This Week's Story

Glenn Cunningham's "great strength, his courageous attitude, and his strong heart and lungs make up for his lack of normal legs."

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Kansas Flyer, part three

“Son, you’re strong. I bet you weigh 175 pounds. Get a job. You don’t need eighth grade.”

Glenn wasn’t convinced. Dad does not understand. I want to stay in school! I have already missed four years – three years because the fire burned half of my body. Then I had seven wonderful months of school, before Mom and Dad moved to Colorado ranch country where there was no school. That was another year missed.

My parents have differences of opinion and they stick to them, but whatever Dad tells me to do, I do. Not this; I am staying in school!

In 1922 Glenn’s family had moved back to Kansas, and he had returned to school. In summers he worked hard, saving money for college. When he started his freshman year in high school, he was already eighteen. Three years later he graduated with honors.

Glenn Cunningham was a natural athlete, despite his heavy scars and need for long work-outs. He wrestled, boxed, played basketball, baseball, football, and track. Also, he sang well in glee club and played violin in the orchestra.

His high school coach, Roy Varney, shared, “I got him out for track by taking him out of study hall to practice. The first time he came out he could beat everyone else in school. The only trouble I ever had with him in track was getting him warmed up before a race…. It took him a mile, maybe two miles, maybe more to get his leg muscles loosened up.

“Glenn had a very unorthodox running pattern. At that time most runners ran the first quarter mile faster than any other. But Glenn never knew in any race he ever started whether his legs might give way.”

To the end of his running career Glenn’s style was to never start a race by taking the lead. Run with the other runners until he felt sure of his legs. That would be in the last half. Then blast off and overtake every runner ahead of you.

Doc Crawley, a future Kansas state boxing champion, was in high school with Glenn. Doc said, “He never thought he was a better athlete than the rest of us, like he knew it all. I’m trying to think of the word. It’s humble, I guess, he was that.… He didn’t cheat, and he had no use for anyone that did.

“He trained all the year round. If other boys went out and broke training rules, he’d get all over them. He sometimes disagreed with other students and I will say that he was very emphatic about his beliefs, like on smoking and drinking.”

Glenn liked running, and he ran to win and not to set records. When he ran at the Kansas University Relays, Brutus Hamilton, an outstanding university coach commented that Glenn “will be the strongest miler ever to step on a track. His great strength, his courageous attitude, and his strong heart and lungs make up for his lack of normal legs.”

His senior year Glenn competed in the Inter-scholastics in Chicago and won his first world record. His time was 4:24.7, a new world record for high school milers. He had opened-up with a surprising jump in speed in the last 100 yards.

This is Barbara Steiner. Soon I will return with the final chapter of “The Kansas Flyer.”

<< previous story] [next story >>

Facebook Join the conversation.

This Week's Story is a non-profit supported by listeners. [click here to make a donation with ]