The Runner Who Helped Irish Americans Lose Their Hyphen

"Bricklayer Bill" Kennedy Won the 1917 Boston Marathon Wrapped in the U.S. Flag

When I was a kid, my Dad would take me to Heartbreak Hill, rain or shine, to watch the Boston Marathon. For our family, the race held special meaning, because our “Uncle Bill”—William J. Kennedy, my paternal grandfather’s uncle—had won the event in 1917.

Though he had been dead for eight years by the time I was born, we still cherished the legend of “Bricklayer Bill,” as he was known. The Kennedys had plied the mason’s trade since at least the 1840s, when the first of us landed on these …

The Creeping Demons of Ambition

After Running the Race of My Life, I Became Consumed by Doubts and Disillusionment

Three years ago, on a rain-soaked track in rural Pennsylvania, I ran the fastest 1,500-meter race by an American college student in history. My time was 3:35.59. Add an extra …

When Cancer Put Me Under Suspicion

I Didn’t Realize Illness Would Threaten My Credibility. Running 26 Miles Helped.

In late 2006, I underwent a clean, routine mammogram. Six weeks later, I found a small lump in my left breast. Two weeks and two surgeries after that, on January …

Short Memories, Long Runs, and Endless Wars

New Books on the Cold War, Long-Distance Running, and Immigration

How We Forgot the Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America
by Jon Wiener
UC Irvine historian Wiener traveled to Cold War monuments and exhibits around the country—from a “hippie …

When Girls First Ran

My Schoolmate Little Mary and the World She Changed

The battle of the sexes came to Portola Junior High School in Orange, California one day in the spring of 1973. When the bell rang for nutrition break in the …

When Running Became Life

Southern California's 1960s Long-Distance Subculture

Before distance running entered the mainstream culture in the 1970s, before marathons and road races attracted thousands of runners, before Nike and Reebok, there was a distance running subculture in …