So here I am standing in a cornfield in Layton, NJ (think middle of Nebraska) trying to find one of the greatest runners on the planet. Seriously.
Let me back up a bit…It’s 1:27 am on a Sunday in mid-August. I show up to my Uncle Joe’s Sussex County home unannounced and within moments, 2 things happen simultaneously… As usual, I began yapping about our beloved website… RunJersey.com as Joe hands me the biggest glass of wine I have ever seen. It looked more like a small swimming pool than a glass, however I am the last one to complain about wine (especially when its free, plentiful and not out of a box). After a long while, I stopped talking long enough for Joe to squeeze a quick sentence into the conversation. “I am going to take you to meet one of the greatest runners on the planet tomorrow. He is a friend of mine”, Joe mentions as if it’s no big deal.
My BS-meter immediately goes off and I ask Joe point-blank “A good friend of yours? Like you met him at a cocktail party in 1976?” Joe assured me that he, in fact, knew this man; he was a running legend & and that he would be in the area helping his family this weekend. Eventually, I finished the vat of wine I was served and headed off to bed with the excitement of a 4-year old has on Christmas Eve.
In true Uncle Joe forced-fun fashion, I am woken up at 7AM by Joe who is quickly shuffling me into the car. Within a few minutes we arrive at a small fruit and vegetable stand where Joe expects the running legend to be. My excitement waned as there was no one present. However, we quickly find a teenager who works there. He directs us to search the cornfield adjacent to the stand.
Sure enough, there he was…Marcus O’Sullivan. A 4-time Olympian representing Ireland in the 800 & 1500 meters. The first human to run 100 sub 4-minute miles. More recently, he has been coaching some of the best runners on the planet at Villanova University for the past 15 years. And here he is in the middle of a cornfield in North-West NJ just a few steps away.
Perhaps more surprising than all those accomplishments was the fact that he actually knew my Uncle Joe (and even more surprising was that he was actually happy to see Joe). The coach could not have been more polite. He immediately stopped what he was doing and took a few minutes with to answer all of my questions, talk shop and provide a few words of wisdom for the readers.
It was truly one of the most remarkable conversations I have ever had—not to mention a pretty amazing setting for an interview as well. Please check back this week for an article on my dialogue with this fascinating runner/coach/Olympian/and all around good guy.