About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon began running as a student at the University of Chicago Lab School and continued running competitively at Carleton College in Minnesota, where he won several conference championships. After school, Hal competed 8 times in the Olympic Trials, notching his best finish as 5th place at the 1960 Trials in the 3000 meter steeplechase. In the 1964 Boston Marathon, Hal placed 5th overall and was the first American finisher with his time of 2:21:55. His World Masters Championships M40 record of 9:18.6 in the steeplechase (set in 1975) remains the oldest American masters records in the books.

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for Runner’s World and is the magazine’s longest lasting writer, having contributed an article to RW’s second issue in 1966. He also is the author of more than three dozen books, including Marathon: The Utimate Training Guide and the recently published Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training and Run Fast (3rd edition).

In 2003, the American Society of Journalists and Authors awarded Hal its Career Achievement Award, the highest honor given to writer members. An art major at Carleton College, Hal also sells and exhibits paintings frequently. Hal and his wife, Rose, have three children and nine grandchildren.

You can also find Hal on Facebook and Twitter, where he enjoys connecting with runners and fans from all walks of life.

Long Biography

Hal Higdon has been writing and running for half a century. Higdon grew up on the south side of Chicago. He first went out for track as a sophomore at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School (U-High) in 1947, placing fourth in the conference with a 5:04.7 mile. Higdon explains: "I skipped sports as a junior because I switched schools, but started running again my senior year. Except for a month or so off now and then, I've been running continuously since the spring of 1949."

Higdon attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, winning Midwest Conference titles in the mile, half-mile and cross-country. His best mile time was 4:13.6, although he had more success at longer distances, including road races. In 1952 he participated in the US Olympic Trials for 10,000 meters. "I was dead last in 15th place, but ahead of probably two dozen other runners who got waved off the track after being lapped." That was the first of eight Trials appearances for Higdon, his high-water mark being fifth in the 3,000 meter steeplechase in 1960. He had two other top-ten Trials finishes. (Only the top three make the Olympic team.)



He participated in his first marathon (Boston) in 1959, running with the leaders through Wellesley, but dropping out at 22 miles: “There was no Runner’s World back then telling me how to train.” Five years later, Higdon finally figured out the training principles that he shares with runners today. He led through 19 miles before being passed by eventual winner Aurele Vandendriessche. Higdon held on for fifth (first American), clocking a personal best 2:21:55. (His 111 marathons include four overall victories and numerous age-group firsts.)

Despite winning several national championships as an open runner, Higdon achieved his greatest success as a masters runner. ("Masters" denotes runners over the age of 35.) He won the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 1975 World Masters Championships, setting an American masters record of 9:18.6 that remains unbroken four decades later. He also won world masters titles in 1977, 1981 and 1991. His 1977 steeplechase victory set a world record. His American masters record of 14:59.6 for 5,000 meters, set running barefoot at London's Crystal Palace in 1972, lasted more than 24 years until finally bettered by Minnesota's Steve Plasencia in 1997.

Higdon's magazine credits include more than running magazines. He has worked full time as a freelance writer since 1959, covering subjects as varied as politics for The New York Times Magazine, science for National Geographic, business for Playboy, Hollywood for Good Housekeeping and aviation for Air & Space Smithsonian.

In addition to running titles, his three dozen published books have included The Crime of the Century (about the Leopold and Loeb case) and The Horse That Played Center Field (a children's book made into an animated TV special by ABC). His running books include Run Fast, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, and Boston: A Century of Running. He combined with cartoonist Dana Summers to produce a children's book titled Run, Dogs, Run! His most recent book is Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training, published by Human Kinetics in April 2016.

 

One of the founders in 1958 of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), Higdon received that organization's Journalism Award in 1980 and also was named to the RRCA Hall of Fame. In 1986 Higdon was a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space program to ride the space shuttle. In 1995 the North American Ski Journalists Association presented him with its Harold Hirsch Award for ski columns that appeared in the South Bend Tribune. At the American Society of Journalist and Author's annual meeting in 2003, the Society gave Higdon its Career Achievement Award, the highest honor given to writer members.

He lives on the lakefront in Long Beach, a suburb of Michigan City, Indiana. He coached four years at the local high school, directing his girls cross-country team to fifth at the state championships in 1992. They won the title the two following years, a story featured in his memoir about cross country, Through the Woods. He also provides training programs for a training class for the Chicago Marathon organized by the Chicago Area Runners Association that enrolls 3,000 runners each summer and offers interactive training programs online through TrainingPeaks and apps through Bluefin. His wife, Rose, hikes, bikes, and co-authored one book with Hal. They have three children and nine grandchildren.