Kenny Moore obituary – Olympian and writer dies aged 78

Kenny Moore, who finished fourth in the 1972 Olympic marathon for the United States and became an outstanding writer on running, died at his home in Kailua, Hawaii on May 4. He was 78 years old.

Moore’s work was a rare combination of sport and literature. His years with the University of Oregon athletics powerhouse, his two Olympic marathons, his fourth Olympic place finish in 1972 and his unmatched winning streak in the Bay to Breakers were followed by decades of high-quality writing. for Sports Illustrateda successful screenplay and his master book, Bowerman and the Oregon men.

His lucid, handcrafted writing always centered on running, and he was a skilled storyteller and profile writer and an insightful analyst of the sport and its elite representatives.

Born Kenneth Clark Moore in Portland, Oregon, he began running at North Eugene High School and often cited the wisdom of his trainer Bob Newland, although he described himself as “matured” and never won high school race. To pay for his studies, he worked part-time in paper mills. He arrived at the University of Oregon in 1962 as an undistinguished miler who (in his own words) “desperately wanted to be an Oregon runner” and was logging high training mileage for that purpose.

Coach Bill Bowerman gave him a more balanced program, and in 1966, when he earned a degree in philosophy, he was a three-time All American, with national-class public relations for a mile (4:04.2 ) and the 3,000 meters. obstacle course (8:49.4). He was also the first wear tester of Bowerman’s first experimental running shoes. Half a century later, Nike paid homage to him with the “Kenny Moore Collection”.

He went to Stanford Law School on a scholarship, “the first time in my life I was over fifty dollars ahead.” In 1967 he won the AAU national cross country championship, and in 1968 he moved to Lake Tahoe to prepare for the Olympic trials. He wrote movingly about combining dedicated training with a response to the political and racial tensions that divided America that year.

At altitude he placed second at the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2:31:47, and at the higher altitude in Mexico City he was well placed early on, running with defending champion Abebe Bikila, feeling ” amazed and idolatrous” to be at his side. his hero. Severe blisters ended the dream and he struggled painfully to finish 14th in 2:29:49. The tape on the soles of both feet peeled off and, he wrote, “wrapped up in ridges of fire.”

Also in 1968, he married Roberta (Bobbie) Conlan, decided to pursue a career against the law, and joined the United States Army. He benefited from his track program, with the ability to compete at international level, backed up by tough regulations regarding return to unit for inadequate performance. Among other major races, Moore was able to make it to the Fukuoka Marathon twice, unofficially the annual world championships at that time. He beat America’s top marathon twice, running 2:13:28 in 1969 and 2:11:36, placing second, in 1970.

After two years in the military, Moore returned to Oregon and earned a master’s degree in creative writing in 1972.

Running and writing then flourished. On the track, Moore was good enough to place third and fourth in the national 10,000 meters, with a best time of 27:54.4, and he won the 1971 U.S. Marathon title with a championship record of 2 : 16:48, winning selection for the Pan Pacific Games. The same year, he became a contract editor for Sports Illustratedbeginning a 25-year career at the pinnacle of the sports journalism profession.

In 1972, Moore and close friend Frank Shorter confidently warmed up in a US Olympic marathon trial record of 2:15:58. In Munich, the Olympic marathon took place in the shadow of the terrorist massacre of Israeli athletes.

After days of dispute over the suitability of the competition, Moore ran, but only a mile into the race he tripped and fell in a crowded corner. “I curled into a ball until an opening appeared in the slapping feet and got up quickly, with a stinging elbow and knee and a thirty yard deficit,” he wrote. later. He joined the leaders in time to witness Shorter’s winning push to 9 miles. After running tied with defending champion Mamo Wolde for second, Moore finished fourth in 2:15:39, proudly part (along with Shorter and ninth-placed Jack Bacheler) of the team’s best three-man finish in any nation on that date. .

Moore’s best years as a runner could be illustrated by his unmatched six-game winning streak in the San Francisco Bay Area against the Breakers from 1968 to 1973. He broke the record twice, bringing it back by 2 minutes. He continued to write extremely well, with insightful profiles of great runners like Roger Bannister and Lasse Viren, which were later collected in the book. Best Efforts (1982).

There were also losses. Steve Prefontaine was a close friend from Oregon and his tragic death affected Moore deeply. Bowerman, Shorter and Moore delivered the eulogies at Pre’s unforgettable funeral, and Moore’s tribute showed his rare ability to give eloquent credit to the strengths of others. The same generous empathy enriches his writings.

Another loss was the 1979 end of his marriage, which gave the world famous photos of Bobbie supporting him on the pitch as he grappled with the ambivalent angst of finishing fourth at the Olympics.

As his run faded, Moore became involved in the campaign to break the power of the former Amateur Athletic Union and its controlling treatment of athletes. The Amateur Sports Act, which grants autonomy to each sport and “recognizes certain rights for American amateur athletes”, was passed in 1978. Moore served on the International Competition Committee of the replacement federation, The Athletics Congress , and at the Athletes Congress. United States Olympic Committee Advisory Board (“a dynamic group of achievers,” he called those athletes who have shaken up the old order). He chaired the Steve Prefontaine Foundation, which funded talented young athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds, and was also a director of the Oregon Track Club.

Two major achievements still await us. From 1980 to 1982, Moore worked with writer-director Robert Towne as a consultant and actor for Personal Best, a film about women’s athletics. They picked up on earlier discussions of Moore’s idea for a feature film about Prefontaine’s life, which eventually came to fruition as Without limits (1998), with Moore as co-author.

Towne’s insistence that Moore play an acting role in Personal Best came as a shock. “Once in a lifetime everyone should have a phone call like this to test their heart condition,” he wrote. “I’m shy,” he told Towne. “I became a writer so I wouldn’t have to speak.”

He could write his script without shyness for Without limits.

“[It] was extremely gratifying…because of the reactions of the children. It became a relay with a message hidden within, passed down from one generation of runners to the next, keeping alive both Pre’s story and the truths Bowerman saw as vital.

He left Sports Illustrated in 1995 to focus on his greatest written work, biography and cultural history, Bowerman and the Oregon Men (2006). The combination of personal insight, historical understanding, research, eloquent writing and sheer intelligence of Moore’s ideas makes it one of the finest of all sports biographies, with greater prominence in its treatment of military service. of Bowerman and the history of Nike. It’s also partly the hidden autobiography of the reluctant Moore, with his harrowing treatment of Munich terrorism.

Moore looked back on this important period of his own life when he led a successful human rights campaign to redress the unjust imprisonment in Ethiopia of Mamo Wolde, who in 1972 had narrowly beaten Moore to the medal of bronze.

With his second wife, Connie, Moore spent his final years in Hawaii, where he continued to write, including several profiles for The runner’s world. He was inducted into the Oregon and University of Oregon Sports Halls of Fame and won the George Sheehan, George Hirsch and RRCA awards for running journalism. His literary mission, he said, was to “make an athlete’s experience understandable to a wider readership.” He did it and more.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and uploaded to this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content on