In early 1977, during my junior year at the University Of Lowell in my hometown of Lowell, Mass., I made the difficult decision to leave school and travel across the country with two friends, visiting places of interest, hiking some trails, and running – always running. To finance this trip, I got a job in a supermarket near my parents’ house, saving money and planning the trip with my compadres throughout the winter and spring. We outfitted the van we would call home for most of the trip. Our plan was to possibly travel for one year. There were two strong literary influences in my life at this time – Thoreau and Kerouac, the latter a fellow Lowellian and former track star at my own Lowell High School.
My running plan was focused on the Boston Marathon, which would be my first competitive effort at the distance. Boston had long loomed in my sights; with my club mates in the Greater Boston Track Club always talking about it and the great interest the marathon generated even among non-runners, it was hard to resist. I still loved cross-country and track, but I knew I could do well in the marathon.
After Boston I planned to keep my running low-key during our trip, although I still planned to run twice a day, every day whenever feasible. I hoped that during the trip I could clear my head and reach a decision about what I would do in the not-too-distant future. What could I do for employment and what could I do with running? I had to figure something out.
I was strongly motivated to see what I could accomplish as a runner, but how was this done? I had been a good high-school runner, finishing 4th in the Massachusetts State Cross-Country Meet my senior year and setting still-standing (as of December 2000) school records in the mile (4:22) and two-mile (9:17). In college I had been a Division I All-American, finishing 22nd (and 11th among Americans) at the Nationals in Denton, Texas in 1976 and running 4:08 and 8:48 on the track.
In high school I had discovered Track & Field News and devoured it. I had a job a few nights a week working the bingo game at my former grade school. With the money I made, I began ordering every book about T&F I could and was inspired by the biographies of Ryun, Snell, Halberg, Clarke and particularly Lydiard’s “Run To The Top.”
The decision I came to on this trip, which began in July 1977 and ended in March 1978, was that no matter what else I did, I would run and find out what I could do in the sport until I was either beaten down or successful enough to be satisfied. 1977, then, was the beginning of a dedicated running journey which led me far and wide.