Airport in Pago Pago enroute to Sydney a
As a result of having won the Bay to Breakers race in May of 1979, I was invited to compete in a sort of "sister" race in Sydney Australia. called the City to Surf. I had been having a busy summer with invitations to all sorts of athletic-related events because of the media attention brought on by my run at Boston. This was nice but I had a job and I began to feel that I was taking too much time away from it. We had begun a shoe re-soling business at the store, of which I was in charge. In my absence the shoes piled up awaiting my return. Returning from trips around the world to a pile of smelly shoes was not a thrill for me either. The people I worked for had been great and I would have to be careful to take the needs of the job into consideration before I took any more time away from the store.
This situation led me to do one of the dumber things I had ever done. That was to travel from Boston to Sydney, Australia for the weekend. I had heard about jet-lag, but I was young and naÔve. I didnít think that it would effect me. It is twenty four hours flying time to Sydney. I flew from Boston to San Francisco, where I had to stay overnight to wait for my passport and secure a visa which I had forgotten. This eliminated the one day that I had planned for relaxation and sightseeing. From San Francisco, I had to fly to Los Angeles, where I would connect with my flight to Australia. I stayed in a motel near the airport so that I would be able to catch my early morning flight easily. As it turned out, I never received my wake-up call, missed my flight took a later one and barely made the first leg of my flight to Australia. The flight attendants argued for five minutes about whether or not they should allow me on the plane. Finally, I was walked across the runway and put aboard the plane, flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu to Pago Pago to Sydney. All five hour flights, with about an hour layover in between each one.
On my flight from Honolulu to Pago a Samoan native who weighed about three hundred pounds sat right beside me. He told me his entire life story. When we landed in Pago for refueling, I took off my shirt and put on my running shoes and ran up and down the runway for ten minutes in the one hundred degree heat and humidity. I left my bag, passport, wallet and all, with the Samoan guy and surprisingly, I never worried about him not being there when I got back. The airport in Pago is like the airport on Nantucket. The huge 747 was like the skyline of Manhattan beside the thatched hut that served as the terminal building.
In a situation like this, I need a beer, maybe two. The Samoan was good company and I almost forgot what I was going to Sydney for. I arrived in Sydney on a Friday evening. I was a physical wreck. A shoe company representative from the company I represented in Boston, picked me up at the airport and took me directly to a running seminar. I sat there for about two hours answering questions on training, proper diet, etc. Me, who had just finished drinking a dozen beers a few hours ago after thirty-six hours of mind bending travel.
I slept a solid twelve hours that night, not awakening once. The next day I went for a run over the course we would race on Sunday. Afterward I was shown some of the sites in Sydney. I had no idea what to expect in the race but wasnít feeling too bad, all things considered. The race was very similar to the Bay to Breakers, with over twenty thousand runners. I went out very fast to avoid being trampled and was soon in the lead. I ran the first part of the course quite recklessly and was really suffering at the 12 kilometer mark of the fourteen kilometer race. I was aware that someone was gaining on me. I was holding on desperately, but the Australian runner Bill Scott (2:11, 27:55) swept past and beat me handily. I was disappointed but knew that I had run well to finish second.
I had a very nice time that evening at the post race party, although there was one trying moment, when the folks I was staying with wanted to take a picture of me with their wild "dingo" dogs. When we approached the cage they were snarling and frothing at the mouth, but this guy just opened the cage, wacked them on the snout, and then motioned for me to get into the cage with him. They just had to have their picture and luckily, I survived it!
The next morning, after a short run and a swim in the surf (I was told afterward about the sharks), I left for Boston. It was Monday morning, 9 A.M. I traveled the same route back to Los Angeles, arriving there on Monday at 9 A.M. There was a bit of a tense moment in customs at the Honolulu Airport. I had traveled to Sydney with just one very small nylon bag, just big enough to fit my running gear and a toothbrush and a book (Shogun). When asked if this was all that I had by the customs agent I replied "Yeah, I like to travel light". I suppose he thought that I was a wise guy, so he detained me a bit and went through my stuff. I also was lugging around a huge trophy which I kept trying to get rid of. One time I left it in the menís room but a few minutes later some guy ran up to me and shouted "sir, you forgot your trophy" another time I left it near a rubbish bin but the same thing happened, so I had to lug the monster all the way home.
From Los Angeles I traveled directly to Boston and was back to work at the store the next day. The following day the trip really hit me and I felt awful for a week afterwards. I would not take jet lag for granted again.
1979 Races | Home