(This page is a compendium of my impressions, experiences, and thoughts during a running career that took me to a lot of wonderful places. I invite your thoughts and comments; send them here and I will post them on this page if you wish.)
This was a pivotal race in my running career. I was attending the University of Lowell at this time, but was ineligible to compete because of my recent transfer from Johnson & Wales Junior College. I had been a member of the Greater Boston Track Club for about a year and had done some training with Bill Rodgers, who had recently become the American record holder in the marathon. Bill had also finished third in the World Cross Country Championships prior to Boston, and that was when we first knew he was for real.
I first remember racing Bill in the Manchester (Conn.) Thanksgiving Day 4.748-Mile Road Race in 1973. We raced neck and neck over the last mile and he finished 6th while I was 7th. Back then, the newspaper always had a string of pictures of the top ten finishers; I still have a copy from '73. While watching at the finish line as Bill won the Boston Marathon in 1975, I thought about that Manchester race and just how far Bill had come in less than two years. If I could accomplish anything close to what Rodgers had, I had to give it a try; that was my thinking.
The Lowell Half-Marathon, held on Oct. 5, was organized by my college coach, George Davis. The organizers had done a great job of obtaining prizes from local merchants, and it was hoped that this would attract some of the area's better runners. Unfortunately, the word didn't get out, and the field for the race consisted of a paltry 11 runners. The race had prizes for the top 12!
The evening before the race, a GBTC friend, Alan Mills, had a get-together at his house and we tried to convince as many as possible to run the half the next day as they would almost certainly win a prize. Among the recruits were Bob Sevene and Brad Hurst. Bill Rodgers had agreed to run in advance, so we knew he would lend the race some credibility.
The course was the same one used today for the Bay State Half-Marathon and Marathon. I felt relaxed and confident as I warmed up, and expected Bill and Ray Currier to be the people to watch. My teammate and friend Vin Fleming was running "only for a workout," but I'd heard that line from him before, only to be soundly beaten by him afterward. So I was wary of him as well. (Fleming would go on to win that fall's NCAA D-III Cross-Country Championship at Franklin Park in a photo finish.)
Two miles into the race, Bill and I had broken away. We chatted and ran along at 5:00 pace. I was feeling very good. Obviously Bill was the man - when would he make a move? We cruised through ten miles and suddenly he increased the pace. I reacted slowly, but it was just a softener, not a major move; I caught back up. We went back to chatting, and a mile later, just as suddenly as before, he was off again, and this time he kept going. I tried to hang close; he slowed and I was right back on him. This time there was no chitchat - only a mile to go and I was still hanging around. As soon as I caught him he was off again, and that was it for me. I finished second, running 1:06:26 - a good effort for a 19-year-old grasshopper.
Racing one of the world's best in my backyard and running a creditable race was a great experience. I knew he was toying with me, but could tell he still respected my effort. This gave me a great boost of confidence in my continuing efforts.
In February, I ran my first marathon, the infamous Silver Lake Dodge race sponsored by the car dealership in Wellesley. I wished to compete in this race in order to get my qualifier for the Boston Marathon, and also as a way of viewing, at ground level, the first half of the Boston course. My Greater Boston Track Club teammates and I often met at Boston College and trained frequently on the second half of the course, but I had never run the first part from Hopkinton and thought that this was important preparation for Boston.
The runners were shuttled by buses from the finish line at SLD to the start in Hopkinton. As we were leaving, I noticed the darkening sky and hoped that the bad weather would hold off until the race was over. It didn't. By the time we reached the start it was snowing very lightly, as I prepared to run, I realized that I had forgotten to bring either a hat or gloves. I ran in shorts and a turtleneck shirt - there was no Polypro or Gore-Tex in those days - with the sleeves of my shirt pulled down over my hands.
As we got underway, the snow began coming down hard, and by ten miles it had covered the ground and was blowing around so that visibility was nil. So much for viewing the course. Every time I saw anyone (spectators were far and few between) I would cry out for a hat or gloves; the answer I received the entire way was negative. Meanwhile, my teammate Vin Fleming had taken a huge lead, and as I passed the halfway point someone told me he was on 2:12 pace. Impossible, I thought. Not in these conditions.
