Charles Jenkins has traveled the world because of his feet, his Aunt Agnes, Tom Duffy, Jumbo Elliot and a French sprinter named Jean-Paul.
They all played crucial roles in the seven years between the time he picked up track as a sport and the summer of 1956 when he ascended a platform in Melbourne, Australia, to accept two Olympic gold medals.
When he talks about his life today, the 43-year-old Jenkins uses the word "fortunate" a lot. Unlike many former Oympians, especially those in the individual sports. Jenkins' athletic efforts did not fade into the pages of a record book.
He parlayed his wins in the 400-meter run and the 400-meter x 4 relay into years of good-will "sports diplomacy" around the world.
Today. he has a good job with the Office of Education, where he works in a division that parcels out federal aid to state educational programs and is finishing his doctoral dissertation on education and national development in Indonesia.
He would like some day to return to international work, perhaps as an ambassador to a country in Southeast Asia.
His high school years were spent in Cambridge, Mass., with his aunt, Agnes Wheaton, who coached a girls track team and encouraged him to go out for track.
"I was lousy at first, but nobody laughed," he recalled in a refined Bostonian accent he has not lost over the 11 years he and his family have lived in Silver Spring.
He was in a general course at Rindge Technical High, but his aunt - figuring track would open the door to an athletic scholarship to college as it eventually did - had him switched to a colleg-bound curriculum.
It was when he tried out for the team that he met Tom Duffy, the track coach, who was to become an invaluable adviser and friend. "He told me to make track work for me in terms of academics," Jenkins recalled. "When I was a senior, he would even drive me to various colleges to see where I wanted to go. He even drove me to Morgan State."
As a junior, Jenkins ran the 600-yard indoors in 1:16.2, breaking the previous record of 1:64.4 at a maror meet for boys at Madson Square Garden. "To my surprise I broke a record that hadn't been broken in 20 to 25 years. The Boston papers were extremely good on schoolboy sports and they ran my picuture and there were writeups.
"Tom was sensible enough about how this could affect at high school kid and he'd ask me how I felt about all the publicity. You can lose you sense of equilibrium without proper counsel. But, quite honestly, I didn't think much about it."
There were other victories as Jenkins won very race in the 600 indoors and 440 outdoors he ran in as a junior and senior, except for one state outdoor meet in his junior year.
In both year, he also won the 440' yard indoor schoolboy nationals with times of 51.7 as a junior and 50.5 as a senior, but did not break the schoolboy record of 49.8.
As a senior, he won 10 indoor 600 meets, with a best time of 1:13.1 at a Bowdoin College invitational, breaking the high shcool meet record of 1:14.7. On the same day he broke the college and high school meet record in the 300 in 21 second flat.
During the outdoor season, he won an open state meet by breaking the state record of 50.0 with a 48.2, but it was not his most startling accomplishment. As the anchor in a relay, he finished in 47.5 - a time that had college coaches gawking. he repeated that time in a later invitational relay.
Jenkins chose Villanova because of its academic program - he wanted to major in economics - and because of Jim (Jumbo) Elliott, the track coach.
"I was lucky again. It was the second time I ended up with a coach who was just as dedicated to academics at athletics. He practically said not to come out freshmen year, to study instead," said Jenkins.
Most of his freshman year was spent in indoor relays, but he was invited to and won the 600 of the Boston Knights of Columbus meet in 1:12.2 - a little short of the meet record of 1:11.5 - and was named outstanding performer. He repeated the win as a sophomore, but broke the record in 1:10 flat.
There followed a string of other wins in 600 events sponsored by the New York Athletic Club and the IC4A, during which he met former and future Olympians who would help guide him toward the gold medal. Their self-confidence inspired him. "I couldn't ever in mind imagine losing," he recalled.
But, it was Jean-Paul, (whose last name Jenkins can't recall, who helped Jenkins to his Olympic victory. They were competing together in the last few qualifying together in the last few qualifying heats before the final. Because the heats were only 90 minutes apart, Jenkins was pacing himself, figuring if he made at least third place in the heats, he'd be set.
"He told me I couldn't take it easy. that there were four potential finalists and one of us would not make it," Jenkins remembered of the 400-meter semifinals. "I ran the fastest (46.1) I ever did. If it hadn't been for that guy, I very easily could have been out of it."
He won the final in 46.7 and the next day was anchor on the relay team that won the gold medal in 3:04.8.
Participating in the Olympics and touring through Europe afterward postponed his college graduation a year. "Track and pretty much given me what I wanted. It had given me an education and a chance to travel around the world," he said. "After college, I wanted to follow up on some of the wonderful experiences I had had."
He applied to the State Department for a six-month tour of Southeast Asia where he could conduct clinics and workshops for coaches.
His wife, Issie, who had just finished law school, went with him to Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam. Cambodia, Laos, Malaya and the Philippines. The tour was so successful that the State Department asked him to stay for six more months. Eventually, it turned into a three-year trip.
Other countries then asked him to visit as their guest and he ended up spending a few more years in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma.
After that, he joined the administration staff of the Peace Corps here, eventually going to the Philippines where he was an administrator for the Corps with John Rockefeller IV, now the governor of West Virginia.
Jenkins would like to repeat those exciting days - in international relations, he makes clear. "I don't even like tojog today."