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COLUMN

Receiving the gift of running knowledge

Lehman donates his running library

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 6:13 am

After countless pages read and thousands of miles run, Doug Lehman is ready to turn the page. Actually, he is turning over his pages to the next generation.

A few weeks ago Lehman called, inviting me to his home in Aboite Township. I had known that he was looking to give away a few books on running, so I happily accepted the invitation thinking he would give a few to me. What I didn't realize was just how extensive the collection was.

“I couldn't think of a better person to give them to than a writer,” Lehman said after I entered his home. “I trust you will pass them along when you find the right opportunity.”

What followed was nearly an hour of stories from Lehman as he presented more than 50 books. As interesting as the books were, so to were the stories Lehman told. Of how he obtained the book (used book store), or of how he met the author (hosted him at a function) or what he learned from a particular book. “Reading it accentuates the experience,” Lehman said.

Lehman is a Fort Wayne native and ran cross-country for South Side High School (1970 graduate). He admits that while running for the Archers he never won a race but developed a true love for running.

“I wasn't any good, but I enjoyed it,” Lehman said, the first of many times he would repeat a variation of that line. “So I kept up with it and ran while I in college (at Virginia and Indiana University).”

It's important to note that when someone admits a love for running in the 1960s, well, it's like being ahead of your time. Lehman's running predated the running boom, lasted through the second boom and lives on today at a slower pace.

Which leads us to the first book, a first edition of our sport's Bible: "The Complete Book of Running" by James F. Fixx (published 1977). Between Frank Shorter's 1972 Olympic marathon victory and Fixx's book, America discovered the joy of running. Printed on the inside jacket is a $10 price tag; a sticker on the cover tells me Lehman got the book in 2001 for $1.

Lehman also bought the sequel, "Jim Fixx's Second Book of Running,” for $1.

Speaking of the Olympics, there is “The Olympic Marathon,” a book detailing the history of this event. Lehman used the book as a resource for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in St. Louis. Lehman and his wife, Joni, lived in St. Louis from 2001 to 2010. While there, Lehman was in a leadership role on the committee for the 2004 trials. It was significant in that it was the centennial of the United States' first Olympic Games, hosted by St. Louis in 1904.

“Our research (including some from the book) allowed us to use some of that 1904 course,” Lehman said.

Also among the collection of books is “Pure Gold,” the biography of Eric Liddell, the runner who was the inspiration for the movie “Chariots of Fire”.

Lehman ran for many years for sheer pleasure but got a little competitive in the late '90s.

“From 1997 to 2002 I ran probably 50 races a year,” Lehman said. “Before that (and since then) I've mostly run recreationally. I like being part of the running community here (and while in) St. Louis.”

The collection of books range from the “how-to” with a few books by Indiana's own Hal Higdon, to the “why-to” with books by the original Runningwriter, George Sheehan. Of course, there are plenty of “how-they” books like “Running with the Legends” by Michael Sandrock and “Run with the Champions” by Marc Bloom.

No collection of running books is complete without “Once a Runner” by John L. Parker Jr. or “Running with the Buffaloes” by Chris Lear or “Ultramarathon Man” by Dean Karnazes. There are also books by Jim Ryun and perhaps the first-ever biography written on Steve Prefontaine.

Of course, as a graduate of the Kelley School of Business, Lehman had “Just Do It,” a book on Nike.

While in St. Louis, Lehman arranged for noted running author Joe Henderson to visit. The collection includes a few autographed copies of Henderson books, most notably “Did I Win? A farewell to George Sheehan.”

Other authors whom Lehman has met are Bob Shull, Amby Burfoot and Don Kardong.

“I have a real feel for the history of the sport,” Lehman said of running. “I've had the fortune of meeting a lot of these authors. One thing I've learned in these books is the hard work it takes to be the best.”

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Brett Hess at nssports@news-sentinel.com.