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.