Donald Lash (Donald Ray Lash)

Donald Lash

Donald Lash (August 15, 1912 – September 19, 1994) was an American long-distance runner who won 12 national titles from 1934 to 1940, including seven consecutive men’s national cross-country championships, and who set a world’s record for the two-mile run in 1936. Born in Bluffton, Indiana, Lash grew up in Auburn, Indiana, where he graduated from high school in 1933 after setting a new Indiana state record of 4:30.5 for the indoor mile. As a student at Indiana University, Lash set an American record of 31:06.9 for 10,000 meters. In June 1936, he broke Paavo Nurmi’s world record for the two mile, running 8:58.4, besting Nurmi’s record by 1.2 seconds. Competing in the 1936 Summer Olympics, he placed 13th in the 5,000-meter run and eighth in the 10,000-meter. In 1938, Donald Lash set a meet record of 14 min., 39 sec., for 5,000 meters at the Amateur Athletic Union indoor national championships. That same year he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete. Lash attributed his endurance to his unusual ability to store oxygen in his system. Speaking to a meeting in Auburn in 1937, Lash said that he knew when he would win a race by having a blood count before running.

World War II precluded any further chance for Lash to compete in the Olympics. Having married Margaret Mendenhall in 1938, Lash began a law-enforcement career with the Indiana State Police, then became an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1941. He retired from the FBI in 1962 to become a regional director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and appeared frequently as a motivational speaker. In 1973, he opened a real estate business in Rockville, Indiana. He also was elected to five terms (1973–1982) as a Republican member of the Indiana State House of Representatives, serving Fountain, Montgomery and Parke counties. Donald Lash died of spinal cancer at a hospital in Terre Haute, Indiana, and is buried in Rush Creek Cemetery near Tangier in Parke County. Don and Margaret Lash had two sons and a daughter. Don Lash Park in Auburn is named for him. Lash was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995. Lash’s autobiography, The Iron Man from Indiana: the Don Lash Story, was published in 1999.

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  • August, 15, 1912
  • USA
  • Bluffton, Indiana


  • September, 19, 1994
  • USA
  • Terre Haute, Indiana

Cause of Death

  • spinal cancer


  • Rush Creek Cemetery
  • Tangier, Indiana
  • USA

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