I survived and finished 7th in 2:47. Vinny had dropped out in the Newton hills while leading after being repeatedly assaulted by a sand and salt spreader riding ahead of him. A lead van carrying some members of the press, including a television news crew, captured it all and we had a barrel of laughs at the Eliot Lounge after the race watching it on the 6:00 news. To add insult to injury, as we thawed out back at the car dealership and enjoyed coffee and donuts, Vinny - who was now in street clothes - was scolded for grabbing his share of the food; the attendant told him it was for the runners only. Vinny's donut hit her in the head. (Vinny would go on to finish 5th at Boston in 1977 in 2:18.)
Later that same evening, Bill Rodgers had a party at his house in Melrose. We left the Eliot in my dad's '66 Chrysler Imperial and headed for Melrose: Vinny, sportswriter extraordinaire Joe Concannon, running guru/Falmouth Road Race founder Tommy Leonard, and myself. Not being entirely sure of the street and thrown by the dark and the snow, I made a wrong turn. We proceeded down a hill, where we turned around and began to drive back up. We were not making it. Vinny, Joe and Tommy got out and pushed the mammoth Chrysler as I squealed snow slush on them, but we made it out of there just a bit worse for wear and tear.
Here's an article from the Oct. 20, 1977 edition of the Lowell Sun that recaps the Freedom Trail race, but moreover, gives a nice overview of my early running career and expands on my long-range plans at the time.
This was the occasion of the second New York City Marathon held through the city's five boroughs. I was in the middle of a cross-country motor trip and currently stationed in Tacoma, Washington. This trip was scheduled to last a year, or at least until I was seriously broke. I made a call back home and found that I'd been offered a plane ticket back to Boston for the first Freedom Trail Road Race. My Massachusetts friends had a connection at New Balance and promised to get me some work while I was back. They also requested that I stick around for a few weeks and compete in the National 15k Road Championship in Manchester, N.H. after I ran the Freedom Trail race.
I was excited about the possibility of returning home, but didn't want to abandon my traveling companions. They assured me everything was okay and I justified the trip interuption, reminding myself of the possibility of earning some funds while working back in Boston. My GBTC mates Randy Thomas, Vin Fleming and Dan Dillon had an apartment in Cleveland Circle where I could stay. My day job with New Balance would be hanging insulation in the ceiling of the factory; on Saturdays I worked in the outlet store.
Back in Boston my training went well, and I started getting on the track, which I had not done for a couple of months. In the next few weeks I established a good routine. I saved a tidy sum of money and did well in my races. I resisted the partying atmosphere as much as possible (but still had a good time). I also talked with several people about job possibilities when I returned from my trip - not exactly career-track jobs, but jobs that would allow me to run and survive.
I would be returning to Tacoma on October 29th via Tulsa OK. where I was to compete in the National 20k road race. But first there would be the weekend in NYC. A group from New Balance were heading down to work a "shoe show" and participate or spectate at the marathon. I hesitated not wanting to spend my hard earned nest egg which I could use for my continuing cross country trip. I went.
I got a ride down to the Big Apple in the back of a VW Beetle and finished off a six-pack before we crossed the state line. We made a pit stop at the shoe show and headed to the hotel. There commenced an evening of epic drunken debauchery. One GBTC mate who'd been training better than ever and had "gone on the wagon" to prepare for the race fell off big-time and tried to eat his race number as a kind of pre-race ritual.
Some of us had planned to do a long run by running the first 18 miles of the course; by cutting from the 18-mile mark over to Central Park, we still expected to catch the finish. When I awoke face-down on the floor the next morning and saw the time, I thought we'd never make the start. We got dressed and headed out to find a cab (the buses to the start had all left). We tried several times to stop a cab; surprisingly, no one would take us to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. We were about to give up and went into a coffee shop and grabbed some joe to go. While inside, we talked a cabbie into taking us, promising him a bonus if he could get us there in time for the start. We flew through the city streets, hot coffee flying everywhere. We made it.
The excitement and adrenalin of being there got us through. At one point in the run, I stopped to tie my shoe, and a Hasidic Jew shouted out to me, "What is the meaning of all this running?" I patted my stomach and told him I was trying to lose weight. He said, "How much have you lost?" New Yorkers were just becoming aware of this event.
We cut off the course at First Avenue (where an official accused us of trying to cheat) and we made it in time to see the finish.
The weekend was exciting and fun, but the dowside was that I had spent my entire nest egg, my justification for interupting my trip in the first place. Another lesson learned? Maybe...
