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See how this verzbicas seriously injured in bike accident appeared when it was originally published on NYTimes. The program for the San Diego Invitational and newspaper clippings from the June 11, 1966, track and field meet at which Tim Danielson broke four minutes in the mile, finishing fourth.
Danielson’s stunning time that day was 3 minutes 59. It matched the time that Roger Bannister, an English medical student, had run on May 6, 1954, in becoming the first man to break the physical and psychological barrier that was four minutes. Until that moment, many outside the track world wondered whether such a feat was possible. A decade later, in 1964, Jim Ryun became the first American high school miler to break four minutes. By 1971, Danielson had apparently stepped from the track into the ether, vanishing from the public eye. But far from being forgotten, he became one of American track and field’s most enduring mysteries.
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Depending on one’s view, he left his career unfulfilled or defiantly refused to have his life’s boundaries set by a triumph, however enormous, that occurred before he turned 19. In November 2010, Danielson was named one of San Diego’s 50 greatest high school athletes. It took months to reach him and invite him to a reunion of Southern California’s top high school runners. Ralph Serna, a top high school runner in the 1970s who organized the reunion at a bar in Fullerton, Calif. I felt fortunate to finally be able to speak to the guy who only seemed to be an urban legend when I grew up. A shoe designer and track archivist, Serna began corresponding with Danielson. He prepared some mementos for the reunion: a picture of Danielson and other runners on a computer mouse pad, a pint glass bearing his name, a kind of baseball trading card that recorded Danielson’s best marks in high school, illuminating his speed and versatility: 50.
2 seconds for 440 yards, 1:53. Serna also made a DVD showing Danielson’s victories in the California state mile championship in 1965 and 1966, his face placid, his arms swaying slightly, his sinewy legs carrying him to easy victory. Many races from that era were grainy and filmed without a zoom lens. Danielson wrote in an e-mail on May 5, 2011. It doesn’t seem fair that this is all free.
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Later that May, the correspondence stopped. Danielson must have been busy at work, Serna figured. Danielson had the details about the reunion. Everyone would be excited to see him in July. Then, three weeks before the reunion, Serna received a cascade of e-mails from friends. It was 45 years — almost to the day — after Danielson’s milestone run.
Danielson would not be attending the reunion, one e-mail said blandly. Tim Danielson sat slumped on the toilet in a white T-shirt and underwear. He was breathing but apparently unconscious, unresponsive to the voices of sheriff’s deputies. In an adjacent bedroom, a generator ran loudly. The smell of gasoline was potent. Ming Qi, a former wife of Danielson’s, lay dead on the bed.
A pump-action shotgun lay beside her. By all accounts, Danielson had been gentle, humble, quiet, even-tempered, law abiding. He could not remember getting so much as a parking ticket. But his life had grown complicated, according to court records and interviews with his lawyer, friends, co-workers, neighbors and relatives. They described Danielson, now 65, as professionally dutiful and socially awkward, a steady and reliable engineer, but also a shy man who struggled with alcohol and relationships, married three times and had a long-term companionship and a son with a woman who had been his pen pal when she was in prison. In the late spring of 2011, Danielson grew despondent as his personal life became tangled. He had resumed drinking after 12 or 13 years of sobriety and had begun seeing a psychologist, his lawyer said.
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His family grew concerned about his state of mind. On the night of June 12, 2011, Danielson was accused of killing Qi, his third wife, who was 48. More news and information about China. Go to the China Travel Guide. China whom Danielson had met online. They were divorced but were living together at his gabled home in Lakeside, Calif. Serna, who organized the 2011 reunion.
For more than a year and a half, Danielson has awaited trial without bail in the San Diego County jail. At a recent hearing, he appeared in jail blues and sandals, his hands cuffed and bound to his waist, the chains that restricted him plinking in a nearly empty courtroom in El Cajon, Calif. Some things have surfaced which help explain my meltdown. He worked for the same aviation company in El Cajon for 40 years, Danielson wrote.
