Track & Field |
July 14, 2011
By Mario Cannon
The Greater Cincinnati Running Hall of Fame is honoring the University of Cincinnati's own head cross country and men's track and field coach Bill Schnier and deceased former Bearcat Ted Corbitt, also known as the "Father of American Distance Running." These are two men who have contributed greatly to running as a sport and specifically with cross country, track and field, marathons and ultra-running. Both of these great men speak with awareness for all they have done, but modestly about their accomplishments.
Bearcat coach of 31 years, Schnier is a 14-time conference coach of the year, two-time Ohio Cross Country Coach of the Year, and the first Conference USA Coach of the Decade in both track and cross country. He has coached 132 conference champions, six All-Americans, and one Olympic silver medalist. Schnier is the only coach that was selected to be in this year's Greater Cincinnati Running Hall of Fame class and overall has been selected for induction into three halls of fame this year, including this one. With that, he's most proud of what his athletes have accomplished during his time as a coach.
"I think the honor is the accomplishments of the athletes, the coach will never be recognized by his coaching, he's only recognized by his results and that's where the athlete comes in," Schnier said. "To be recognized as a coach means a lot. I was the only coach recognized this year."
Schnier has gone without much deserved public recognition, until now and it's no big deal if you let him tell it. One can only imagine how this past year has felt for him.
"It's been an interesting year, a year like no other," Schnier said. "I spent 65 years being in no halls of fame and now I'm in three. So I think that's unique. It's also interesting because from a personal stand point I've spent a lot of my coaching career getting very little credit and I think this year I'm getting way too much credit. I suppose it evens out."
As great as an honor it is for Schnier to be selected for this hall of fame, he explained how he's honored to just be included with the likes of other Cincinnati greats such as Corbitt, Bob Roncker and Don Wahle.
Corbitt specifically stands out the most, being that he is the most prolific one out the class of hall of famers and the most modest as well for as much as he's accomplished. You don't have to be a runner to understand the magnitude of greatness for which Ted Corbitt displayed throughout his life and with his actions.
"I never got to see him run in his prime," Schnier said. "His forte was not spectacular running, just long and determined running. You have to appreciate that to appreciate Ted Corbitt. I mean, it's not what Usain Bolt does; it's all over in less than 10 seconds. It's so spectacular. This is the opposite of that, and yet equally beautiful, just different."
Corbitt's accomplishments are astonishing for a man who began majority of them after the age of 32. He ran in 199 marathons, helped organize and found the New York City Marathon, held five American records in distance running, was AAU marathon champion and an Olympic marathon runner. A year after his first marathon, he ran in the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki. Outside of being a runner, he played a big role in the movement for strict measurement criteria and course certification for marathons. With as much as he did, he was somewhat reluctant to do so, but knew a difference needed to be made.
"I wanted to be a sprinter, but too frequent hamstring injuries resulted in too many hamstring problems and that ruled sprinting out," Corbitt said in a two-page speech he wrote for the Runner's World 2007 Hero of Running Award he received in New York City. "At the time, I became addicted to long distance runs and inspired others to do it better. I referred to myself at times as a reluctant dragon because I didn't really want to do a lot of this stuff, but it needed to be done."
Corbitt is well known for his workout ethic, which displayed impeccable tenacity. In terms of running, Corbitt could be considered Forest Gump-ish because he just kept running and running and running. He is said to have at one point ran 70 miles a day for three days straight in consistently 90 degree temperatures. It is believed that he logged over 200,000 miles, which is assumed by many to be more than anyone on the planet. At 52, he broke the American record for 100 miles. Corbitt's feats are nothing short from spectacular, but you'd never know from his demeanor.
Schnier and Corbitt ran into each other about five years ago at the Thanksgiving Day race in Cincinnati when Corbitt was around 84. Corbitt participated in it, but walked it primarily. When the race was over, that's when Schnier and he spoke.
"Afterwards, I asked him where are you staying," Schnier said. "He was staying with his sister in Avondale. I said, well how are you getting home? He said, well I'm going to take a bus. He would never ask anyone for a ride. So I gave him a ride. He thanked me several times for that ride; that was an honor for me to do."
The Greater Cincinnati Running Hall of Fame could not have picked two better men to honor in this years class of inductees. Both of them may not have demanded to be honored by anyone, but they have certainly deserved it.