High School & College Years

High School Years: 1970-1973
Lowell HS Track Coach John Lang
congratulates tri-capt. Tom Beland as soph Bob Hodge looks on...


With coach John Lang 1972.

 

"Following my bliss"

In the beginning there was baseball, but the interest was waning. Pre-occupied with survival in that freshman year I wondered what had happened to the relative simplicity of grammar school. In gym class, usually having neglected to bring shorts and a t shirt, I would participate in that days activities in my chinos and wing tipped shoes. On the baseball diamond I was a master at walking whenever I came to bat. I would tell the catcher as I headed too first "I will be taking second, first pitch, try and stop me."

No one ever could even in my wing tipped shoes. As a result my gym teacher suggested that I go out for the cross country and track teams. I did. My first workout was a bunch of 220’s, all out. That was on a Thursday. On Friday we ran two miles. The coach took me aside afterwards and asked if I thought I was ready to compete in the teams cross country race the next day. Ready or not, it would be the frosh/soph division of the Catholic Memorial Invitational at famed Franklin Park in Boston. I ran OK. I beat a couple of people. What I enjoyed most was the camaraderie, the bus ride, the adventure.

While playing pick up baseball games on the North Common, Acre, Lowell we would watch members of the great Lowell High School wrestling team running their laps round the perimeter of the common. On occasion I would join them or the boxers who trained at the local gym near my house, brothers in sweat.

Running took a hold. With money I earned working the bingo games at my former grade school, I bought subscriptions to Track & Field News and purchased many of the books they advertised.The simply written biographies of Jim Ryun, Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Ron Clarke and others and the mind opening "Run To The Top" of Arthur Lydiard. These books kindled the fire. I read them over and over.

As a freshman and sophomore I did everything and anything that the coaches told me to do. As I became more learned I added a few things and suggested others to the coaches. One memorable moment came in my sophomore year when I ran a mile race in an indoor dual meet against the State Champion, Jim Kent from Lawrence High School. (I believe he was state champ. I would have to look it up to be absolutely sure.) Jim was due to run the following evening in a big invitational mile race featuring some of the countries best high school milers. He had run a 4:11.

The assistant coach for our team, Dave Flanagan (head coach John Lang) insisted that I push the pace because Jim would like to run as easily as possible with a big race the next day. I certainly was not considered a threat. The coach thought I might upset him. Jim led the first 440 in 72 seconds. My coaches were screaming for me to go by him. I sprinted past him and never looked back though I could feel his presence right on my heals.

With two laps to go on the eleven plus laps to the mile track, Jim went by and opened a small gap. I hung on gamely and as we entered the last lap, coming off of the sharp turn of the nearly square track, into the straight I attempted to pass. People were screaming sensing a possible upset. Jim ran me wide and nearly into the wall of the cage as many people howled in protest.

I ran a PR. Jim jogged with me afterwards and shook my hand and patted me on the head.

I caught fire that day.

Articles:
Hodge Indoor Mile Record (1973) Surpassed in 2005! 
Hodge Outdoor Mile Mark Broken After 31 Years!!

High School Performances since 1960's as compiled by malmo:
High School Performances


College Years:   1974 - 1976


V. Fleming/Hodge DIII XC
 Cleveland, 1976.

Collegiate dual meet - 1976
Winning the Mile.

Bob & Vin Fleming

The transition from Junior College to full time employee, combined with a knee injury, kept me mostly on the sidelines in 1974. In August of 1974 I read an account of the Falmouth Road Race in the newspaper. This was the second running of the race and featured Bill Rodgers “who upset renowned miler Marty Liquori.”

I remembered Bill from the Manchester Ct. Thanksgiving Day Road Race in 1973 where I had battled with him down the final straightaway and finished just behind him in 7th place. I also spotted the names of some other runners who I had competed against on occasion, including Vin Fleming a teammate in JC.

This story got me excited and thinking about competition again. I had never stopped running entirely but my running had become very sporadic. I began to get back to a more regimented running routine and thought about returning to college at the University of Lowell, my hometown school.

In the fall of 1974 I met George Davis Head Coach at the University of Lowell. We had a good talk and I applied to enroll at the school. I began school in January of 1975 after one year working at Raytheon Corp. I was not in very good shape. My first race was a 2 mile in 9:59. I had run a PR 9:08 in Dec. 1973.

