The Way I See It

Pat Bigold

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Running was an
adventure for Lindgren

GERRY Lindgren sure didn't look like any of the "bad boy" athletes of today.

He bore no behavioral or physical resemblance to Mike Tyson, Dennis Rodman, or Albert Belle.

At 5-foot-6, 118 pounds during his heyday in the 1960s, he didn't appear to threaten anyone.

That is, until he ran.

"I was arrested 17 times for running," said Lindgren.

He kind of stunned me when he mentioned it last week during a phone interview about the release of a video about his track rival, Steve Prefontaine.

Before Frank Shorter started the "running boom" in 1972 with his U.S. Olympic gold medal marathon win in Munich, people seen dashing through streets, sidewalks, or parks early in the morning or after darkness were suspect.

What were they up to? Who was after them?

That's hard for Hawaii residents to imagine these days. We live in the state with the highest per capita running population. Runners, joggers and walkers abound at all hours.

BUT Lindgren, an 11-time NCAA All-American at Washington State who set world and U.S. records at the old 3- and 6-mile distances and competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics while in high school, heard more sirens than Richard Kimball.

Lindgren broke American records more than 50 times. He still owns the U.S. junior record for 3,000 meters (7:58.0), national high school indoor records for 3,000 (8:06.3) and 2 miles (8:40.0), and the high school outdoor record for 5,000 (13:44.0).

He was one of America's brightest and youngest stars on the international track.

But America wasn't ready for how he trained.

"I was definitely an oddball back then," said the 50-year-old Hawaii Kai resident.

"I'd go for early morning runs, I'd go in the middle of the night. Afternoons weren't too bad."

But his first arrest came on a late winter's afternoon in 1962 after he had finished classes at Rogers High School in Spokane, Wa.

"It was getting dark and maybe I shouldn't have been out after dark. Some sweet little old lady called the cops and said she saw somebody running, so they came out to investigate."

A chase ensued, but Lindgren, clad in just a grey sweatsuit amid snow and ice, wasn't aware of it right away. He was running across streets, on to trails through the woods, and back out to the streets.

"I had no idea they were chasing me until there were two of them coming down the same street I was going up, and another was behind me."

BEFORE he knew it, Lindgren was clubbed on the back of his head by one officer and taken into custody.

"It's amazing the places this kind of thing happened," said Lindgren. "You would have thought Golden Gate Park in San Francisco was a natural place to run and not be bothered. But no."

Mounted police caught and arrested him.

He was wrestled to the ground and beaten by cops in New York City's Central Park.

He was also arrested in Paris, Seattle, and Los Angeles, among other places.

But he said his most harrowing arrest came in Moscow during the Cold War.

"We (U.S. team) got in way too early for the meet (USA vs. Soviet Union) and had to wait at the airport," Lindgren recalled. "So I slipped on my running gear and decided I would run down a dirt road that went all around the airport."

Big mistake.

He was surrounded on the road by soldiers with weapons trained on him and escorted to a prison where he spent three days. He escaped during an exercise drill and ran to the sanctuary of meet officials.

"Running was an adventure back then," said Lindgren, almost as if he misses the excitement.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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