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He had become the chief scientist of chemical milling technology for GKN Aerospace Chem-Tronics, which manufactures parts and casings for jet engines. He was not ready for retirement and had planned to work at least two more years. No one could have ever guessed this outcome, me the most. But his races were a long way from Balboa Stadium. In his last five-kilometer run, he finished first in his age group in a community race.
Shortly after, he tore a tendon in his left foot that led to the collapse of his arch. Little exercise was permitted in the San Diego County jail, Danielson wrote. Once he could run a mile in four minutes. Now he was permitted only to walk around the tables in the jail cafeteria, 40 laps to the mile. In 1966, Tim Danielson was the second American high school athlete to run the mile in less than four minutes. Only three have managed the feat since. He had lost everything he owned — his house, cars, motor home, all-terrain vehicles, tools, even his clothes.
I’m just not sure when or if I’ll be out. The second of four brothers, Danielson was born to parents who square-danced in the garage and joked that there was never a time without a broken lamp in the house in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego. Go to the Seattle Travel Guide. Go to the Mexico Travel Guide.
Mexico, where Tim always seemed to coax fish onto his line. It was evidence of a competitive streak, relatives said, that included bowling and Scrabble games with his mother and, especially, varsity sports. At Chula Vista High School, Danielson played offensive and defensive end on the football team as a sophomore and junior. He also kicked and punted and said through his lawyer that he seldom left the field. Baseball might have been his best sport, he said, until he broke his clavicle, which interfered with his throwing. In 1965, Danielson became the California state champion in the mile. For his senior year in 1965-66, he decided to put his full concentration into running.
I had to block some of those big guys in football and it got a little rough. His workouts would become known for their volume and ferocity. In high school, he trained twice a day, sometimes even three times. Saturday and Sunday, a 15-mile run. At home, Danielson sprinted between telephone poles in the neighborhood. He lifted weights and practiced visualization, imagining his races before they happened.
Train harder than what the coach said. In the winter of his senior year, Danielson sustained a compression fracture in his back in a toboggan accident. He ran with an erect style that made him seem taller than 5 feet 9 inches, had quick acceleration, was quietly confident and possessed a barrel chest and muscularity at 145 pounds that did not fit the stereotype of the lean miler. More articles about the University of California.
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In 1966, Danielson won another California state mile title, in 4:07. 2 in a sectional race also limited to high school athletes. But he would need a field of older, elite runners to push him past the four-minute barrier. On June 11, 1966, Danielson found his race, a seven-man field in the San Diego Invitational.
The headliner was Jim Grelle of the United States, who had finished eighth in the metric mile at the 1960 Rome Olympics and had run a sub-four-minute mile 19 times. A day before the race, Danielson went to the beach and jogged through the surf to ease the soreness in his right Achilles’ tendon. The track at Balboa Stadium was rubberized asphalt, one of the early all-weather running surfaces, not cinders as Bannister had run on. Go to the Spokane Travel Guide. Riley, then the national prep record-holder at two miles, said of Danielson.
He had impeccable form — great arm carriage, high knee lift. Nothing about him didn’t say that this guy was a great runner. A lot of times, younger guys get overwhelmed. It was like he belonged there. The race strategy was to let Grelle go and to stay with the pack, a plan that unfolded as designed. The first four runners crossed the finish under four minutes. Danielson was among them, in fourth place at 3:59.
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4, a personal best by nearly seven seconds. Graduation day at Chula Vista High had not arrived, yet he was the 16th fastest miler in the world. Danielson told The San Diego Union after his record race. It all seems like a dream. In the fall of 1966, he left for Brigham Young, a track power that offered what Danielson considered a strategic advantage.
Go to the Utah Travel Guide. But the altitude experiment did not work. Danielson left after a year and returned to San Diego. He loved the mountains but was not prepared for the snow.
He also grew homesick and missed his girlfriend, James said. Danielson would insist on running 20 intervals of 440 yards, each in less than 60 seconds, at altitude, James said, or would augment a 10-mile run with seven or eight fast quarters on the track. But great runners have the ability to destroy themselves. They won’t take halfway and be satisfied. Danielson entered one of the most celebrated miles ever run in the United States as Ryun set a world record of 3:51. 1 on June 23, 1967, in Bakersfield, Calif. For half a mile, Danielson hung close in second place, but his boldness led to fatigue and Ryun pulled away.