I made steady progress and in the outdoor season qualified for the D III Nationals running 14:25 for three miles while finishing 10th in the New England Championships, a race won by future teammate and competitor Randy Thomas. The nationals were held at Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland Ohio. There was a trial heat to be run in the three mile. I finished 5th in my heat in 14:13 making the final.

The day before the final Pre had his fatal car accident in Oregon. I was inspired by Pre and had a picture of him from the cover of Sports Illustrated hanging on my wall. There was a moment of silence before the race began honoring Pre. I finished 11th in the final in 14:25. I enjoyed the experience and felt that I was making good progress. A summer of distance runs and low key races was the plan I would follow and I hoped that would get me back up to a level that I knew I could compete at.

Because I was a JC transfer and had competed in cross country in JC I had to sit out my first fall season at Lowell. I began competing for the Greater Boston Track Club and doing some workouts with them at Boston College. We pointed for the National 20k Road Championship to be held in Gardner Ma. in Oct.

Two weeks before the National we competed in the New England 15k Road Race in Manchester NH. On a rolling hilly course I ran one of my best efforts to date and humbled my teammate Randy Thomas in the process winning the race in 45:25. I was thrilled!

The Greater Boston Team were preparing for the Cross Country Nationals which would be held at Annapolis Maryland in November. I ran poorly at Nationals and did not compete as well in cross country that fall as I had been doing on the roads.

I was looking forward to indoor track as I knew I was training at a higher level and should be able to run some significant PR’s. One race which stands out in my memory was a 2 mile at the Dartmouth Relays. The field included John Treacy, Randy Thomas, Amby Burfoot, Mike Roche and other national class runners. I was pumped.

When the gun was fired I shot directly into the lead coming through the 400 in 60 seconds. After those first two laps I relaxed. I could tell from the reactions of the small crowd that they were astounded that I remained in the lead, passing the mile in 4:19.

I led for 14 and a half laps of the 16 lap race before the pack caught and swallowed me. John Treacy won the race in 8:46. I finished 6th in 8:48, five of us finishing within 2 seconds of John. Unbelievably, to me, I received a letter from a fellow runner I respected criticising me for running a poor tactical race! At this point in my running I only had one tactic, run very hard!

I also ran my lifetime personal best for the mile (4:08) during this indoor season, at a dual meet with Colby College. On a flat 200m oval I ran solo from the gun splitting, 61, 2:03, 3:07. The second place finisher ran 4:25.

The outdoor season was rather disappointing. I was losing the conditioning that I had gained the previous summer. I ran 14:24 at the NCAA III Nationals. The summer was productive averaging around 90 miles per week with a few low key competitions thrown in. I was anticipating a fine cross country season. Vin Fleming my teammate in Junior College, with GBTC and now at Ulowell was back as the returning champion in Division III. We had a solid team and finished 5th at the New England Championships. (See News Story)

Next up was the NCAA Division III Nationals in Cleveland Ohio. The meet was hosted by Baldwin Wallace college and was held on a snow covered golf course. I did not bring spikes with me to the meet. I had been having problems with my plantar tendon and wanted to hold off wearing spikes until the Division I National to be held in Denton Texas, provided I should qualify.

I ran in the lead nearly the entire race. On the last stretch about 400m or so into the finish , Dale Kramer a Minnesota runner from Carleton College passed me and kicked snow in my face all the way to the finish. I was disappointed in not winning the race but I would have my chance to compete in the Division I race as one of the first four individual finishers.

My teammate Vin Fleming finished 7th and our team finished 7th a good showing.

I ran a fine race in Texas among the “big boys” finishing 22nd in a field of runners which later became a “who’s who of running personalities and stars. When the Cross Country season endedI withdrew from school, bored with my studies in the business program. That semester I had spent most of my time in the library music room listening to Jazz records and reading Homer, Sinclair Lewis, Kerouac, runner athletic biographies and travel books.

I got a job in a supermarket and saved money while planning a cross country motor trip that I would take with my great Lowell friend Ronnie Durand. I would also attempt my first marathon at Boston.

Bring on 1977.

Boston Globe article  from Nov. '76 about New England College X-C meet.

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