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Ken Young (1941 – 2018)
A Legacy needing to be continued!
How will the Long Distance Running Industry Respond?

Ken Young invented the art and science of record keeping for the sport of long distance running. He first used a computer to produce race results in 1970, and produced computer based running performance rankings by 1974. In 1980, these rankings had developed into the National Running Data Center (NRDC) which pioneered and developed road records in the United States. In the 1990s Ken developed a relational database for distance running and began the “Analytical Distance Runner” newsletter. He co-founded the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) in 2003. Andy Milroy a founding member of ARRS said “Ken and the ARRS have revolutionized the way road running is tracked both researching records back 100 and more years, and also going global.” The ARRS database includes more than 1.2 million performances from 220,000 races by more than 95,000 elite and sub-elite distance runners world-wide. The database has been created entirely thru volunteer efforts.

Ken Young is an extension of the pioneering course measurement work of John Jewell, John Sterner, Aldo Scandurra, and Ted Corbitt. I have multiple boxes of correspondences between Ken and Jennifer Aviles from years of their NRDC work. Ken and Jen legitimized the sport working with course measurers to develop a system that verifies road running records across-the- United States. They worked with the sport’s governing bodies to formulate rules for record keeping. My father often would state that his most important contribution to the sport was his leadership in developing the system that certified that a race course is the distance stated. Road race courses many times prior to the 1960s were either short or long of the advertised distance.

Andy Milroy is leading the effort to continue Ken’s work. He states: “if the organization is to flourish and develop, we need to attract sponsorship from the Distance Running Industry and/or wealthy running enthusiasts. The modern sport would not be what it is but for Ken’s herculean efforts. If you value his immense legacy, get out there and lobby for funding for ARRS.”

For the record, Ken was also a running legend amassing 141,000 lifetime miles. His first ultramarathon was the famous 1970 50 mile national championship in Rocklin, CA. In 1972 he set an indoor world record for the marathon of 2:41:29. He held the American Track Records at both 40 miles and 50K. In 1974 he ran his marathon personal best of 2:25 at Boston.

Here’s some additional insight: Passing of Ultrarunning Legend Ken Young

Here’s a link to a conference call I conducted with the Pioneers of Course Measurement.

Pioneers in Course Measurement
Conference Call – May 23, 2014

Call participants and time of their discussion:
Gary Corbitt - Intro
John Booras - 5:45
Ken Young - 12:19
Alan & Clain Jones - 24:53
David Katz - 36:35
1981 New York City Marathon - 43:50
Josh Nemzer - 53:45
Pete Riegel - 55:44
Roy Pirrung - 1:07:40
Closing Remarks - 1:11:30

Gary Corbitt
Curator: Ted Corbitt Archives
February 7, 2018
Original Post

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Thank you for that link. Ken always represented to me the core of the sport. A principle i’ve Always stuck with is “someone has to drive the van”. Some think it silly, of course someone will drive the van. Those of us that have been around know that does’t happen without someone with dedication that keeps things going. That was Ken. What he did wasn’t sexy, but someone with attention to detail and commitment had to do it. Much would have been lost without him. I hope someone with that heart takes the keys and drives the van forward. Our sport needs more Ken’s.
Thanks for posting this, Gary. I will never forget some of the conversations I had with him years ago, as he helped me understand some of the thinking behind our methods and choices in course measurement. And I will miss that encyclopedic memory of his-- off the top of his head he could list a bunch of courses a given measurer had done, or the places and times from a great number of races. He called it a "sticky brain".
He will be sorely missed.

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