Alberto Salazar | University of Portland

Alberto Salazar

Born in Cuba, the American running and coaching legend Alberto Salazar first rose to prominence as a high school runner, winning the 1975 Massachusetts state cross country title and training with the famous Boston Track Club, whose members included world-class runners like Bill Rodgers. He then enrolled at the University of Oregon, beginning a life-long love affair with the Beaver State. As a Duck, running for Bill Dellinger, he was an All-American, helped win the 1977 national cross country title, was national cross country champion himself in 1978, and made the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team in the 10,000 meters, although that team never got to race in Moscow due to the American boycott. In 1981, just before he graduated, he broke the American indoor record in the 5,000 meter race by nearly 20 seconds, a stunning performance.

Salazar then moved up to the 26.1-mile marathon, winning three consecutive New York City Marathons from 1980 through 1982; he also won his hometown Boston Marathon in 1982, and finished that year ranked first in the world in the marathon and first in America in the 5,000 and 10,000 races. Over the next few years he continued to be among the finest runners on the planet, making the U.S. Olympic Team again in 1984 and winning the 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa in 1994, but finally he shifted his creativity and ferocious work ethic to coaching, where he has become world renowned all over again.

As coach of the Nike Oregon Project, Salazar has applied all sorts of training, conditioning, diet, tactical, and psychological ideas to the task of producing world-class runners who live and train in Oregon. While the culmination of Salazar’s coaching may have come in the 2012 Olympics, when Mo Farah of England won both the 10,000 and the 5,000 and Central Catholic alumnus Galen Rupp of the USA earned a silver medal in the 10,000, he has also coached Alan Webb, Adam Goucher, Kara Goucher, and many other runners to top-caliber feats on the track.

Yet even his own running and coaching feats were not enough for Salazar; in 2012 he published his autobiography, 14 Minutes: A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life, which explores his life from Havana to Oregon, and details the day in 2007 on which he suffered a heart attack and was clinically dead for 14 minutes. For all the glitter and gleam of his athletic and coaching accomplishments, Salazar here discusses, with remarkable eloquence and honesty, his deep Catholic faith, his conviction that grace has played a crucial and astonishing part in his life, and his belief, as he says, that there is far more for us to learn about life and death than mere biology. “Like so many young adults, I drifted away from Mass and the sacraments but finally returned with a vengeance,” he says.

“My faith is no longer just window dressing but something that pervades every part of my life. Even my regular workouts now include praying the Rosary. In my view I can do nothing without God. I put myself in God's hands. In the end, I believe, this is the only success that matters.”