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  • Writer's pictureMichael Dunlap

Ron Tabb

On our next podcast we visit with an old friend of the Beards - Ron Tabb. I would rank Ron in the top 5 US marathoners during the period of 1978-1984 with Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley.


Ron Tabb (born August 7, 1954) Ron is a retired male long-distance runner from the United States, who competed in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the men's marathon. He won the 1981 edition of the Paris Marathon. He won the 1983 Beijing Marathon and competed at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics later that year, finishing in 18th place overall. He qualified for the 1980 Olympic team but never competed due to the U.S. boycott on the Moscow Games that year. He once held the fifth fastest marathon time ever run by an American. Tabb is a four time United States Olympic trials qualifier. He is one of only four Americans to run more than 20 marathons under 2:20 and he is one of two Americans to a win major marathon on five different continents.

From 1981 through 1983 he was married to and coached Mary Decker. While overseeing Decker's training Mary set several world records both indoors and outdoors. Among the many records she set were the 1 mile, 3,000, 5,000, and 10,000. Decker remains the only athlete to ever accomplish this feat male or female.

Born and raised in Lexington, Mo. Tabb began running track in the spring of his junior year. He immediately found success running the two mile where he set the L.H.S. school record which still stands as of 2020. Tabb's success earned him an athletic scholarship to Central Missouri State University.[1]

At Central Missouri, Tabb broke every school record from the mile to 10,000 meters and he was a four time NCAA All American. After college, in 1977 Tabb set his sights on qualifying for the 1980 United States Olympic marathon trials and in January 1978 he won his first major marathon in Houston (2:17:11) setting a Texas state record and qualifying for the United States Olympic trials.

In January 1980, Tabb again won the Houston Marathon (2:13:35) re-setting the mark he established in 1978, then in February he won the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans (2:11:00) setting a Louisiana state marathon record which continues to stand in 2020. In April Tabb finished 3rd at the Boston Marathon (2:14:48), and in May Tabb went on to finish 4th at the Olympic Marathon (2:12:39) trials.

In 1983 Tabb who had been self coached since 1977 began training under the legendary University of Oregon coach Bill Dellinger. Dellinger once coached the great Steve Prefontaine and he was coaching Alberto Salazar the current world record holder in the marathon. Under Dellinger's guidance Tabb became the fifth fastest marathon runner in United States history by finishing 2nd at the 1983 Boston Marathon (2:09:31). Entering 1984 Tabb was a favorite to win a medal in the Olympic Marathon but a series of injuries derailed his hopes.


Ron Tabb finishing the 1983 Boston marathon in 2nd place. 2:09:31 earning him a spot to represent the US at the World Championships later that year.


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