Sunday, April 24, 2016

Rick Samaha Shares 70's Vintage Racers and the Stories Behind the Shoes

Article by Rick Samaha with Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

Editor's Note: RoadTrailRun is thrilled to have Rick Samaha a former teammate of mine contribute this article. Rick is a physician with a long and consistently fast running history over many decades. 
In the mid 1970's I was fortunate to be a member of truly outstanding high school cross country and track teams. Undefeated for 2 seasons, the Phillips Exeter Academy Cross Country team relied on fabulous depth. At the 1974 Class A Prep School Championship, the Interschols, we took 6 of 8 places after 4th place in a 10 school field. I was 2nd for the team in that race, 4th overall, after winning the Mount Washington Road Race Junior title the summer before placing 7th overall and later that school year running a 2:37 marathon. That deep and strong a team!  
Rick Samaha, only 4th JV runner in 1974 and a junior my senior year, stepped up his training. He became the school record holder in multiple events, a fabulously gutsy racer who ended his high school career with a 9:18 two mile in the 1976 National Junior AAU Championship.
The fastest times from those great years. Led by Rick Samaha
Rick's 1975 cross country team continued the tradition. Undefeated.
The 1976 Exeter XC Team Class A Champions and defeated arch rival Andover 16-46

Later in 1976, Rick led Exeter setting a 2 mile record of 9:27 on an almost century old cinder track in the championship meet securing the school's 19th Class A Track Championship under retiring legendary coach Ralph Lovshin. Coach Lovshin was my original run mentor who gently convinced, and then taught many non-athletic awkward boys such as me to run and run fast.
What is most inspiring about Rick's running story is that in some ways it "ended" in high school as he did not run intercollegiate track at the University of Virginia.  Instead he focused on his pre-med studies yet still training "enough" to run a 4:31 mile in an intramural race.  But... in fact it did not end at all!  Over the decades Rick has competed at a high level while following the moderate mileage and regular speed work training program of his high school days. An emergency, urgent care, and military medicine physician he has balanced work, family, and running magnificently.  

Some examples from over the decades:

  • 15:41 5K at age 36, "off the bench"
And Rick keeps running fast at over 50 years of age:
  • Member of the US Masters over 50 4x800 indoor record setting team running a lead-off leg 2:16 800 at age 50 to smash the previous record by 13 seconds! (Rick was tripped but that's another story!)
  • 17:59 5K XC for the winning 50+ National Championships team in 2008
  • Consistent 5K races all below 19 minutes at over 50 years of age with an age group PR of 17:52 and a 18:27 last year at age 57 in a low key, local race
US Masters over 50 record setting indoor 4x800
Left to Right: Rick Samaha,Steve Chantry,Danny Schlickenmeyer, Jim Goggin,
Photo Credit: Jim Goggin brother in law

And Rick has always kept meticulous history of his training.  Below his log from the summer leading up to his 9:18 AAU 2 mile.  Before GPS Rick indicated his run efforts with his own symbols. The 17th the underline was easy, the 18th underline with brackets was a faster tempo run. See the evenness of his 4:39 mile intervals the 20th, after an easy 6 mile warm up. Now the triangles...concerts Rick went to that summer: Fleetwood Mac, The Who, and The Doobie Brothers.

Rick saved some of his race shoes and shares the shoes and the stories behind them with Road Trail Run.
1975 Onitsuka Tiger Marathon Race Flats
Blue Onitsuka Tiger Marathon  Rick Samaha wore with the undefeated 1975 Exeter XC Championship team. He set the Exeter X-C record by 14 seconds over John Rice from 1974 who I believe broke the distance running trend-setter, Sam Winebaum’s record (Editor's Note: Sam can't remember if he had the record at one point that season but does remember going out incredibly fast and in the lead in every race, after a summer of 100 mile weeks, and as the season went on and the rest of the team got in good shape he paid the price!) 
Rick Samaha 100 yards to go in a duel with Mark Nunberg of Deerfield Academy.
Rick wins in a school best 13:21 for 2.7 miles, 4;57 pace!
Photo Credit: Pean Yearbook photographer

