Thursday, December 05, 2013

Remembering Paul Noreen

It was perhaps the "Golden Age" of Minnesota Masters running back in the 1970s and '80s.  Men, such as Alex Ratelle, Bill Andberg, and Paul Noreen, were setting records, some of which are still on the books today, and not only outrunning the other Masters, but many of the young bucks who made the mistake of underestimating the talent and determination of older folks who were supposed to be planning for their retirement, rather than out running people half their age.

Paul Noreen(with the 2 on his shorts on the far
right in this photo of the Hopkins Raspberry Run)
Photo by Jim Ferstle
Youngest in this crowd was Paul Noreen, who had been a Minnesota High School cross country champion in his youth.  Deprived of competition because of rules that banned coaches from competing as they were not "amateurs"(the meager wages they earned from coaching violated the IOC rules against making money from a sport), Noreen kept fit "banditing" in road races and by running with the high school kids he coached.

Thankfully the antiquated amateur rules were discarded and people, such as Noreen, were finally freed to compete again, and they took full advantage of the opportunity.  In 1981, for example, Noreen set two US records that still stand, running 51:12 for the 15K on the track on his way to another record of 53:53 for the 10-Mile. At that same meet Ratelle and Andberg set age group American records at those distances too.  They were role models, not only for the rest of the Masters athletes, but the younger runners as well.

Last week, the day before Thanksgiving, Noreen's big heart stopped working.  He will be missed, but the legacy he and his compatriots left behind will live on.  More info on Noreen is available in the following links HERE and HERE.


Dennis said...

A great runner, coach and man.

Bubba said...

On this cold bluster & wet morning run, I was passed by two guys who were running really well. I could tell that the older runner was giving guidance to the young stud he was running with. As I listened and watched it reminded me of a time past when I leaned so much from a running legend.
I first met Paul Noreen when I moved to Minnesota in the early 1980’s. We moved into a new house in Plymouth and I went out for my first run soon after moving in. One morning I met my new neighbor after he returned from his morning run. I introduced myself and looked at this pencil thin flyweight and only wondered what he might be thinking of my Clydesdale 210 pound round mound of flesh. We agreed to meet the next morning for a run.
The next morning he informed me as we started that we would run a nine mile route around Medicine Lake near our house with a, “three mile pick-up” in the middle. We started real slow as he told me that he was a teacher at Hopkins High in Hopkins, MN and coached cross-country and some track. I soon realized that he was very mild mannered and polite.
We soon approached the starting point of, “pick-up” and he told me to run as fast as I could for the next three miles. He told me that he would wait three minutes and then start to run. He then suggested that he would try and catch me. I wondered what he was smoking?
I took off and quickly picked up a head of steam. Figured to be rolling at a 6:30 pace. Cruising! This guy was dead meat. All of a sudden I hear this faint pidder padder coming up on me quickly. Before I could say oh shit he passed me in a flash. I watched him disappear into another zip code. When I reached the end of the, “pick-up” he was waiting for me with a smile on his skinny little face. I knew I was in for some serious training!
I spent the next several years leaning from the Master. He taught how to run fast. He suggested that I think small and think fast. I suggested liposuction. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t carrying 200 plus pounds on his skinny frame. He convinced me to train hard and train smart. Through it all I tried to teach him something---how to curse. Couldn’t do it. He was also very thankful that he was never close enough to hear me curse as I tried to catch up.
I watched him train and race with gusto unmatched by many. Some tried but few succeeded to keep up or beat him. He set many US and Minnesota Masters age group records. A sample of his best times were:
10K---31:10 Age 44 15K---48-45 Age 44 5 miles---23:54 Age 44 10 Miles---50:49 Age 44 Marathon---2:29:29 Age 45 20K---1:06:02 Age 43 25K---1:22 Age 43
He also gave back as much as he took out of running. He often talked of the kids he coached in high school. One was Bob Kempainen how rose to Olympic fame. I spoke to Joe Henderson about my friend and Joe captured it best when he suggested that my friend was one of the most unheralded, talented, and prolific runners who had ever laced them up. And we know that Joe knows a runner or two.
Paul Noreen was a dear friend. I was blessed to have him as a mentor over those years when I lived in Minnesota. I listened to him and carried my 200 pound Clydesdale frame to some decent PR’s when I ran a 10K in 36:30-----10 miles in 1:03-----and my best marathon at Twin Cities in 2:58:17.
Paul is still running on some cold Minnesota road high in the northern sky…

Dave Gelly