least if you are walking for exercise.
There is a narrow, difficult line to walk—or run—between exercise and nonexercise. After my heart attack I had a particularly difficult margin of error to respect. Most doctors are unaware of the real benefits of exercise, and it was not long ago that a large proportion of postcardiac patients were considered invalids. Any exercise by a heart patient must be taken under the rigorous control of his doctor, whether or not the doctor appreciates the value of running. For instance, I started by walking a block before I ran a step.
Probably the two foremost experts on the rehabilitation of heart patients by exercise are Drs. Herman Hellerstein of Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Viktor Gottheimer of Tel Aviv. In the course of a recent panel discussion, Dr. Hellerstein—who is no fan of Dr. Cooper—said, "I think competitive running is perfectly fine if the competitors have been properly evaluated, properly trained, properly supervised. All of life is competitive, and I am for it.... I think it enhances survival, but it has to be done under the proper conditions.... I am not for the indiscriminate, unsupervised, unmonitored, self-prescribed competitive jogging, and you see pictures in every newspaper of Ken Cooper leading a pack of rats running down the public squares. None of these people have been evaluated. I am against that, and I have told Dr. Cooper this directly.... In the way of all flesh, it is not how far you go but how fast you try to get there—not too fast, not too slow, just right. Now this philosophy, applied to doctors, patients, businessmen, lawyers, what have you, would be good."
Dr. Cooper, of course, has never prescribed indeterminate, all-out exercise. "The worst thing you can do is force yourself too hard," he says. "No man who has been sitting still for 20 years can go out and run hard. You have to start very easily. You should warm up for five or 10 minutes before you run and cool down for at least as long when you finish. There have not been many fatalities from running, but the few there have been have all come—more or less—from the same things. An unconditioned man goes out and runs hard or he runs without a warmup and finishes and walks over to his car—without walking a while to cool down—and sits down behind the wheel. When you run hard for a long while, something like 60% of your blood pools in your legs. If you quit running all at once and sit down, it remains in your legs, and it is almost impossible for that blood to get back to the heart and brain. Because you are suffering from a deficiency of blood in the brain, you may faint. If you are standing up on a flat surface and faint, you fall down and the blood can get back to your brain without fighting gravity, so you come to rather quickly. If you walk over to your car and sit down behind the wheel and faint, the wheel holds you upright and the blood cannot get back to your brain or your heart and you can die. The autopsy won't show any heart damage, but you can die."
Most people are perfectly well aware of the dangers involved in too enthusiastic exercise too soon. One of the advantages of jogging as an exercise is that it is perfectly adaptable to the needs of the individual. If you are only days out of a wheelchair, you can walk slowly. If you are strong enough, you can do what Fred Grace, a small, gnomelike man with an old face and a young body, did in Long Beach at the Witness to Fitness meet.
Grace is 72 years old. On that bright, hot Saturday morning in Long Beach he ran nine miles with a long, reaching stride, finishing fresh and untired and not breathing any harder than most people would if they had walked to the corner drugstore. Nine miles was merely a canter for Grace. A year ago he ran 100 miles in three days. He began running seriously six years ago, when he was 65 and forced out of judo competition because he was considered too old for such strenuous exercise.
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Varela ran at Long Beach, too. Jim Varela is a construction engineer from Tustin, Calif. He is 47 and his wife is 45, and they have six children, ranging in age up to 19. They celebrated their 20th anniversary by running 20 miles together. Isa Varela is, by any standards, an unusual woman, but women are as indefatigable as men as far as jogging is concerned. A young lady named Super Sue Bailey, out of Canton, Ohio, is a legend among joggers. She runs up to 20 miles a day and has done 36 miles nonstop. The Canton YMCA runners recently set a record by jogging 3,000 miles in 4½ days; Super Sue contributed the third-highest total, 208 miles.
Although there is no medical proof that jogging—or any other regular exercise which taxes the cardiovascular system enough to create what Dr. Cooper calls the training effect—will prevent a heart attack or recurrent heart attacks in postcardiac victims, the records of Drs. Hellerstein and Gottheimer would certainly indicate that, at least for postcardiac patients, running can cut down on mortality.
"In cases of heart attack," Dr. Cooper explains, "about 14% of all victims die before getting to the hospital. Another 19% die within the first four weeks. Of the survivors, 20 to 25 in 100 usually die of another heart attack within five years."
Not, however, the postcardiac patients under the care of Drs. Hellerstein and Gottheimer. "Dr. Hellerstein has by carefully supervised exercise cut the death rate from 25 in 100 to fewer than 10 in 100," Dr. Cooper says. "Dr. Gottheimer, who gradually brings his patients up to running as many as six miles a day, has done even better than that. He reports their mortality rate has fallen to fewer than five per 100 within five years, or five times less than patients who do not exercise hard."
