Dover's Vogel recalls 1948 Olympic marathon
NEXT SUNDAY, on the last day of the London Olympics, dozens of the world's greatest runners will gather for the men's marathon. While millions around the world view the 26.2-mile run, one New Hampshire runner will have a different perspective as he watches the race unfold.
As Dover's Ted Vogel, 87, follows the 2012 Olympic marathon, his mind will drift back to 1948, the last time London hosted the Summer Games. That's because, 64 years ago, Vogel, then 23, ran in that Olympic Marathon.
Vogel, who was living in Watertown, Mass., at the time, joined former Boston Marathon winner Johnny Kelley and Ollie Manninen as the three Americans running in the 1948 Olympic Marathon. Vogel made the team with a third-place finish in the 1947 Boston Marathon, a win at the 1947 AAU Marathon (considered the national championship) and a second at Boston in 1948. Vogel was part of strong group of Boston area runners that included the legendary Kelley. Vogel and Kelly roomed together on the ship that took the entire American Olympic team across the Atlantic Ocean to London.
In a recent interview from his home in Dover, Vogel recalled a number of memories from the 1948 Olympics. Overall, he remembers the experience with much fondness.
“There was some concern how we would be treated when we got there,” Vogel said. “But the people in London were very friendly. When they would see 'USA' on our uniforms, they would come up and talk to us. Some of them would invite us to their homes for meals.”
Speaking of meals, the 1948 Olympics have been called the Austerity Games. Only a few years removed from World War II, Britain was still on rations. The Olympic athletes were not exactly treated to the finest of accomodations.
“We stayed on a military base,” Vogel recalled. “And we brought a lot of our own food over with us.”
The 1948 Olympic Marathon took place on Aug. 7. Historians note that the start time was around 3 p.m. Vogel remembers the conditions were difficult.
“It was a hot day and very humid,” he said.
The race started on the track at Wembley Stadium, site of the track and field events, and all these years later, Vogel recognizes an early mistake.
“I went out too fast and could tell while we were still in the stadium that I had gone out too fast,” he said.
Vogel fell behind most of the pack but slowly made his way through the field ultimately finishing in 2 hours, 45 minutes, 27 seconds, good enough for 14th place. Vogel was top American (Kelley finished 21st, Manninen 24th). His finish created an interesting story that, in some circles, has become legendary.
As Vogel crossed the finish line, the American national anthem was playing for Bob Mathias, who was being awarded a gold medal for winning the decathlon. Vogel came to a stop, leading spectators to believe he did so because of the anthem.
More than half a century later, Vogel discloses that he stood still for another reason.
“I was very tired, so I just stopped and stood there when I was done,” he said. “It may sound good to say I stopped because of the anthem, but I was just tired.”
Today, Olympic athletes are honored upon returning from the Games. Vogel remembers his return to America as something different.
“After the Olympics, we went to Paris and to Ireland for a couple of track meets. Then, when I got back to Boston, I sought advice from people on what I should do,” he said.
“Everyone told me the same thing: Stop the running and get a job.”
The Olympics marked Vogel's last appearance as an elite runner. About 40 years ago, he moved to New Hampshire, and about 30 years ago, he settled in Dover, where he still lives with his wife, Jean.
“I am very proud that I got to run in London and represent the U.S.,” he said.
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RUNNING SHORTS: Speaking of Olympics, this is also the 20th anniversary of the Olympic games in Barcelona, when Lynn Jennings of Newmarket won a bronze medal in the 10,000 meters. Durham's Cathy O'Brien was 10th (and top American) in the marathon....July 28 was quite a day for Dan and Lesley Hocking of Dover. The husband and wife traveled to Plymouth and both won the Pemi Youth 5K and 10K races. ... The 2012 Capital Area Race Series wrapped up on July 28 at the Canterbury Woodchuck Classic race. Congrats to the 2012 champs, Scott Clark of Gilmanton and Abbey Gosling of Laconia. Using an age graded scoring system the winners were Henniker's Charlie Gunn and Concord's Pat Bourgault. ... On Thursday night Manchester will host the race with the most timed finishers this year. See you in the Queen City for the Cigna/Elliot 5K.
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Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.