The Norton Telegram / Tuesday, July 7, 2009 / By Dick Boyd
Hall of Fame next for area star runner
A young man from Phillipsburg kept running, running, running and running some more.
Where did it all end?
Then John Mason was selected this year for the prestigious honor of being a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame!
John Mason is one of those individuals who is definitely an inspiration. Despite suffering from polio in the fifth grade, breaking a toe so he could not run his freshman year at Phillipsburg High School, almost dying from drinking polluted water after running during his freshman year at Fort Hays State University and missing the Olympics due to an illness, John Mason was one of the top runners in the world during his prime.
An All-American eight times in track and cross country while running for legendary coach Alex Francis at Fort Hays, John Mason ran the equivalent of sub-four minute miles an amazing 32 times! A prep state champion for Phillipsburg High School in the mile run and 880 yard run, he had a streak of 21 straight victories while at Fort Hays, winning the Missouri Valley AAU Cross Country Meet, the NAIA National Meet and the CIC League Championships. John’s best time in the 1,500 meter run is 3:37, which is the same as a 3:54 mile.
One of his major accomplishments was beating Kip Keino of Kenya in the 1968 World Games in Stockholm, Sweden on July 19, 1968 with a 1500 meters time of 3:40.5. Also in that race was Mohammed Gammoudi, Tunisia. Both Keino and Gammoudi won 1968 Olympic gold medals later that year in Mexico City. Keino defeated another Kansan, Jim Ryun, to win the 1968 Olympic 1,500 meter run. John also defeated Keino on July 2, 1968 in Oslo, Norway with a 3:42.9 time for 1500 meters.
After his successful European tour in 1968, John became very sick and was hospitalized. After getting back on his feet, John was not in top shape but tried out for the U.S. Olympic team. He made the 1500 meter finals but finished sixth and did not make the team. The next year, John competed in the 800 and 1500 meters for the USA National Team on a six-week overseas tour and returned unbeaten! After his senior season, while running for the Pacific Coast Track Club, John won the prestigious Wanamaker Mile at the Milrose Games in Madison Square Garden in New York City.
John Mason credits his Fort Hays coach Alex Francis and good training partners for his success. His daily college workouts included a six-mile run in the morning followed by wind sprints. Up to 25 repeat quarter-miles at the golf course, preceded and followed by at least a three mile warm-up and cool down, were part of his afternoon training which also included up to 25 quarter-mile repeats on the track with a 220 recovery jog in between! If you total all these daily miles, you come up with around 27 miles a day, not including the wind sprints!
John Mason has been quoted as saying that he figures he ran around 70,000 miles including grade school to after college. That’s almost three times around the world!
This sportswriter had the privilege of covering John Mason for the Phillips County Review in the 1960s when he was running for Phillipsburg High School.