The inside scoop on local business man and coach Norman Higgins
Everyone knows Norm. Whether it’s seeing him talk to a coach during practice or seeing him in his store, Connecticut Sporting Goods, he’s a guy that all East Lyme residents have ran into at some point.
But did you know that he had six American records for running events?
Did you know that he has trained Olympic athletes?
Have you heard all of his life stories?
Norman Higgins has lived a full, yet humble, life filled with many adventures and accomplishments, starting at a young age.
When Mr. Higgins was in high school, his track coach told him that he should run with Olympian John Kelly, so he did. He knocked on his door, asked to run with him, and gained life-long insight.
“John Kelly said to me, ‘You love to run, and that is the key to life. You have to love what you do’ and I’ve done what I love ever since then,” said Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Higgins has continued and shared his love for running with sophomore Brie am Ende, who he has trained since she was in 7th grade.
“[Norm] is a great coach and seems to know a little bit about almost everything. He’s motivated me to do my best in cross country and I’m so glad I got to train with him,” said am Ende.
From 1960-1962, Mr. Higgins served in the U.S. Army in the 7th Cavalry Regiment in West Germany, and was also on the Army track team.
“What my time in Germany really taught me was that camaraderie and teamwork is what it takes to be successful in both sports and in life,” said Mr. Higgins.
After his time in the Army, Mr. Higgins moved out to California and lived there for about four years while he marathon trained with a former Hungarian Olympic running coach. His training in CA allowed him to win the National Marathon Championship in 1966 and receive an invitation to run in the World Championship in Japan.
Three weeks before the big World Championship, Mr. Higgins ate “bad oysters” at a restaurant in Japan and was sick on bed-rest for two weeks until he was finally able to start walking again.
Although he was upset that he didn’t do well at the World Championship because of his illness, Mr. Higgins felt accomplished because he had “completed his goal of being the best marathoner in the nation.”
After returning back to Connecticut and recovering from the illness, Mr. Higgins decided to drive to New York City for what he thought was a 5k race at Van Cortland Park. When he noticed no one there, he called an official who told him it was at Central Park. When he arrived, he discovered that it was not a 5k, but the NYC Marathon.
“I saw a sign that said marathon, and thought ‘Hey, why not’ so I signed up for the race. I hadn’t eaten anything all morning, so I got a Coke and a bagel, ate that, and then ran. I was planning on using this marathon in a few months,” said Mr. Higgins.
Two hours and 22 minutes of running in 90 degree weather, Mr. Higgins had “accidentally” won the New York Marathon. The 2.5 foot tall trophy he received from winning can be found in his shop, Connecticut Sporting Goods, which he started in 1972 with the $50 he had in his pocket.
Since then, Mr. Higgins has started his own honey business from the bee farm he has at his house. His interest in bees was started during his time served in Germany, when a German farmer invited him to come see his bee farm.
He now spends his days at his store and spreading his love for both athletics and life with the East Lyme community. Norm is not just the friendly, talkative man we all know him as, but he is a local inspiration and someone to turn to if you want a good laugh or some life advice.