Tony Waldrop set a world record for the indoor mile (3:55) in 1974 as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina. He surprised the running world by deciding not to try for the 1976 Olympic Games. He was widely considered to be the only American capable of making a serious challenge in the mile to gold medal winner and world record holder John Walker of New Zealand (3:49). Waldrop is no longer running competitively. He is in graduate school in physiology at UNC.
SUN: Why do you run?
TONY: I’ve always had this thing about wanting to stay slim and also just enjoying going out and knowing I can do certain things with my body.
SUN: What do you think about when you run?
TONY: A lot of people make it out to be some sort of mystical experience where they find out things about themselves that they don’t other places. It’s not that way at all for me. I think about the same things while I’m running as I do when I’m not. Except I’m more relaxed. I don’t have any pressure on me to worry about class work.
SUN: What did you think about losing the world indoor mile?
TONY: Not anything at all. I was pleased that Berkeley was able to get it. [Dick Berkeley beat Waldrop’s record in 1977 by two-tenths of a second.] I was glad that someone older got it. I was surprised that I had it as long as I did, three and a half years. I had expected it to go the very next year. In running, I’ve had more important things happen to me than the indoor mile. My biggest thrill was when I finished eleventh in a race once. But I was All-American cross-country which I never expected to be [in NCAA cross-country competition, the top 25 ranked runners are All-Americans]. It’s according to how you set your priorities. That was my most satisfying race; it wasn’t the Olympics or a world record.
SUN: I don’t understand why you quit.
TONY: I decided that I’d done what I’d wanted to do with running. I wanted to take up a new challenge. I’d set a world indoor record and it was no big deal but it was more than I’d ever dreamed for or set my goals for. I didn’t run for the record. I ran for other satisfactions. I did dream of being a good student; I didn’t think I could run and be in school at the same time.
SUN: To go back to the times when you excelled, it’s obvious that you’re more gifted than others; do you think also that you were more capable than most of pushing yourself through pain? Or was pain even an issue with you?
TONY: I never thought I was much more talented than other people, until I quit. I think now maybe I did have quite a bit of talent. I think the biggest thing that helped me while I was running is the fact that I am just extremely determined.
DUKE TRACK CLUB
ORANGE COUNTRY TRACK CLUB
929-1670 (Chapel Hill)
NORTH CAROLINA TRACK CLUB
CAROLINA GODIVA TRACK CLUB
933-1013 (Chapel Hill)