A longtime Central Oregon Community College professor and decorated long-distance runner died last week.
Raymond Robert Hatton, COCC geography professor from 1969 through 1993 and a member of the USA Track & Field Masters Hall of Fame, died March 4 in Eugene. He was 83.
Born in England, Hatton was a competitive runner from an early age, representing England in the International Cross Country Championships in 1952. In 1956, he came to the United States as one of six English runners recruited to run for the University of Idaho.
Hatton’s son, Peter Hatton, said his father and mother, Raymond Hatton’s wife, Sylvia, had planned to return to England once he completed his studies. Instead, taken by the landscapes and history of the American West, he decided to stay.
Tom Carroll, an economics professor at COCC who taught alongside Hatton, said Hatton’s classes were always in high demand on campus, particularly a class he taught that largely consisted of field trips to sites of geographic interest around the area.
“He’d go 50 or 100 miles in one direction or another, over the Cascades or out in the desert, and he’d be talking the whole time, explaining things to people,” Carroll said.
Outside of his academic work at COCC, Hatton was a dedicated researcher and writer, publishing 10 books on Oregon history, geography and climate.
Carroll said Hatton’s books — four of which were written after he retired — show the passion he had for the landscape and people of his adopted home.
“I think you’d call that going above and beyond the call of duty, all of that enthusiasm bubbling up for his subject,” Carroll said.
Although he had been a successful runner in England and in college, Hatton’s greatest success came in his 40s and 50s.
Peter Hatton recalled a meet in the early 1970s at Bend High School in which his father was running against a field largely half his age or younger. Peter Hatton said the younger runners dismissed his father when he fell behind during the first few laps, then watched as he breezed past them in the final laps to take the race.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Hatton won multiple national age-group titles running at distances between 1,500 and 10,000 meters. He was named runner of the year for his age group twice by USA Track & Field.
In 1982 and 1983, Hatton set four age records for runners 50 to 54 years old that still stand, in the 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and 10,000 meters on both a track and a road course. Hatton’s marks in the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters would have had him challenging among the top 10 at the Oregon high school state championships last spring.
Peter Hatton remembered spending much of his childhood with his mother, sister Janice Hatton and his father on long road trips to the next masters track meet or race.
“I remember the travel. Travel was definitely a big part. Not just around Oregon, but going to Banff, Canada, and Cancun together,” Peter Hatton said. “He really enjoyed travel, and he enjoyed the mountains. Mountains were probably a favorite, and that’s why I think he loved Central Oregon, because he loved the mountains and the forest.”
Shevlin Park was Hatton’s favorite place to run, Peter Hatton said, and he’d often refer to it as “Dr. Shevlin,” a nod to the restorative powers he felt the park possessed.
Peter Hatton said his father remained in excellent health until he was slowed by Alzheimer’s disease in the last two to three years.
Although he’d retired from competitive running years earlier, he was still running 30 miles a week into his 70s, Peter Hatton said, about as much as he’d ever run during his most intensive training decades earlier.
Peter Hatton said he and his sister observed that their father passed away at 3:30 p.m. last Wednesday — the very time of day he’d almost always be lacing up his shoes to go for his daily run.
“We don’t know for sure, but we think he took off to go for a run,” Peter Hatton said.
Hatton is survived by his son; his daughter, Janice Hatton, of Eugene; and his wife, Sylvia Hatton, of Bend.
The family is in the early stages of arranging a memorial service to be held at COCC next month.
"If anyone my age wants to take me on, I'm ready," says 77-year-old Ray Hatton of Bend, Ore. "Otherwise, I am not really motivated to race these days. I much prefer to go out on the trails and enjoy the scenery."
When, during the early and mid-1970s, masters competition was still in its infancy, Hatton was "the man" on both the track and the roads, at least in races up to 20K. He set many American 40-44 records on the track, including 4:24.0 for 1 mile, 9:17.6 for 2 miles, and 30:56.0 for 10,000m. He no doubt would have had many road records, but his best performances came in the days before course certification and record keeping. Still, Hatton's name can be found four times among the all-time age-graded performances. They came between ages 49 and 55 and include a 31:51 (97.2 percent) for 10K at age 51 and a 1:09:23 (95.3 percent) for 20K at age 55.
Born in Lichfield, England, Hatton took up running in 1943 while in high school and didn't give up racing until 1992 after back surgery. "But I am still putting in 30 to 35 miles a week and my weight is still at 138-140, pretty much what it has always been," says Hatton, his English accent still very much with him even though he has lived in the U.S. since attending the University of Idaho on an athletic scholarship, where he won the 1959 Pacific Coast Conference cross country championship. He earned his master's degree at the University of Oregon and taught geography at Central Oregon Community College in Bend for many years.
Looking back, Hatton most treasures his days of running with the Birchfield Harriers in England, when he ran a 4:11 mile and 8:57 2-mile, excellent times in those days of low-mileage training, when the marathon was not a popular event. "I never really had the time or desire for high-mileage training and so was never motivated to run a marathon or go more than 20K," Hatton explains, mentioning that he rarely did more than 35 miles of training in one week.
"I do it mostly for health and fitness now," he adds. "But I don't really think that much about why I do it. Running is just part of me now."
Ray's bibliography and still the best books on the area:
Over the years, Hatton’s research, including numerous first-personfield interviews, has played an important role in preserving Central Oregon’s pioneer history.This work was the basis for ten books. Central Oregon’s geography, history, and climate are the subject of the first eight books.The last two books are on the weather and climate of the state of Oregon and thePortland, Oregonarea.Here is a list of his books:
Bend Country Weather and Climate, Binford and Mort, 1973; revised in 1977
High Desert of Central Oregon, Binford and Mort, 1977; second edition in 1981
Bend in Central Oregon, Binford and Mort, 1978
High Country of Central Oregon, Binford and Mort, 1980
Pioneer Homesteaders of the Fort Rock Valley, Binford and Mort, 1982
Oregon's Big Country: A Portrait of Southeastern Oregon, Maverick Publications, 1988
Sisters Country Weather and Climate, Maverick Publications, 1994
Oregon's Sisters Country(co-written with Lawrence A. Chitwood and Stuart G. Garrett), Geographical Books, 1996
The Oregon Weather Book: A State of Extremes(co-written with George Taylor and George H. Taylor), Oregon State University Press, 1999
Portland, Oregon Weather and Climate: A Historical Perspective, Geographical Books, 2005
In 1984, the Oregon Historical Societypublished a review ofPioneer Homesteaders of the Fort Rock Valleyin theOregon Historical Quarterly, the society’s premier history journal. The same journal published a review ofOregon’s Sisters Countryin 1998.
Personal note: I worked with Ray for many years. He was a kind and gentle man, dedicated to his work and his running. He was joy to be around. --------------------------------------- In 2001, ray was inducted in the the US Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame
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