Cunningham in 1933
|Full name||Glenn Vernice Cunningham|
August 4, 1909|
Atlanta, Kansas, U.S.
|Died||March 10, 1988
Menifee, Arkansas, U.S.
|Height||5 ft 10 in (178 cm)|
|Weight||154 lb (70 kg)|
|Event(s)||800 m, 1500 m, mile|
|Team||University of Kansas|
|Achievements and titles|
|Highest world ranking||1st|
|Personal best(s)||800 m – 1:49.7 (1936)
1500 m – 3:48.2 (1940)
Mile – 4:04.4 (1938)
Glenn Vernice Cunningham (August 4, 1909 – March 10, 1988) was an American middle-distance runner, who was considered as the greatest American miler of all time. He received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States in 1933.
Cunningham was born in Atlanta, Kansas, but grew up in Elkhart, Kansas. His legs were very badly burned in an explosion caused when someone accidentally put gasoline instead of kerosene in the can at his schoolhouse when he was eight and his brother Floyd was thirteen. Floyd died in the fire. When the doctors recommended amputating Glenn's legs, he was so distressed his parents would not allow it. The doctors predicted he might never walk normally again. He had lost all the flesh on his knees and shins and all the toes on his left foot. Also, his transverse arch was practically destroyed. However, his great determination, coupled with hours upon hours of a new type of therapy, enabled him to gradually regain the ability to walk and to proceed to run. It was in the early summer of 1919 when he first tried to walk again, roughly two years after the accident. He had a positive attitude as well as a strong religious faith. His favorite Bible verse was Isaiah 40:31: "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Cunningham competed in the 1500 m event at the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics and finished fourth and second, respectively. While on the ship, traveling from the U.S. to Germany in 1936, he was voted "Most Popular Athlete" by his fellow Olympians.
Cunningham won the Sullivan medal in 1933 for his achievements in middle-distance running. In 1934, he set the world record for the mile run at 4:06.8, which stood for three years. He also set world records in the 800 m in 1936 and in the indoor mile in 1938.
Cunningham's unachieved goal was a four-minute mile. Many people tried that before and failed. Several theorists proclaimed it was impossible physiologically for humans. Some athletes tried running steady and fast-paced the whole time. Others tried to go steady for the first half then give it all they had. Glenn worried about the strength of his legs burned in his youth, so he started slow – running in the pack. He would be fresher in the second half – and would almost be sprinting the last 100 yards to the finish.
Cunningham has a park named after him in his hometown of Elkhart, Kansas. The mile run at the Kansas Relays is named in his honor. In 1974 he was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Cunningham earned a master's degree from the University of Iowa and a PhD from New York University. After retiring from competitions in 1940 he served as director of physical education at Cornell College in Iowa for four years. Later he opened the Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch in Kansas, where he and his wife helped 10,000 needy and abused children.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Glenn Cunningham (athlete).|
|Men's 800 metres World Record Holder
August 8, 1936 – July 11, 1937
|Men's Mile World Record Holder
June 16, 1934 – August 28, 1937
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