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Olympian Jeff Galloway Shares His Inspirational Journey

From episode: Unleashing Potential with the Walk-Run Method: A Conversation with Jeff Galloway

Today we have an Olympian, and he's an athlete, he's a coach. We want to give a great big welcome to Jeff Galloway. Welcome to the show, Jeff. Great to be here, Carla. I am so honored to have you on the show. So I just hit a few of the highlights of you. Can you tell us a little bit more about you and how long you've been running and when you got started? Yes, I began running in 1958. I was entering the eighth grade at a school that required boys to go out for athletics after school. I had not done much of that, partly any of it, because during my first seven years of school, my father had been in the Navy and I had gone to 13 schools during those first seven years. We were constantly bouncing around and I never got involved in sports or physical fitness or whatever. I was overweight, lazy, and forced with reality. I fell in with a group of kids in my classes who were runners, mainly because they were funny, and they dragged me out during the winter for Winter Cross Country. Well, I just absolutely hated it at first because I was exhausted and I very quickly found that within 30 minutes after a very hard exhausting workout, I felt better in my head and in my spirit than I had ever felt. And the other thing was, having gone to 13 schools in seven years of classes, I found it very difficult in a new area to meet friends. As soon as I got with the Cross Country guys, I had instant friends. I had good friends and I found that true with any running group that I've ever been a part of. And so I set as my goal to be able to keep up with my teammates and it was very, very difficult. I did not show a lot of promise. It took me until my senior year to be able to qualify to get into the state championships in Georgia, and Georgia was not a very good state competitively. I just wasn't good and I went on to a small liberal arts school, an academic school that didn't even offer scholarships. But as fate would have it, in the class behind me, a fellow entered named Ambie Burfoot and two years later when I was a senior, we were joined by Bill Rogers. All three of us were there and we didn't get scholarships. They didn't have them. We were at an academic school for the academics. Senior year, Ambie won the Boston Marathon. It's the only time an undergraduate has won the Boston Marathon before or since. And of course, we know what Bill Rogers went on to do. And it was just a wonderful coincidence that has yielded long -term friendships between the three of us. As a matter of fact, I kept in touch on a number of issues with Bill Rogers just during the last week and talked to Ambie quite often. Went on to, after graduation, to go into the Navy because I had a low draft number. That was unfortunately where I was exposed to Agent Orange, which later on became an issue, and my heart attack that occurred two years ago. But I got out of the Navy in 1970 and set as my sights the possibility of qualifying to get into the Olympic trials. I was way away from that, but I gave myself goals every six months and pretty much hit them. But I still had a good ways to go, going just right before the Olympic trials. Went to the national championships. I needed a minute and a half PR in the 10K and I ran two minutes faster and qualified to get into the Olympic trials. And then as fate would have it, on the day of the trials, it was a really hot day and I had been training in Florida for the previous two years. I knew how to pace myself in the heat and went out in last place for the first mile and then people started coming back to me. So I passed them one after another. And with about two miles left, I realized that I was in third place and then very quickly into second place and qualified for the US Olympic team. A week later, I paced one of my teammates from the Florida Track Club through the marathon because he had been disqualified. During the last stretch of the 10K, my teammate Jack Batchelor was in third place and was passed by another runner who happened to be the son of the mayor of Eugene, Oregon, where the trials were being held. And of course the crowd was cheering him on. So John Anderson passes my buddy Jack about 30 yards from the finish line, but Jack was exhausted and he was weaving and he bumped John as John went by and an official disqualified Jack. I've never seen that before or since, but it happened then. Significance was that a week later if I had been able to qualify in the marathon, I would have dropped out of the 10K, but that was no longer possible because Jack wouldn't move up if I did that. So I paced him through and was having to cheer him on and be the lookout and keep the positive mantras going like crazy during the last five miles. We entered that stadium together and the crowd was on their feet. I can still remember how my ears were just pounding and so I paced Jack right to the finish line backed off so that he could be the official qualifier. And it was just a wonderful experience to help a teammate become an Olympian.

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