by Janette Martin
February 4, 1991
Bradley Rendell Was 'Chariot Of Fire' In The 30's
He says the dream bug bit him kind of young.
He walked from his Gerry home to Levant, he says, when he was a kid - 11 or 12 - and watched some marathon runners sail through.
As he stood along the side of the road, he says he thought to himself, "I can run faster than those guys."
That was about 1931.
As it turns out, a good portion of this Blockville resident's life was spent proving to the world that he could indeed run faster than those guys as well as any other guys who wanted to give chase.
He says he always dreamed of being the best.
By all accounts, he became a champion of Olympic proportions.
The newspapers from his youth are now yellowed clippings, but in many circles his athletic reputation is still as clear as the words that record the history.
The year was 1934 and the place was the Schoolboy Olympics, a series of events that reportedly separated the men from the boys.
To get into that race against the champions, Rendell had to demand placement.
"In those days, Falconer was a C school and the race was for A school kids," he explained.
I said, "Hey, you've got me listed in Class C, but I don't want to run there."
Rendell says the man told him, "If you're pretty good, you'll win in Class C."
Rendell told the fellow he did not care. "Move me up to Class A."
One race in his youth was a photo finish and Rendell says, "It took 15 minutes to determine 'the other guy' won and to realize both runners had broken the world record."
His time in the mile was a Chautauqua County record for 37 years and his sectional mile withstood breaking for 30 years.
In 1935 he captured the national scholastic mile in Chicago.
In 1936 he won the Schoolboy Olympics outdoor mile championship and left his competitors in the dust. He set a new high school world record of 4:22.4 and he was awarded the Governor Roy Smith Trophy.
For three years in a row he won the Thanksgiving Day races. By 1939 he was judged the fourth fastest miler in the country, and during that year he won the 1500-meter steeplechase at the Penn Relays. In that event he rated first. The best.
As a student at Alfred University, he rang up five records. He ran in Madison Square Garden 17 times.
Rendell had dreams, aspirations and goals. He was determined to be the best in the world, and so he trained.
Hour after hour, day after day, month after month, for years and years. "I trained like a dog. I put everything into it."
In the beginning he was self-trained.
He calls himself "a farm boy, a country boy" and acknowledges he had a long, country walk to school every day.
But instead of walking, he ran.
All the way there.
All the way home.
Fourteen miles a day, all told.
"I'd make the 7 miles to school in one hour and five minutes," he says. This was, he says, the best and earliest training. He ran through snow and rain.
He worked out a simple way to pace himself.
"I'd say to myself, 'Walk one pole, run two poles,'" as he dashed down the country road past telephone poles.
The 1937 Alfred squad did not lose a single meet. Rendell was on the team.
His name graced headlines of New York City papers and telegrams filled with congratulations and too many trophies and medals to count.
And then the dream ended.
It was 1940.
He had qualified for a position on the U.S. track team; he was going to run the steeplechase.
He was ready, set to go.
But politics got in the way, and as history verifies, his very real dream became a pipe dream.
No Olympic games.
Rendell offers one sentence only. "It was about like shooting you."
That was his last chance.
He was not rich, and he says he had to support himself.
Although he continued to run, he was working "about 90 hours a week."
In 1946 he ran what he thinks was one of the most important races of his life.
As a coach and teacher at Panama School, "I caught some of the boys smoking, oh yeah, they were smoking, those boys were."
So Rendell made a bet with those boys.
"I told them I'd run 12 miles in an hour and a half if they agreed to put up a dollar per mile and agreed to stop smoking if I won."
Rendell backed the bet up with $12 of his own.
The boys climbed into a 1936 Ford and he told one boy to "drive the car and hold the money."
He also told the driver to "run over him if he went slower than 10 miles per hour." "If I was going that slow, I knew I'd lose," he explains.
Halfway through the race, Rendell told the boys he'd "run right into Corry for $25 more."
There were no takers.
Rendell came in 20 minutes ahead of time.
He took the money and ran. "I still have that money," he laughs.
Rendell says he is not sure what drove him to realize his dream of becoming a championship runner.
"I always used to dream of doing something someone else couldn't do," he says.
Rendell says the dream to win wrapped up his life for many years. "I ran, ran, ran, trained, trained, trained. It was hard work," he says.
And although he says the dream is over, that he doesn't run anymore, it's not quite the truth.
When the interview's over, he pulls on his boots and insists on a visit to his barn to see the animals.
Walking the few hundred yards alongside this 75-year-old man is no easy trick.
His stride is intensive; his arms still hang loosely at his side; he takes the lead. And he maintains a furious pace right to the finish.