The South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame is dedicated to the preservation, documentation and display of South Dakota's sports history.

Leonard "Buddy" Edelen - Inducted 1989

Edelen’s success as a marathon runner inspired a generation of runners, including Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers.

The 1955 Sioux Falls Washington High grad taught in England from 1960-65 and while there entered cross country and marathon races around the world. He set the American record in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1962, running 2:18:57. He set a world record of 2:14:28 in Britain’s Polytechnic Marathon on June 15, 1963, shaving 48 seconds off the old mark. He was the first American marathoner in almost four decades to set a world record.

The 1964 Olympic marathon trial in Yonkers, N.Y., was run in such heat and humidity that seven out of every 10 entrants dropped out; the 5-10, 135-pound Edelen won by almost 20 minutes. Within a week he was having sciatic difficulties. Edelen was sixth in the marathon (2:18:12) in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He ran 13 more marathons, winning seven. He stopped competing at age 28.

In the four years leading up to the Olympics, he made $120 a month teaching in a private school in England and lived in a one-room apartment with no telephone and no refrigerator. When he lacked the $650 needed to go to the United States for the 1964 Olympic trials, kids at the Sioux Falls YMCA raised the money through car washes, dances, basketball games and donations. His training regimen was unusual: he drank beer nightly and smoked a cigarette every now and then, although he logged 130 miles a week.

At the University of Minnesota he was Big Ten cross country champ as a junior and won the two-mile in track. As a senior at Washington High in the 1954-55 school year, Edelen set records in every cross country and mile race he ran and set state mile record of 4:28.8. Born in Harrodsburg, Ky., and reared in the Twin Cities area, he only lived in Sioux Falls one year.

In the book “A Cold Clear Day: The Athletic Biography of Buddy Edelen,” author Frank Murphy said one race promoter once “lost” a bet of 100 quid to Edelen, saying he could not jump over “that suitcase.” When Edelen did it, he won the bet and was able to retain his amateur status and stay eligible for the Olympics (the Olympics in those times were for amateurs only).

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