UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Three new inductees were welcomed into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame Saturday: Fred Wilt, Tom Fleming and Kim Merritt. The ceremony was held at MVCC's Shafer Theater.
Wilt, who passed away in 1994, won ten national titles, including the NCAA two mile run and four mile cross-country run.
Fleming won the New York City Marathon in 1973 and 1975, while finishing second in the Boston Marathon in both 1973 and 1974. He was happy, but humbled to be elected to the HOF.
"I got into the sport kind of late, I wasn't a superstar age group runner, but once I got training I had a goal, to be a competitive marathon runner," Fleming told NEWSChannel 2. "You have to have goals and you have to work really hard. If you work really hard, there can be reward. I never thought I'd be inducted into the Hall of Fame, believe me, in my wildest dreams. Never thought I'd be a professional runner for that matter."
Merritt was a pioneer for women's running, training with boys while in high school and winning two state tiles in the mile. She would become the first and only women to win the NYC(in 1975), Boston (in 1976) and Honolulu (also in '76) Marathons. Merritt spoke of paving the way for future ladies to pursue the sport she loves.
"It was a struggle, there was only women's track, there was no cross country and I had to train with the guys. You had to be movitated and want to do it, because it wasn't popular to do it. I'd get strange looks from people, running along side the road. You had to be willing to not care what other people thought. That's what I like to tell young people, don't care what other people think you can do, you do what you want to do. That's how people become successful, you don't go by people telling you no you can't do that. Go ahead and do it if that's what you want to do."
Merritt plans to run the Boilermaker 5k Sunday with her daughter, while Fleming will be on hand, coaching several athletes who will be running.