Danielson said recently through his lawyer. The first seven runners broke four minutes. He was not to be the next great American miler. Go to the Los Angeles Travel Guide. Three days earlier, he had married Carolyn Mooers, whom he had met at the Y. Four months after the wedding, their son Brian was born.
With the Mexico City Olympics only months away, Danielson now had the responsibilities of being a husband, a father, a student and an athlete. Even if he had quit school, the rules of amateurism in that era would not have allowed him to be paid for his running. For the 1968 Olympics, Danielson attempted to qualify at 5,000 meters, or 3. But he never reached the qualifying standard of 13:50. Two weeks after that, Danielson could finish no higher than ninth at the national A. A last-chance qualifying attempt for the Olympic trials ended on Aug. San Antonio College Relays in California.
Tony Sucec, who coached Danielson at San Diego State. 200 meters of a mile about as fast as he could flat out. But in my mind, he didn’t have the ability to train as hard and consistently as he used to. Tim Danielson at a court hearing in El Cajon, Calif. Charged with killing Ming Qi, his third ex-wife, he has been in jail for more than a year and a half. If Danielson had any regrets about his running career, he seemed to keep them to himself. But he and his first wife drifted apart, and by 1974 they were divorced.
Mooers, whose name now is Carolyn Enns. It was so important to him. Even though the marriage did not last, Enns described Danielson as calm, never violent, quiet without being reclusive, a doting father. Please verify you’re not a robot by clicking the box. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to.
You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times’s products and services. You are already subscribed to this email. View all New York Times newsletters. At some point after the divorce, Danielson developed a drinking problem, according to his brother, his lawyer and former family members, who described multiple attempts by him to stop, including rehab.
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On May 17, 1986, Danielson married a second time, to a woman named Kathleen Ruff. The marriage lasted only about two and a half years until she filed for divorce and sought a restraining order against Danielson. According to an affidavit filed in the divorce case, Ruff said that she came home from work on Oct. She said she locked herself in a bedroom with her two daughters. Four days later, Ruff said in the affidavit, Danielson began yelling at her and prevented her and her two daughters from leaving the house. Previously, Ruff said, Danielson had put some guns outside the garage door and had brought a handgun inside the house. She said she feared for the safety of herself and her daughters.
Danielson denied ever displaying a weapon in a threatening manner. The handgun, he said in an affidavit, had always been in a night stand beside the bed and had been kept unloaded. The gun placed outside the garage was his son’s broken BB gun, he said. The divorce became final on Sept. Through her children, Ruff declined to be interviewed. Kim Ruff, a daughter, would not speak about the gun accusations from 1988.
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She said that Danielson did have issues with alcohol. 5 to 10 miles a day at that time. It was his understanding, Ruff said, that Danielson ran under an assumed name. I don’t think it was an ego thing. He didn’t define himself by the four-minute mile.
But his shyness became further isolating as Danielson’s smoking habit increased to two or three packs a day, his brother Mike said. Through the years, Tim also grew resentful toward his father, a disciplinarian, and believed that repeated spankings as a boy had later affected his ability to maintain relationships, his brother said. A correspondence with a woman who was imprisoned for robbery, according to court records and news accounts, led to a relationship and a second son, who was born in 1994 and is now a high school senior. About a decade later, Danielson met Ming Qi online and traveled to China to meet her and her teenage son, who came with his mother to the United States.
Danielson and Qi married in 2006 and divorced in 2008 but continued a complicated relationship that ultimately ended in tragedy. Mike Danielson said of the women in Tim’s life. I don’t know if he approached them. He was a hard person to pull things out of. He was also strong-willed, as indicated by his track achievements. Eventually, Danielson stopped drinking for a long period, telling his brother about 15 years ago that he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Ryun exchanged greetings with Danielson but remembered speaking more to the others.