Norman Harris – Not Bad for an Old Jogger
New Zealand-born sportswriter Norman Harris, organiser of London’s Sunday Times National Fun Run, and quite possibly the inventor of the word “jogger”, has died in Britain. He was 75.
Harris worked as a sports reporter for the Sunday Times, the Times and the Observer for more than 40 years, and continued to cover county cricket for the Times until just a couple of years ago.
Harris, who was brought up in Hamilton, wrote more than 20 books, including a noted biography of the life of one of his home country’s greatest sporting heroes, Jack Lovelock, the Rhodes scholar whose last race was in winning the 1500m at the “Hitler Olympics” in Berlin in 1936.
Barely out of his teens and trying to make his way as a cub reporter, on the day after Murray Halberg and Peter Snell’s double gold feat at the Rome Olympics in 1960, Harris was summoned into the editor’s office at the New Zealand Herald and told to write up all he knew about Arthur Lydiard, the coach behind the Olympic champions. His career was launched.
Harris’s coverage of Halberg and Snell’s world record-breaking feats was syndicated around the world and he wrote several books on their feats, including Lap of Honour and, with the Australian distance running hero, Ron Clarke, The Lonely Breed.
But it was a short news story which appeared as a small, single-column item on 16 February 1962 in the Herald which was to make perhaps Harris’ greatest contribution to the English language: he introduced the word “jogger”.
Harris left New Zealand for London in the mid-1960s, joining the staff of the Sunday Times during what is regarded as that paper’s golden era of investigative reports.
In 1978, he organised the first Sunday Times National Fun Run in Hyde Park. The event soon caught the imagination of increasingly health and fitness-conscious Londoners and became a festival of running, a Glastonbury for joggers.
Harris continued writing, and jogging, too, well into his 70s. “I’ve had an interesting and varied career. Always independent, which made it interesting,” Harris said in an interview not long before his death. He also came to enjoy playing golf. In 2010, and despite having a handicap of 23, he got two holes in one in the space of 11 days.
Not bad for an old jogger, as Norman Harris might have said.
Original article by Steven Downes, Londonist, November 27, 2015.