I first heard about the benefits of running from Seymour Lieberman, a Houston attorney. Lieberman, who started his personal running program and his public espousal of jogging some 15 years ago, has been given a certificate by the International Council of Sport and Physical Education acknowledging that he is the founder of the jogging movement. I met Lieberman in a Chicago hotel room eight years ago, when he spent an hour jogging around the room, talking the while, trying to convince a representative of President Kennedy's Council on Youth Fitness that jogging was the answer to almost all physical ills.
Lieberman, who is now 61 years old, was a sprinter at Chicago's Loyola University and as a high school senior tied the then world record (5.2) for the 50-yard dash. When he graduated from Loyola he became a competitive walker, once finishing third in the National AAU two-mile walk. At 36, his law practice began to take up more and more of his time, and he quit exercising, except for an occasional round of golf.
"By the time I had reached 45, I was 15 pounds over my fit weight," he told me the other day. "Every day I would read in the paper about a friend dying of a heart attack or a stroke—all men about my own age. I tried to figure out what to do to get myself back in condition, and I took three months to analyze the problem. I came to the conclusion that running was the answer. If a heavyweight fighter is training to go 15 rounds, he runs five miles a day for endurance and condition. The work in the gym is just to sharpen his coordination and his punching. I figured that slow running was the best way to put the body in good shape, so I started running. I went to my doctor every week for a checkup while I was doing it, because at that time—back in 1953—no one my age was running."
After six months of jogging, Lieberman found that he had a slower pulse rate, his heart returned to normal much more quickly after exercise and he no longer had a sacroiliac pain in his back.
Said Lieberman: "I came to the conclusion that I had been carrying four or five extra inches of fat on my belly, which threw me out of balance and put an unnatural strain on my back. I would twist my torso while I was jogging, and that way I lost the extra inches. I wear the same riding pants today that I wore 27 years ago, and they fit perfectly."
On his 60th birthday Lieberman got up early and ran three miles along the beach at Galveston. He then played 18 holes of golf, went home, drank some honey and lemon juice, rested an hour and swam a mile in the Gulf. He dressed, drank some more honey and lemon juice and rode 10 miles on horseback.
Four years ago Lieberman caught pneumonia, but he didn't let it interrupt his exercise. Lieberman believes strongly in jogging in place in his room if he can't find a suitable spot to run outdoors, and during the three weeks he was confined with temperatures up to 102°, Lieberman ran.
"My doctor was dubious about it," he said, "but I got out of bed and jogged in place for five minutes every day. When I got up again at the end of the three weeks I was ready to go instead of having to convalesce for another three weeks, as is usually the case after pneumonia."
Of course, no doctor in his right mind would recommend such heroics for the average patient. The watchword among most physicians who advocate gentle jogging is, "Take it easy." As Dr. Cooper says, "If you feel any pain in your chest or you are out of breath, walk or stop. Don't force yourself."
My own jogging pace is a rather leisurely one, although in the past year I have managed to reduce my time for three miles to 25½ minutes, the same time it took me to cover two miles when I began running. In the beginning I didn't run all the way. I ran until I was out of breath, then walked a while and ran again, increasing the running and cutting down on the walking until now I can run the entire three miles easily.
As time goes by, the jogger develops a certain sangfroid, too, so that he can ignore the stares of people in the street, even return them with a scornful eye. I suppose I reached the apogee of poise in the Astrodome a month or so before the Jog-In. I was in Houston for an indoor track meet the judge was putting on. He had spent some. $60,000 for a giant indoor track—the biggest in the world, naturally. It was five laps to the mile and on the first morning of the meet I got up at dawn to put in my three miles, hoping that none, of the athletes would be on hand so early.
Unfortunately, there were morning heats that day and the track was crowded. I padded around it for six laps while younger men sailed by me at something like three times my speed, looking back in shock as they passed. Probably no distance field in the history of track ever went into an event as overconfident as the field in the Astrodome that night.
The next morning there were no heats, so I had the track to myself—for a little while. After I had gone 1½ miles one of the tours that come through the Astrodome at hour intervals all day filed in and sat down. There were about 200 people in the group, including kids, and they sat solemnly and watched as I labored around the oval. I tried to be nonchalant, and I waved as I went by. No one waved back. They sat quietly for the 10 or 12 minutes it took me to finish my stint, then, to my surprise, gently applauded as I sprinted down the final straight at a pace a bit faster than a brisk walk.
It made running easier for me for at least a week.