________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 22 . . . . June 22, 2007


Running Uphill: The Fast, Short Life of Canadian Champion Harry Jerome.

Fil Fraser.
Edmonton, AB: Dragon Hill Publishing/Lone Pine Publishing, 2006.
240 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-896124-13-1.

Subject Headings:
Jerome, Harry, 1940-1982.
Runners (Sports)-Canada-Biography.
Black Canadians-Biography.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Val Ken Lem.

***½ /4


Harry Jerome died the year that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into being. Without its protection, he developed a unique and powerful mental and emotional tool kit to help him overcome the unavoidable adversities of his time. Its central tool was an extraordinarily powerful sense of discipline, a Spartan practice of keeping his troubles to himself and a near-superhuman work ethic. Had he lived longer, there is little doubt that he would have made an even more significant contribution to his country than he was able to achieve as an athlete and would have been recognized and celebrated along with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Lincoln Alexander and Austin Clarke and, yes, Donovan Bailey, Daniel Igali and Jarome Iginla.

Harry Jerome equaled or bettered numerous local, national, and international records during his long (for a sprinter) track career that came to an end in 1969 just shy of his twenty-ninth birthday. When injuries ruined Jerome’s medal hopes at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia in 1962, he was subjected to vitriolic abuse in the print media. Despite this opposition and a reduced financial scholarship at the University of Oregon in Eugene where he was training and studying, Jerome made a tremendous comeback, eventually winning a bronze medal in the 100 m race at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and gold medals in the 100 yard and 100 m races at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games of 1966 and Pan-American Games of 1967 respectively.


     Fil Fraser, a journalist, broadcaster, and movie producer has written a very readable and entertaining biography of this important Canadian. He draws widely from numerous interviews with Jerome’s friends, associates, and family members as well as newspaper and magazine articles that document Jerome’s accomplishments and misfortunes. Unfortunately, Jerome’s sister, Valerie Parker, who perhaps was his closest family member, was unwilling to share her insights about her brother’s personality and accomplishments. While many anecdotes reveal Jerome to be a complex individual who was fiercely competitive, very private, and very committed to advancing health and physical education in Canada, he remains something of a mystery. Nevertheless, this is a long-overdue and rewarding first biography of a gifted Canadian who overcame racial prejudice and physical injury to excel in sport and to represent his country well on the international stage. Later, he worked at the federal level and then in British Columbia educating young people about the value of sport and physical activity, and he became something of an activist speaking out for more representation of visible minorities in the Canadian media. Jerome’s brief illness and sudden death at the age of 42 was fast, just like the man himself.

     One of the marvelous characteristics of Running Uphill is that it will appeal to a wide spectrum of readers and not just sporting enthusiasts. It documents the racial discrimination that was still quite open in Canadian and American societies in the 1950s and 1960s, demonstrated by the petition, when Harry was eleven, by North Vancouver homeowners to have the Jerome family leave their newly purchased home (they settled in another part of North Vancouver where opposition to a Black family was muted), and by opposition to Harry’s courtship and marriage to Wendy Foster, a white woman from Edmonton who was a fellow student at the University of Oregon. The book also delves into the worlds of sport psychology, the history of sports training and (lack of) funding in Canada, sports journalism, and it includes a curious hypothetical evaluation of how Jerome would fare if he had competed with the improved sporting equipment, training and sporting facilities that more recent record holders have enjoyed.

     This book deserves a wide readership. Numerous b&w photographs show Jerome at all stages of life. Appendices include one on Jerome’s sporting records. There is no index and no bibliography.

Highly Recommended.

Val Ken Lem is a Catalogue Librarian and subject liaison for English, history, and Caribbean Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.