I began the year at Stinson Beach, Ca. My Lowell friend Ron Durand and I were continuing our cross country trip that started the previous June. We left Tacoma, Wash., which had been our home base since September, the day after Christmas. A good friend of mine from the University Of Lowell, a great high-jumper named Dave Goosens, had shared his apartment with us and given us a badly needed break from the road.
We drove the coast highway south from Oregon - a beautiful drive. We went to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where I ran on the Pre trail and did some laps of Hayward Field. I reflected often on the trip so far; I had lots of time for meditation and contemplation. For a time, I put my worries and concerns about what I would do when the trip ended behind me and just enjoyed each day. I trained diligently but without intensity - I had no competitions planned and was rarely motivated to push very hard on any given run. My main goal was to maintain my conditioning so that I'd be ready to step it up when I returned to Massachusetts and the urging of my GBTC teammates.
Our plan was to head south into Mexico, then across the south and finally push north up the coast to arrive in New England around mid-March.
A typical journal entry:
Jan. 10, 1978 - Big Sur, Ca.
Got up and went for a run. A bit tired because we stayed up until midnight in the Inn lounge watching a country group performing there who were actually pretty good. After running I washed up a bit and went into the Inn to use their men's room to shave and wash. Some guy threw us out but I managed to get cleaned up pretty well. Afterwards we had breakfast and headed out along the ocean Blvd. We stopped for coffee and toast at a nice cafť and then stopped off for some bread & ice. We traveled along ocean Blvd. for awhile and saw Pelican's and Sea Lions. We then went along Rte. 68 to Carmel because they charge money to take the more scenic route. In Carmel I checked out a great bookstore and shop area and then we went to the mission where we are now. I was very tired so I lay down and took a nap for an hour or so. I think Ron is kinda pissed off but the hell with that I'm tired and sleep is great. Ron went for a walk & when he came back we proceeded down Rte. 1 to Big Sur. We went for a run and had a meal in the van and are now sitting reading. We are parked at Andrew Molera State Park at Point Sur. Tomorrow on toward San Diego where we meet up with Wally Johnson our old Lowell friend.
Our trip proceeded in this fashion with some interesting adventures, a true-life learning experience not available at any college or university. I was a lonesome, poor, beat-up running bum and rather proud of it. We arrived back in Massachusetts on March 10 and met Vin Fleming and Dan Dillon in Falmouth for a weekend of training and delinquency. On one training run on the sand dunes of Truro, I noticed Dan Dillon's extraordinary cross-country running ability for the first time. He immediately ran away from us in the heavy sand, barely slowing his pace at all. There were still giant snow piles everywhere from the "blizzard of '78" which had arrived in the Northeast while we were still in San Diego.
Ron and I headed back to Lowell to face an inscrutable future. Unfortunately, none of my previously hoped-for income-earning opportunities showed any sign of happening soon and I needed some kind of job. I moved back in with my parents and my brother Mike found a part-time job for me in a local shoe factory: menial work for minimum wage. It was fine in the short term, though the hours meant I would not be able to get to Boston very often for workouts with my mates. My immediate goal was a qualifying time for the National Track and Field meet in the 10,000 meters, which was 29:10. My previous best was a 28:42 in a six-mile time trial at Boston College in '77. The Nationals would be in June at UCLA.
I began getting on the track at Dracut High School a barely adequate facility. A good friend who became known as "Stevie from Lowell" - no one could properly pronounce his last great Greek name - would come to the track and time me, recording my splits in a little memo book for me. I wondered sometimes if this were how the great Finns, East Germans, Russians, etc. did things.
I planned a series of meets and decided my best opportunity to qualify for the Nationals would be at the Penn Relays in April. These races went okay (see my training log) but not great. Doing solo workouts was tough. Somehow I pulled it together at Penn and qualified for Nationals with an 8th-place 28:58 (see below). John Treacy won in 27:55 and nearly lapped me. There were 60 runners in the field as they combined the college and open races. I hope to write a separate remembrance of this whole experience. This race helped to motivate me greatly, as it proved to me that my training efforts were paying off.
