Fact-File: Professor Paul A. Gompers
Height: 5 feet 8 1/2 inches
Weight: 135 pounds
Marital Status: Married with three children
Favorite Food: Sushi (Acquired a taste for this at the ’85 World University games in Kobe, Japan.)
Favorite Drink: White wine
Favorite Film: Chariots of Fire (Ed- how appropriate.)
Favorite Band: R.E.M
How Acquired Nickname: Had it for ever.
Harbus: What sport did you play, and what level did you participate at?
Paul Gompers: I ran long distances. I was an ‘All American’ at College and competed internationally for the US. I was an alternate for the 1988 US Olympic Marathon team- I came fourth in the trials (they only take three.) That was a big disappointment as I lost the third place spot in the final 2 miles of the 26 mile marathon.
Harbus: So for Olympic selection, winner takes all?
PG: Yes. There’s a certain amount of controversy about the system as some of the best runners can be kept out of the Olympics if they have an injury during the trials. For example the United States best prospect, Khalid Khannouchi will not be able to complete trials for the 2004 Olympics due to a current injury which will most likely be fine by the time the actual event occurs.
Harbus: What’s your best marathon time?
PG: My personal best is 2h 11m 38s, but one of my most memorable runs was the first marathon I ran in (took me 2h 15m 26s.) I was 19 years old and towards the end of the marathon I knew I had made a good time as people were shouting about how fast I was going. It turned out that I broke the Junior World Record!
Harbus: WOW. So you broke the Junior World Record in your first ever marathon!
Harbus: What got you into running?
PG: I’ve loved sports since the age of two- I guess it’s in my genes. I missed the chance to trial for the high school football team as my family had just moved to a new town. The coach suggested I ‘try another sport’ so I took up cross country and started running 20 miles a week. Over the summer vacation I had lots of free time so just ‘decided’ to increase my weekly distance to 120 miles- I had nothing better to do! After the vacation I realized that I had found a sport that I loved and that I was good at.
Harbus: What was your best sporting moment?
PG: Winning the bronze medal at the 1985 World University Games in Kobe, Japan was great. This was especially important to me as the week before my father had passed away and there was a lot of debate about whether I should go. In the end I knew my father would have wanted me to run. It was 90 degrees with 80% humidity and I gave everything I had. It meant a lot to me to do that.
Harbus: What was your worst sporting moment?
PG: That would be when I was competing in the 20km Paris to Versailles road race. The starting gun went off and I fell over (someone stepped on my shoe.) I made to get up and was pushed straight down again- I had visions of not getting up until 12,000 people had passed. Luckily I made it up with just a few cuts and bruises. That kind of thing doesn’t happen now as there’s a decent gap between the different classes of runners so there’s less pushing and shoving.
Harbus: Do you still run competitively?
PG: I officially retired after the 1992 Olympic trials although I did run the 1996 Boston marathon for HBS. I still run 10-12 miles a day in order to stay fit, its nice to get outside and get the time to myself.
Harbus: Thanks for your time Professor Gompers.
PG: My pleasure!
Editor’s note – Prof. Gompers will be teaching The Entrepreneurial Manger to NE for those of you who fancy challenging him to a race!