one knows what the marathoner is thinking out there.
Its like a Zen thing. To the marathoner, the
mantra is the rhythm of the run."
-- John J.
Hall of Fame Inductee, 2002
A two-time Olympian, "Johnny"
Kelley was a five-time second-place finisher in
the Boston Marathon but it was his lone victory
in 1957 that many say marked the beginning of putting
American distance runners on the map, and also,
perhaps, the Boston Marathon itself. According to
the Boston races chief architect Jock Semple:
"It was a long road from our marathons in the
1930's to [Frank] Shorters Olympic win in
1972, but I look at Johnnys 1957 Boston run
as the pivotal event for the American marathon.
I see 1957 as the halfway point."
But Kelley was more than just one race. He was the
U.S. National Marathon Champion eight straight times,
from 1956 to 1963, when it was held in Yonkers,
New York. As a schoolboy in New London, Connecticut,
he was named top schoolboy miler in the country
after running a 4:21.8 mile in 1950. But when he
went off to college, he found that the coaches put
you where they needed the points, and right from
the start Kelley began stretching out his distances.
As a freshman at Boston University he went undefeated
in seven cross-country meets, setting records on
five different courses. He competed in the marathon
in both the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 and in Rome
in 1960. In 1959 he won the Pan American Games Marathon.
"Young John should be given more credit for
creating a line of college runners in America that
starts with himself and goes right up through Buddy
Edelen to Amby Burfoot, Kenny Moore, Frank Shorter,
Bill Rodgers, Craig Virgin and all the rest yet
to come," said Semple in his book Just Call
Me Jock. "Before Johnny there was none of that.
There were only us plodders."