1977 An Education

An Education

It is a brisk late afternoon in October 1977 I am running in shorts skimpy nylon with a brief to give your package a bit of support but not warmth and the wind is blowing and I am having trouble ignoring my brains red alert.

I am running with friend and teammate Randy Thomas along Commonwealth Ave. A 10-12 miler run daily from the little apartment on Orkney Road now crowded with four running bums two of us squatters sleeping on a cot and the couch respectively.

Randy may object to being called a running bum so shall we say running bon vivant in his case.

We run for the Greater Boston Track Club and as we are ascending as competitors Boston is becoming a hub of running exciting for me but not well understood.

What I could not understand or process at this time a vagabond rebel without a clue.

Of course now years later well I know it well. I know it viscerally.

As Randy and I crest Heartbreak Hill the sacred hallowed ground of the one and only Boston Marathon I casually mention my frozen penis “put your glove on it” and so I run the final miles around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir with one gloved hand.

Back at the aforementioned apartment in Cleveland Circle Boston it is almost dark and as we enter and turn the lights on a scattering of cockroaches greets us.

Reminded me of an apartment in Lowell when I was just a kid only a few years ago now.

Randy is only weeks away from his first marathon in NYC and is sharp having just run the first Freedom Trail Road Race Challenging Billy Rodgers before finishing second.

I feel a rival to Randy as he rivals Billy but while he has been making strides I have been traveling the country in a Dodge Van with Ronny my friend from Lowell “picking daisies” is how our Coach Billy Squires tells it.

Ronny and I travelled through the summer months across the northern states visiting National Parks, breweries and Canada and we landed in Tacoma WA and as we did I was invited to return home for this first Freedom Trail Race I mean on a plane and everything.

I had been running twice a day most days about 80 miles a week and had run a few low key races.

I spoke with Todd Miller a Greater Boston mate who was perhaps on the board and was helping organizing this first time race and he mentioned not everyone was in favor of bringing me in but I had enough allies to make the cut.

Ronny and I had planned to remain in Tacoma until the New Year taking some trips to the Cascades and exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Now I would be taking a three week side trip torn between my obsession with athletics and my love of watching the world go round while passing through.

I arrived in Boston on the evening of the “Fall Call” at the Eliot Lounge a then down and out little bar in the Eliot Hotel corner Massachusetts Ave. and Commonwealth Street.

Tommy Leonard bartender a kind hearted Irish Leprechaun of a man made the Eliot a clubhouse for our running club and assorted regulars from the Back Bay neighborhoods.

Tommy was the main attraction but tonight we also had: https://tonireavis.com/tag/heidi-the-secret-admirers/

Heidi & the Secret Admirers:


Over my three week stay I found some gainful employment at the New Balance Shoe CO old factory on Everett Street in Brighton. During the week I hung insulation in the ceilings of the factory, helped friend and team and apartment mate Vinny Fleming in his job analyzing the tracings of feet that had been sent with a letter requesting shoes in the proper width and working in the retail store on Saturdays.

Danny Dillon our fourth, taking a little sabbatical from Providence College worked in the factory gluing shoes together.

It was a special time I was living large and I raced reasonably well at the Freedom Trail prompting a story in my hometown “Lowell Sun”  newspaper with the headline: Hodge eyes 1984 Olympics.

I sound quite serious about my running and I guess I was but just didn’t understand how or why it was done there being no there there, no profession.

I travelled to New York City for the marathon but not to compete though we did run from the start to First Avenue before cutting over to Central Park to watch the finish.There was a running expo and New Balance would have a presence with a booth where we would stand around and talk running and shoes with people. I had way too much fun, spent all the money I had saved over the last three weeks and was anxious to get back on the road and ease my mind.  

My return flight to Seattle/Tacoma was changed so that I could compete for the team at the National 20K Road Race Champs in Tulsa OK. I ran a lackadaisical race  and arrived back in Washington State deeply meditative looking for the road that would see me through.

Nick Drake