A few weeks after Penn a most fortuitous event occurred when I was offered a job in a running-shoe outlet in Hanover, Mass. The store's proprietor, Sharpless Jones, would become a great friend and supporter. Tommy Leonard had pushed me onto him, and this fateful occurrence put me into a situation where I could both train and be gainfully employed by people who supported and understood my efforts. These two gentlemen and coach Bill Squires, along with my college coach (George Davis) and my GBTC teammates, made it happen for me, as did the later support (after I had proven myself somewhat) of New Balance and Reebok.
The summer and fall of '78 I began to believe, and the next few years would bear fruit.
This was my first trip to this world-famous track meet and my best opportunity to qualify for the Nationals, which would be held at UCLA in June. After a disappointing debut in the marathon at Boston in 1977, I decided to go back to running the kinds of events that would make me a better, more accomplished runner overall.
I only ran two collegiate outdoor seasons and had never run 10,000 meters on the track, but I had run a six-mile time trial in 28:42 at Boston College in 1977. My track workouts and races leading up to the Penn Relays were so-so. When I ran a 14:26 5k on a windy day at the U.Mass Relays, finishing 2nd, even one of my most ardent supporters - a friend and teammate - doubted my chances of bettering 29:10. Somehow, though, I thought I had a good chance. My workouts were not great but they were good solo efforts at a local high-school track, with a friend of mine occasionally showing up to hold a watch and record my splits (this was before the advent of the digital watch, so a chronometer was required.)
Coach Bill Squires of the GBTC and Boston State College (now U. Mass.-Boston) drove a small group of us to Philly in his huge station wagon, the "Squiremobile". The Bo-State athletes urged me to ride shotgun with the coach, as they had heard all of his stories on previous trips and thought that I would enjoy a front-row seat. We arranged to meet at the Eliot Lounge (the former clubhouse for Boston runners presided over by Tommy Leonard) in Boston the morning of the race. I took the train from Lowell to Boston early that morning. We met at the Eliot and were off without a hitch. Squires talked non-stop; I never got past the first paragraph of my book. When I turned to look into the back seat, everyone was asleep. Coach had some interesting stories, assuming you could possibly follow them - his mind had the habit of flying ahead of his mouth and vice versa. Even though I only got 50% of what he said, that was more than most any other coach had to offer.
The trip proceeded in this fashion until I noticed Squires was scratching his head a lot and asking for a map. We were somewhere in Pennsylvania but no longer on the way to Philly. It was after 4 p.m. and I was scheduled to run at 6:30. "Don't panic," I told myself, but I was worried and anxious. I should have realized after hearing some of Squires' stories for the second time that we had been on the road for quite a while.
We finally arrived about one hour before my race. I changed into my running gear in the car and went to get my number - only to be told I wasn't entered. Panicking, I went off to find Squires. While I was looking for him there was an announcement that the college and open 10k races would be combined, which meant that I had just 15 minutes to try and get my number and warm up. Somehow, Squires got me a number while I warmed up easily and did some strides.
The field was huge - sixty-plus runners. Luckily, I lined up on the inside, but I was about 10 yards behind the start line. The gun sounded and we were off - for a few seconds, anyway. Bang! The second gunshot signaled a false start, with bodies flying everywhere. As we lined up again I was now stuck at the back, on the outside but not staggered. I was spotting everyone 15 yards. When we got underway, I made a strong move to get into a decent position where I could relax. I ran the first lap in lane three in 63 seconds and I heard Squires shouting to me to relax and get inside, which I did. I was now somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The race went by quickly (in comparison to the journey to Philly) and each lap I moved up, always having someone just in front to focus on. I did not hear many splits or even pay attention; I only heard a few shouts from Squires that seemed to indicate I was on pace and running well. On the last lap, I looked up and saw Charlie Maguire, a former NCAA six-mile champion whom I'd had a very close race with at Boston's Freedom Trail race the previous year, being given the decision over him at the finish. I certainly did not want him to beat me here. I dug down and passed him for 8th place, finishing in 28:59 and obtaining my National qualifier.
The effort was a big boost for my confidence, although I wound up suffering from a plantar fascia problem for a few weeks afterward, having terrible cramps in my foot. We stayed at a hotel in New Jersey, where I slept on the floor and I enjoyed the rest of the relays before the return trip home on Saturday. This trip was a typical experience for a post-collegiate runner then, and probably still is for many of them today.