The shoes were worn for every dual meet with all firsts except one second place to 4:17 miler from Mt. Hermon. The Interschols were the only off running day for Rick as he finished in 4th place for which he was actually grateful. During warm-ups and the entire race he felt severe total body muscle fatigue.  
As a physician, years later Rick thinks he may have figured out his perplexing mystery - Rick was the only runner to lay in the back of an old station wagon on a sunny day and the back window was partially open with Rick smelling exhaust for much of the two hour to the race  – with upper body as well as legs feeling as though he was running in water could it have been a mild case of carbon monoxide poisoning??? 
And when you have a great pair of shoes, keep them and keep running in them! Here Rick runs the Tigers 10 years later in 1986 on the then new Lovshin Track with former team mates left to right: Sam Winebaum, Chris Reich, Scott Slater, Ed Ernst and Rick Samaha.
1975 Nike Spikes
Nike Spikes Circa 1975
Red circa 1975 Nike spikes which Rick Samaha used starting in April 1976.  Rick needed decent spikes but didn’t want to waste money on new ones so he was excited when a friend from Switzerland opted out of Spring Track and sold him these gently used middle-distance type spikes for $10. In early April 1976 due to torrential rains in Hanover, NH, the dual meet between Exeter and with the Dartmouth sub-varsity was moved indoors to Leverone Fieldhouse. Rick was entered in the mile. It was essentially the first time he ran on an artificial track. That along with having these lightweight spikes allowed him to run the most effortless race of his life and finish first in 4:22.3.  

A month later at the 1976 NE Prep Interschols he broke the 2-mile Exeter record by 4 seconds winning in 9:27.7.  Rick and his teammates were most excited that Exeter won the meet for retiring Coach Ralph Lovshin allowing him to gain his 19th NE Prep Outdoor Track Championship. 
Coaches Dykes and Morgan, Rick Samaha with Coach Lovshin, Coaches Leach and Nekton
with the 1975 Class A Track Trophy
The Nike Spikes are on the table
In August Rick wore the shoes for the National Junior AAU 2-mile Championship in Memphis, TN.  It was a late afternoon start time on one of the warmest days of Rick’s racing career with a heat index of 92 degrees.  Rick ran 9:18.3 for 6th place (bronze medals were awarded to 3rd – 6th place with the 4th – 6th  runners all within 0.17 seconds of each other). 

Mid 1970's Nike Waffle Trainers
Unused blue and yellow Nike Waffle Trainers (circa mid-1970’s). Rick trained in the nylon Nike Cortez.  The Waffle Trainers have the patent imprinted on the black waffle sole which signifies the waffle tread was the initial patent submitted by Bill Bowerman on August 30, 1972 (initially described by Bowerman as a “football” or soccer shoe design made for artificial turf!) and accepted by the U.S. Patent office on February 26, 1974.
The possession of this particular mint condition shoe was quite unusual.  In approximately 1997 Rick was at a Mom & Pop sporting goods store in Newport News, VA looking for a little league baseball bat for his 8 year old son.  These shoes caught Rick’s attention as they were sitting on a stand. Rick asked the grey-haired lady owner if the shoes were for sale. She said they were old, no one wanted them, so she’d sell them for a discount. Rick hid his joy and quietly bought the shoes – was it too much to have paid $20 for them? 

All Photos Credit: Rick Samaha unless otherwise noted.

For more 70's and 80's run shoe classics see our All Time Favorites post here


Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the article. From a time when I had similar shoes - loved the Onitsuka Tigers. My all time fave shoes - been waiting 45 years for them to be re-made (as running shoes, not fashion sneakers). Wishing you many more happy miles

matthew said...

Hi - can you put us in touch - I raced (well was in the same race in 2019 in Toronto) my first steeplechase intl race - I am interviewing people for podcast "Running in the 70s" - [email protected]