It is a rare farmer who invites hundreds of strangers to tromp
around on his land, spooking the cows and flattening the corn.
But the tenant of Rim Rock Farm, a 96-acre spread outside
Lawrence, Kans., is not like most farmers. He's Bob Timmons, the
track coach at Kansas from 1966 until his retirement in 1988,
who is celebrated as the mentor of America's greatest miler, Jim
Ryun. On Nov. 23, Timmons and Rim Rock Farm will host the NCAA
Divisions I and II cross-country championships for men and
women, four races in all, and whatever fears Timmons might have
about some 775 pairs of feet overrunning his farm will be lost
in the joy of sharing a course that is his labor of love.
"It's an unbelievable course," says Villanova coach Marcus
O'Sullivan. "When I first came over here [from Ireland], I was
disappointed because so many courses are smooth parkland. I was
used to more arduous terrain--running over streams, plowed
fields, through gaps in fences. This throws me back to courses
It's unusual for the NCAA to use a privately owned course for
its championships. Timmons's two courses (10,000 meters for men,
6,000 for women) range across almost all of Rim Rock Farm's
rolling acreage plus some adjoining land, combining difficulty
and variety. There are ponds and fields, hairpin turns and nasty
snub-nosed hills. There's even a Cemetery Hill that climbs past
a real graveyard.
Knowing that quirky features with catchy names are part of the
charm of great running courses, Timmons has christened many parts
of Rim Rock to honor prominent Kansas runners. Billy Mills Ascent
dominates mile 5, while runners are silhouetted perfectly against
the sky as they round Jim Ryun Skyline Bend and head for the
Glenn Cunningham Finish. Also situated around the course are
statues of the Jayhawks' NCAA champions.
November 16, 1998
"The Billy Mills statue is 20 yards off the course," says
Timmons, who is 74 and tickled pink that so many runners have
fallen in love with his pet project. "The other day I saw some
high school girls reaching up to touch his hands for luck."
Last month the Jayhawks hosted the Bob Timmons Invitational meet
on the course, and nearly everyone who saw it found something
different to praise. Adam Goucher of Colorado, one of the men's
favorites in the NCAAs, pointed to its snaking woodland trails,
and O'Sullivan noted the covered bridge just past the four-mile
mark, which, being only 12 feet wide, is guaranteed to trim the
"Just the fact that it's on Bob Timmons's farm is cool," said
Stanford coach Vin Lananna, whose Cardinal men are ranked No. 2
behind Arkansas. "And that Jim Ryun lives nearby! I'd never met
Coach Timmons before. I made a point of introducing my runners to
him, and they thought that was really neat."