This would be the year that I would become acceptable in terms of chosen lifestyle (an obsession with athletics/shoe jockey) through my performance in the Boston Marathon (3rd place 2:12:30). Running well at Boston for a local person was really the only thing that would make an impression on your friends and neighbors, perhaps even more so than an Olympic Medal to some because of the magnitude of the "coverage" of the race and the way it has captured local folkís imagination. The "Holy Grail" of marathon running.
When the year began my immediate goals were the World Cross Trials in Atlanta in February where I finished a disappointed 16th,, while my teammates Dan Dillon & Randy Thomas went one and two. I also planned two 20k races, the National in Holliston Ma. on March 4 and a Nike Club Challenge race over 20k in Atlanta on April 1 both as primers for the ultimate goal BOSTON! I also had some indoor track races planned as speed workouts and I felt after the XC Trials that a lack of serious speed training and a fairly heavy load of mileage had hurt my chances of making that team. But it all worked out pretty well in the end.
I was employed at an athletic shoe store in Hanover, Ma. called the RUNNERY. When I began working there I did not have a car or anyplace to live. I bounced around a bit for a few weeks staying at different folkís homes until it was decided that it would be ok for me to move into the basement of the store. This worked out well since I could hardly afford an apartment and they did not charge me any rent. The store was generally open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. The only disconcerting thing about living in the store was that the police would drive through the parking lot almost every night and shine their lights in the window to make sure the place was secure and wake me up. The store did not have a shower so we hooked up a garden hose to the sink inside and hung it out the second floor window, turned on the water and ran outside in a pair of nylon running shorts with a bar of soap and some shampoo. Life was good.
I fell into a nice routine of training and especially in the beginning, loved the job. Most of the customers were runners and loved to talk running, very cool though you know at some point could be very boring as well. After a few months I located an apartment I could afford in the upstairs rooms of a house three miles from the store. The distance was important as I only had a bicycle and could not venture too far. My brother Mike and a friend of his would help me move some furniture from my parentís house in Lowell as I currently had nothing other than a sleeping bag, old mattress and a lamp made from a buoy I had won at the Bourne Road Race the previous summer. The bed I was going to take was too big to fit on/in the vehicle we had so I took my sisters smaller bed. She was not pleased, sorry Irene.
It was a very great feeling to have my own place but without a car it was often tough to get around. When I shopped for groceries on my bike I would buy just enough for one bag and carry it home riding my bike. You will notice in my training calendar many 3 mile runs which were running to work. For a time I would run six miles in the a.m. come home and shower have breakfast put on more running gear and with my bag to carry run the 3 miles to work. With the help of a good friend and training partner, Earl Fucillo who knew a car dealer I was able to purchase a car with very little money down. Not just any car though but a 69 Ford Mustang. How cool was that! I was ecstatic
A part of the stores business was re-soling shoes which became my job. With rudimentary tools and equipment which was all that was necessary for the shoes of that time I would, like an old time cobbler heat activate the glue holding a shoe together in a little oven, then buff the old glue off and hammer on a new sole. Fairly simple. On Thursdays I would drive to Nike Wellesley and Bill Rodgers Running Center to retrieve shoes for re-soling and while in town do a lunch time run with my mates. This provided the opportunity for some triple run days ala Ron Hill and Dave Bedford.
In March I developed a knee problem. My knee became very stiff and achy after a mile or two of running and would get progressively worse as I continued. I had just run a very good 20k in 60:44 finishing second to Randy Thomas in the National. I decided that it would be risky to get on the track, particularly indoors and I began a routine of running the Boston Marathon Course hills from the Newton Fire Station to Boston College every week at pretty close to marathon race pace. I did this workout on five occasions once incorporating it into a 20 mile run. My knee was still bothersome but getting better. It all came together on Patriots Day.
79 was also the year my team, the GBTC won the National Cross Country Championships held in Raliegh N.C. I finished 3rd behind Salazar and Herb Lindsay. I also won the Bay to Breakers Road Race something I thought was insignificant at the time but cherish today looking back on how few majors I won, other than Jacksonville 15k in 1980 and Beppu in 82.
Sydney Australia For the Weekend (August '79)
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.
BOYCOTT, MARATHON BEST, INJURY.
"I have no intention of competing in the trials or in any pseudo, bogus competition," said Rodgers as he prepared to leave Florida for weekend races in Dublin, Ga. and Detroit before returning to Boston next Tuesday. "I'd rather run Boston. It's more prestigious than whatever they put together as a one-shot competition." Bill Rodgers.
