Kenny Moore, a two-time Olympic marathoner and one of the most-respected journalists ever to write about the sport of running, on Friday morning received the George Hirsch Journalism Award from New York Road Runners.
“I don't think there's another writer out there who writes with the passion and the love and the knowledge that you possess,” said 1984 Olympic gold medalist Joan Samuelson in presenting the award. “It's a true gift, and you have shared that gift with countless people in and out of our sport and throughout the generations.”
The award recognizes excellence in the reporting, writing, and broadcasting of the sport of long-distance running. It is named for George Hirsch, the founding publisher and president of The Runner magazine from 1978 to 1986, the worldwide publisher of Runner’s World from 1987 to 2003, and today the chairman of the board of directors of New York Road Runners.
“When I first thought about what I'd say at a moment like this, I just felt over and over how ridiculously lucky I had been,” said Moore in accepting the award, who also spoke eloquently about the narrative force presented to a writer by the marathon.
“If you start a marathon and start telling the story of a marathon and what happened, all the characters in there and where they're beginning, you've got a million times to stop along the way or leave along the way and go to their backgrounds, go to their character,” he said. “So by the time that race is over, you're not just seeing faceless people on the TV screen, it's great friends and enemies, and you're just deeply involved.”
Moore, 68, began his journalism career at Sports Illustrated while completing his Masters degree in creative writing at the University of Oregon. His journalism career is matched by his running record: Moore finished 14th in the 1968 Olympic Games marathon in Mexico City and fourth in the 1972 Munich Games, and is a former holder of the American Record at the distance.
He began his journalism career in 1971 as a contract writer for Sports Illustrated, and was promoted to senior writer in 1980. Among Moore’s many memorable stories is “The End of the World,” about his quest for justice in the case of Ethiopian Mamo Wolde, the 1968 Olympic marathon gold medalist—against whom Moore had dueled for the Olympic bronze medal in 1972—who was at the time a political prisoner.
Jere Longman, a long-time writer for the New York Times, called Moore "an incredibly elegant writer," and described the Wolde article, for which Moore went inside the prison, as an "amazing, haunting story on this Olympic champion accused maybe falsely of murder. It went beyond running into what was this strange culturem this autocratic society, that Ethiopia had fallen into [at the time]."
After leaving SI, Moore co-wrote and produced Without Limits, the biographical film about Steve Prefontaine, and a few years later began working on Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, the first biography of Bill Bowerman, the legendary coach at the University of Oregon and a co-founder of Nike, Inc. The book was published in 2007.
Photo of (from left) George Hirsch, Kenny Moore, and Joan Samuelson, by Kristine Smith