The Track in the Forest

The Track in the Forest
The Track in the Forest

The Track in the Forest

The Creation of a Legendary 1968 US Olympic Team
By Bob Burns


272 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, PDF, Mobipocket, EPUB

Cloth, $26.99 (CA $35.99) (US $26.99)

ISBN 9780897339377

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Oct 2018)


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The untold story of how an off-the-beaten-track mountaintop site helped forge one of the greatest Olympic teams in history, as closely associated with social and racial consciousness then as protesting NFL players are today
The 1968 US men’s track and field team featured such legends as Tommie Smith, Bob Beamon, Al Oerter, and Dick Fosbury and they won 12 gold medals and set six world records at the Mexico City Games, one of the most dominant performances in Olympic history. The Black Power protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the victory stand in Mexico City remains a most enduring images of the games. A 400-meter track carved out of the Eldorado National Forest above Lake Tahoe played a role in molding that juggernaut. To acclimate US athletes for the elevation of Mexico City, the training camp and final Olympic selection was held at Echo Summit near the California-Nevada border. On a track in which hundreds of trees were left on the infield to minimize environmental impact, four world records fell—more than have been set at any US meet since. But the Vietnam War was raging, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and a group of athletes from San Jose State had been threatening to boycott the Mexico City Games to protest racial injustice. Informed by dozens of interviews and the deep knowledge of sports journalist and track enthusiast Bob Burns, this is the story of how in one of the most divisive years in American history, a California mountaintop provided an incomparable group of Americans shelter from the storm.


"Capturing the tenor, the feel, of any year—never mind the tortured days of 1968—is usually a fool's mission. But by attacking the subject in miniature, via probing interviews and exhaustive research on the US Olympic track team as it barreled toward Mexico City, Bob Burns pulls it off. That so diverse a group vividly reflected the nation's tumult comes as no shock. What's stunning is how their days on that high, remote track, then and now, allowed so many a measure of peace." —S.L. Price, Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of Playing Through The Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town

“Who knew that the seeds for the now historic performances of US track and field athletes in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, in the midst of tumultuous and tragic times in America, were sown in the unlikely setting of a California mountaintop? Bob Burns knew, and he now tells the tale with grace and insight in this compelling book.” —Ira Berkow, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and sport journalist

The Track in the Forest captures an unforgettable period in my life and the lives of all who experienced the majesty of Echo Summit. From the tumult of 1968 to the aroma of the magnificent ponderosa pines, Bob does the story justice.” —Ralph Boston, gold medal-winning Olympic long jumper

"Burns does a masterful job weaving the narratives of the men training together, vying for coveted spots on the U.S. team in an idyllic setting, a stark contrast to the turbulent events shaking the country." —Booklist

Author Biography

Bob Burns served as sports editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and as a senior writer at the Sacramento Bee. He has also written for the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Examiner. Burns served as communications director for the 2000 US Olympic Track and Field Trials and spearheaded the designation of Echo Summit as a California State Historical Landmark.