After a third place finish in the National Cross Country meet in November of Ď79, my athletics career, which had been solidly progressing since my marathon debut at Boston in 1977, looked very bright indeed. My ultimate goal for the year was the Olympic Marathon trial which would be run in Buffalo NY in May. I went to the Skylon Marathon in the fall of 79 with friend and training partner Earl Fucillo to have a preview of the trials course. See Franklin Mint Almanac article "The long road to the games".
I decided to spend January/February training in Florida. My college coach George Davis had arranged a base for me staying with his brother Bob and family in Tampa for a month. I would then move to Miami to spend another four to five weeks training with Tom Fleming, Kirk Pfeffer, Bill Rodgers and whoever else might turn up. There would also be a ten day trip to Japan in
February with Fleming and Randy Thomas who was training in New Zealand for the Ohme Hochi 30k road race.
I began the year with a 15k track race at Stanford Stadium set up by Runners World as part of a National Running Week of sponsored events. The race was setup as a run at the world record for Dick Quax of NZ. The race for me was a lark but I thought that I would run something respectable based on my fitness from the fall cross country season. Quax ran solo the whole way and missed Jos Hermans WR by five seconds running a NZ record 43:01.7. I ran with the pack most of the way before moving into second in the last mile only to be passed by Martti Kiilholma of Finland at the line. Kiilholma ran a new Finnish record time of 43:59.3. I was credited with an American Record 44:00.2 though Rodgers had run 43:36 previously it had not been ratified yet but eventually would be. It was a good start to the year.
The following week I drove from Massachusetts to Tampa Fla. Training went well though I had a heal injury (bone spur) giving me some problems. It was while in Tampa that news of a likely Olympic Boycott surfaced. I was honestly, devastated. My bubble had burst. One belief I have about athletics is that you only achieve at the highest level by having the loftiest of goals and knowing you can achieve them. My loftiest goal was to go to the Olympics and win the Boston Marathon and up until this time I fully intended to do so. Now I had my doubts and an injury at the end of the year left me with a different attitude. I had to mature but along with that I lost some of the recklessness that had helped me become a tough competitor.
I lost my focus for awhile. I ran Boston dropping out at 21 miles. I took some easy weeks and then slowly built up over the summer hoping to run a good time at the NIKE OTC Marathon in September. The summer went well and I began to get my groove back. I was excited to be running a race other than Boston which had been my only competitive experience with the marathon. I ran a personal best of 2:10:59 finishing second 12 seconds behind Quax.
The year ended on a sour note with a debilitating injury forcing me to drop plans to run at Fukuoka and reappraise my running career entirely.
The following is the text of a letter I received while training in Tampa, Florida in January of 1980. Let's just say I took this message under advisement and appreciated the writer's concerns.
You don't know me but I was standing next to you in the Eliot last April right after the Marathon. Everyone was having a good time and I asked somebody who you were and why all the fuss. I had never heard of you and the next day I read all about you and the great race you ran.
Bob, you are without a doubt a great talent and with proper training and good judgement you have a tremendous career ahead. I just want to tell you briefly that at age 46 with 19 years or funning behind me and many, many beers down the pipes, I am finally realizing that I have never reached my potential as a runner primarily because I thought I could combine running and beer drinking.
Now that I have stopped drinking altogether I find that I can work out harder and recover more quickly. I expect to surprise a lot of people this year in local races.
I met Nick Rose at the pre-race party before Springbank a few years ago-he was the defending champion-he finished poorly and I believe it was due to the fact that he consumed too many beers the night before.
I'm not in a position to tell you what to do. I just hope you'll give it your best shot at the trials on May 24. To do that I believe you have to face the realities, as the enclosed article states. (BAD MIX: Sports and Spirits are a losing team).
Good Luck. Running through life, Jim Gerard
I am glad that Jim was not around to witness Hodgie's drunkenness for rest of the week following the marathon I am neither proud nor ashamed of it; it just was.
Drinking will never make anyone a better athlete. If you are a drinker, WISE UP...and watch yourself.
Here's an interesting article from the Boston Globe regarding the early days of corporate marathon sponsorship.
Here's another interesting article from the Boston Globe regarding my involvement with the Falmouth Road Race.
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