Videos: Bruce Kidd, Athletics
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At the time the best distance runners were in their twenties even thirties. And so the meet promoter would not accept an entry from, from me and my coach on the grounds that I was way too young to run in either the mile or the two mile. At that time I was being recruited by Harvard University for an athletic scholarship. So I said to the Harvard recruiters, if you can get me into the Knights of Columbus two-mile race, I will come down and spend a recruiting weekend at Harvard. I had a remarkable recruiting weekend, you know wrote my SAT’s, met a lot of Harvard alumni and Professors and so on, but then I focused on that race.
You know I guess I took them by surprise, because nobody, I mean they were worried about whether I would be able to finish the race, they were worried about my health, and this is in an atmosphere where there are people all the time saying you know I’m going to die of collapsed lung or something, collapsed heart or something like that. And with four or five laps to go I took off and opened up, you know I sprinted into the lead, opened up probably a ten-feet lead and I held that to the finish. You know as a historian I look back I see myself as an artefact. It was at a time when Canadian fortunes in International competition were at an all-time low, and here is this, this smart-assed kid who comes along and does very well in the United States. It was, you know it was a big triumph.
They were packed houses, we were front-page stories, you know our races were the headline in Canadian and U.S. newspapers. Probably twenty years after I last raced in New York I went down with my wife to see an opera and as we took a cab to the opera the cab, cabby looked in his rear-view mirror and he said, “Aren’t you that guy from Toronto who used to run?” I mean we were, we were celebrities in those days, such was the celebrity of track and field.
What I really liked about my running career is it connected me to a spirit of Canada and Canadian nationalism. I mean I grew up in a strong family of nationalists, I decided to stay in, in Canada for university rather than go to the United States and so that award, the Conacher Award seemed to affirm the wisdom of all of those choices. I was always proud to be a representative of Canada and that award was a recognition of that.