Biography

Hal Higdon Biography

Hal Higdon (short biography): Hal Higdon has contributed to Runner's World for longer than any other writer, an article by him having appeared in that publication's second issue in 1966. Author of 36 books, including a novel, Marathon, and the best-selling Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, now in its 4th edition, Higdon also has written books on many subjects and for different age groups. His children's book, The Horse That Played Center Field, was made into an animated feature by ABC-TV. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. One of the founders of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Higdon also was a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space program to ride the space shuttle. He has served as training consultant for the Chicago Marathon and Chicago Area Runners Association and also answers questions on his Virtual Training Bulletin Board, offering interactive training programs through TrainingPeaks and apps through Bluefin. At the American Society of Journalist and Author's annual meeting in 2003, the Society gave Higdon its Career Achievement Award, the highest honor given to writer members. An art major at Carleton College, he sells and exhibits his paintings in a Pop Art style. Hal Higdon's wife, Rose, hikes, bikes, skis and supports him in his running and writing. They have three children and nine grandchildren.

Hal Higdon (long biography): Hal Higdon has been writing and running for half a century. Higdon grew up on the south side of Chicago. He first went out for track as a sophomore at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School (U-High) in 1947, placing fourth in the conference with a 5:04.7 mile. Higdon explains: "I skipped sports as a junior because I switched schools, but started running again my senior year. Except for a month or so off now and then, I've been running continuously since the spring of 1949."

Higdon attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, winning Midwest Conference titles in the mile, half-mile and cross-country. His best mile time was 4:13.6, although he had more success at longer distances, including road races. In 1952 he participated in the US Olympic Trials for 10,000 meters. "I was dead last in 15th place, but ahead of probably two dozen other runners who got waved off the track after being lapped." That was the first of eight Trials appearances for Higdon, his high-water mark being fifth in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in 1960. He had two other top-ten Trials finishes. (Only the top three make the Olympic team.)

He participated in his first marathon (Boston) in 1959, running with the leaders through Wellesley, but dropping out at 22 miles. Five years later, Higdon led through 19 miles before being passed by eventual winner Aurele Vandendriessche. Higdon held on for fifth (first American), clocking a personal best 2:21:55. (His 111 marathons include four overall victories and numerous age-group firsts.)

"I'm probably better known in Boston as a writer than as a runner," Higdon concedes. In 1963, Sports Illustrated published an article by him on the Boston Marathon titled "On the Run from Dogs and People," later expanded into a 1971 book by the same name. Only 150 runners had run Boston in Higdon's first year (1959), but his article sparked an upturn in numbers at Boston five years later and helped inspire the running boom that followed a decade after that. At the centennial 1996 Boston Marathon that attracted 38,000 runners, Higdon ran his 100th marathon--his 18th at Boston.

Despite winning several national championships as an open runner, Higdon achieved his greatest success as a masters runner. ("Masters" denotes runners over the age of 35.) He won the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 1975 World Masters Championships, setting an American masters record of 9:18.6 that remains unbroken more than three decades later. He also won world masters titles in 1977, 1981 and 1991. His 1977 steeplechase victory set a world record. His American masters record of 14:59.6 for 5,000 meters, set running barefoot at London's Crystal Palace in 1972, lasted more than 24 years until finally bettered by Minnesota's Steve Plasencia in 1997.

Runners know Higdon best for his insightful articles on training and racing for Runner's World,. His first article for that publication was for its second issue in 1966. "The magazine was little more than a newsletter," Higdon recalls. "Bob Anderson, founder of what was then called Distance Running News, asked me to contribute something, so I sent him an article on the London to Brighton race that Sports Illustrated had commissioned, but never published. Probably fewer than 100 people saw that article. The magazine's circulation is now over 650,000." Although still listed on Runner's World's masthead as Contributing Editor, Higdon now mainly publishes his writing on the Internet.

Higdon's magazine credits include more than running magazines. He has worked full time as a freelance writer since 1959, covering subjects as varied as politics for The New York Times Magazine, science for National Geographic, business for Playboy, Hollywood for Good Housekeeping and aviation for Air & Space Smithsonian.

In addition to running titles, his 36 published books have included The Crime of the Century (about the Leopold and Loeb case) and The Horse That Played Center Field (a children's book made into an animated TV special by ABC). His running books include Run Fast, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, and Boston: A Century of Running. He combined with cartoonist Dana Summers to produce a children's book titled Run, Dogs, Run! His most recent book is Marathon, a novel that describes the 72 hours leading up to a 50,000-runner race. Despite having written fiction for children, it is his first adult novel.

One of the founders in 1958 of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Higdon received that organization's Journalism Award in 1980 and also was named to the RRCA Hall of Fame. In 1986 Higdon was a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space program to ride the space shuttle. In 1995 the North American Ski Journalists Association presented him with its Harold Hirsch Award for ski columns that appeared in the South Bend Tribune. At the American Society of Journalist and Author's annual meeting in 2003, the Society gave Higdon its Career Achievement Award, the highest honor given to writer members.

As the field of journalism changed, Higdon changed with it, shifting seamlessly to cyberspace, writing an "Ask The Experts" column for Runner's World Daily on America Online and, later,Virtual Training with TrainingPeaks, providing intertactive training schedules and answers to questions from participants each day. The author has two Facebook pages: a "friend" page (Hal Higdon) with 5,000 friends and a "fan" page (Hal Higdon's Marathon) with even more participants. He tweets regularly on Twitter to more than 10,000 followers. Higdon's own popular Web site (www.halhigdon.com) features training schedules from 5-K to the ultramarathon plus other training tips.

An art major at Carleton College, he also sells and exhibit his paintings in a Pop Art style. One of his paintings of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra titled "The Conductor" won Best of the Show at the Winter View Juried Art Show in Long Beach, Indiana. Another painting titled "Chocolate Box" was featured in an exhibit sponsored by Peter Brooke Chocolates in Jacksonville, Florida. For his college class's 50th reunion, Higdon drew portraits of more than 100 classmates for a book of biographies titled, Beyond The Tower.

He lives on the lakefront in Long Beach, a suburb of Michigan City, Indiana. He coached four years at the local high school, directing his girls cross-country team to fifth at the state championships in 1992. They won the title the two following years, a story featured in his memoir about cross country, Through the Woods. He also assists with a training class for the Chicago Marathon that enrolls 3,000 runners each summer and offers interactive training programs online through TrainingPeaks. His wife, Rose, hikes, bikes, skis and manages book sales off his Web site. She co-authored one book with him about her Italo-Albanian heritage: Falconara: A Family Odyssey. Now out of print, several copies recently have been offered on eBay at prices between $150 and $200. They have three children and nine grandchildren.