Harris Browning Ross (April 26 1924 – April 27 1998) is often referred to as "The Father of Long Distance Running in America".
Ross was a lifelong resident of Woodbury in Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA from his birth up until his death (nearly 74 years later to the day). He devoted his life to spreading his love and enthusiasm for long distance running and is often credited as the cornerstone to the development of long distance runners in the States today.
H. Browning Ross, nicknamed "Brownie" by his friends, did not grow up possessing a love for running. In, fact it wasn't until he was cut from Woodbury High School's
baseball team did he take up running. It was not long before his second choice of sport was a true calling, as Ross blossomed into one of the greatest high school distance runners in the entire state. In the spring of 1943, his senior year, he was crowned the N.J. State Mile Champion and National Interscholastic Indoor Mile Champion.
World War II
Like many teenagers during his generation, Ross graduated from high school and went straight into military service
. He joined the Navy
and fought in World War II
. Upon discharge several years later, he was discovered by Villanova University
track coach Jim "Jumbo" Elliott
and awarded a scholarship
after a victory in a two-mile race at Madison Square Garden
Harris Ross was one of Elliott's first magnificent runners at Villanova during the late 1940s. In 1948 he won the NCAA steeplechase
championship, which paved the way for his 1948 U.S. Olympic Team
qualification weeks later.
1948 and 1952 Olympics
H. Browning Ross competed in the 1948 London Olympics
where he became the only American to compete in the steeplechase final, placing 7th overall with a 9:23.2 time. After the Olympics were over Ross decided to stay in Europe
and postpone his return trip to the United States because he wanted to compete in road races
held in Ireland
. It was there that he discovered a vast resource of running talent, and when Browning returned home he promptly alerted "Jumbo" of his findings. Elliott heeded his advice, and thus began Villanova's tradition with its long line of Irish runners.
Browning, however, did not match the same success in the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland. He qualified to compete but never reached the finals in any competition.
1951 Pan American Games
At the 1951 Pan American Games
, Browning placed 1st in the 1500 meter run
, shared 1st in the 3000 meter steeplechase, and finished 4th in the 5000 meter run
A controversy occurred in the 3000m steeplechase, where two Americans, Curt Stone
and Ross, had pulled away from the field. Stone slowed down on the last straightaway and held Ross's hand as they crossed the line together. Argentine officials debated for two hours whether their actions violated rules requiring athletes to make an effort to win before finally allowing the results to stand.
Life after the Olympics
With such passion for the sport he loved it was inevitable that H. Browning Ross would continue to stay involved even after his heyday of running. In 1955 he recognized the need for distance running results to be published and widely distributed in order to increase the public's awareness of the sport. Shortly thereafter he created the Long Distance Log, the only publication devoted exclusively to long distance running in the USA. The first issues were mimeographed on the backs of recycled high school history tests. The Log would become the major instrument to unite runners and address their concerns over the next 20 years. He was the first editor-in-chief of the magazine, which mailed monthly to about 1,000 subscribers throughout the country until 1975. The Long Distance Log eventually evolved into the current magazine Runner's World.
In 1958 Ross founded the Philadelphia Road Runners Club, which later became the national Road Runners Club of America (1) The club today boasts of more than 180,000 members nationwide.
Accomplishments, awards, and recognition
- Won 8 National AAU Cross Country Championships.
- Two-time Olympic runner, even reaching the finals in his first Olympic appearance and finishing seventh overall.
- Gold medal winner at the Pan-Am Games.
- Was a U.S. team manager.
- Received the first Annual Long Distance AAU Award in 1969.
- Chairman of the National AAU long distance and road running committee from 1968-1971
- Elected to the National Long Distance Running, Villanova University, Gloucester County and Woodbury High School Halls of Fame.
- Used to be a coach, meet and race organizer, publisher, track official and sporting goods entrepreneur in the world of long distance running.
- Two races are held in his name. The Benjamin/Ross 5k is held in June in his hometown of Woodbury, NJ and the Ross Kupcha 5k and kids run is held Easter Saturday at Haddon Lake Park in Mt Ephraim, NJ.
- An H. Browning Ross Memorial was dedicated on July 4 2001 at the bottom of Wood Street overlooking the Woodbury High School stadium and track.
- The Browning Ross Award was established in his memory by the Road Runners Club of America to acknowledge one individual each year who reflects the spirit of that organization.