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National Track & Field Hall of Fame Q&A: Brent Edelen


In advance of National Track & Field Hall of Fame induction ceremony on November 3 in New York City, USATF interviewed Class of 2016 inductees on their athletic careers and legacies.


Today's feature: Brent Edelen on his father Buddy's life


Veteran Athlete Inductee Leonard “Buddy” Edelen (Harrodsburg, Kentucky) was a pioneer in the marathon in the early 1960s. In 1963 he set the world record in the marathon at 2:14:28, becoming the first American to do so since 1925.


After a post-athletics career in academics and promotions, Edelen died in 1997 from cancer at the age of 59. His son, Brent Edelen, will accept the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf. Click here for a full bio.


How did your dad get started in track and field and when did he first realize his potential?  

When he was in high school, he was actually overweight as a freshman and they called him "Butterball Bud," so he started running to lose weight. He kept running and became pretty good at it and really enjoyed it. Running became his life.


On his dad competing in England: "One story that sticks out in my mind is from when my dad went to England to train in the early 1960s. Long distance running was a lot more popular in Europe than it was in the U.S. A lot of the runners over there that were dominant, especially in the cross country circuits, they couldn't accept money back then - you had to be an amateur - so they would get prizes for winning the races.


One particular race, the major runner of the region had just moved into a new house and so he told the race officials that he wanted first prize to be a secretary desk. To everyone's surprise, my dad ended up winning and he traded the desk to the guy for a bar tab. He always laughed about it and how people weren't expecting him to win."


On his dad's world record in 1963: "My dad would always tell me, sometimes you think you're not going to have a great race but you just never know.


The day of the world record, he'd eaten two cans of sardines and smoked cigarettes too, which wasn't great. He felt horrible on the starting line, absolutely nauseous and pretty much looking to give up on the race.


But as he started, he began to feel better and better... and went on to break the world record."


On his dad's intense workout regimen: “In high school, my good friend and I tried to repeat one of my dad's workouts and could never ever do it. It was the 400 workout where he held his breath. Back then it was 440 yards and he'd run one holding his breath, take three minutes rest and repeat that eight times. We never could even do one.”


What did your dad teach you the most about running? "Tenacity, tenacity, tenacity. There's a tape of an old runner’s prayer - that's what he called it - and we listened to it religiously when I was running in high school and in college. It just talks about the point in the race where no matter how hard you’ve trained, how clearly you've been coached, there's one moment that comes where it's just pure willpower and tenacity to be able to win and put it all on the line."


On being inducted into National Track & Field Hall of Fame: "It's wonderful. My dad always wanted to tell his story. That's why Frank Murphy wrote the book [A Cold, Clear Day], because he was so dominant in the 1960s but people didn't really care about that at all back then. It was his life. And actually since his passing, he's achieved so much recognition that I think he'd be really proud of today.


If my dad was running now, he'd still place in a lot of marathons and if he had the training he'd be just as competitive as anybody today. He'd have made a pretty good living, whereas he spent his entire life teaching to run. He lived a very simple life just so he could compete... he dedicated his life to it."


The Class of 2016 will be inducted at USATF’s second annual Black Tie & Sneakers Gala on November 3 in New York City. The red carpet event will also feature stars from the Olympic Games in Rio, as well as Legacy Award and Groundbreaker Award presentations. Proceeds benefit USATF’s Elite Mentorship Program. Visit for more information.


For more on all 2016 National Track and Field Hall of Fame inductees, click here.

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