Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tim Danielson: After the Mile

Tim Danielson did something that only five American high school runners have ever done and then Tim Danielson did something that no one should ever do. Tim was the second high school runner to ever break 4 minutes in the mile run after the great Jim Ryun became the first.  Later came Marty Liquori, Alan Webb, and most recently Lukas Verzbicus. Tim ran his sub 4 mile on June 11, 1966. He is the least well-known of the five high school prodigies. Just days after Verzbicus broke the 4 minute barrier in 2011, 45 years to the day after Danielson's run, Tim Danielson was arrested for allegedly shooting his ex-wife who still lived in his house. It was a tragic story about the lost glory of youth that culminated with the murder of Ming Qi.

The New York Time just published a lengthy article exploring the life of the relatively unknown and reclusive Tim Danielson called After the Mile. We learn that Tim had recently returned to his alcoholic ways prior to the murder, but also that he began taking an anti-smoking drug called Chantrix which has been linked to causing behaviors that might have resulted in the the murder and his own suicide attempt.  Whatever the cause, Tim is in prison and Ming is dead.

Jim Ryan (3:55) Tim Danielson (3:59) Marty Liquori (3:59) Alan Webb (3:53.5) at the Footlocker Cross Country Championship Race 12/13/03.
One person quoted often in the story is Ralph Serna, another great high school runner from California in the 1970s. Many years ago, I was selling old running magazines on eBay and Ralph made a few purchases. I knew who he was and we had a few email exchanges. His wife was a Hollywood set designer of some type and she sometimes used the old magazines in some television or movie scenes.

Here is a video of Tim Danielson running a high school mile in 4:07 for a then Californian prep record. I don't intend to highlight the achievements of Tim's career over his obvious failure to control his rage and murder another person, but do I wonder as I look at an old video of this former running star, how he could allow his life to spiral out of control to the point of shooting another human being. This article attempts to explain part of this mystery.

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