On Being Grateful: Bob Schul

Bob Schul victorious_
Bob Schul upon winning the 5,000 meter race in Tokyo, from the book “The Olympic Century – XVIII Olympiad – Volume 16”

There comes a moment in your life, hopefully, when you realize that you are not apart from the world, that “no one is an island entire of itself”.

In the 1960s, the support from national Olympic committees and sports associations was not as great as it is today. Unless you were from a family of means, world-class athletes training for the Olympics had to sacrifice significantly to make ends meet. When long-distance runner, Bob Schul, was selected for the US track and field team, he did not have the means to bring his wife on the journey to Tokyo. His military paycheck yielded only $78 a month, which almost all went to food and the gas to pay for his car trips to the military base so he could train.

But as Schul related in his stirring autobiography, “In the Long Run”, schoolchildren in his hometown went door to door raising money in order to buy air ticket for Sharon Schul. Along with this financial contribution and a telegram with all the donor’s names – family and friends all – came this wonderful, heartfelt letter.

Dear Bob,

This is our way of expressing in you the pride we feel in our hearts at this time. The entire community has gained in civic pride from your achievements and representation. When you face the starting line and look up at the throng in that vast stadium, you’ll not be alone; for sitting there in spirit, and cheering you on, will be 3500 happy and emotion-packed citizens of West Milton. As the race is in progress, there will be 3500 heartbeats running in unison to yours. When you start your kick in that last lap, there’ll be 3500 people praying for you to have the strength to do your best. Win…lose…or draw, you’re a champion and first-class citizen in the minds and hearts of the people of this community. Good luck and God bless you.

A grateful Schul went on to win gold in the 5,000 meter race in 1964, the first and only American to do so in the Olympic Games.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.