1978 Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Day Road Race

A Tommy Leonard & Friends event story of which is brought to you by Running Sage Productions

In early March 1978 I returned from a cross country trip with a friend from Lowell MA our epic adventure driving the high roads and low roads for the last ten months with a bit of down time here and there had come to completion after ten months.

I had been in touch with my Boston running friends and although I was unsure what I was going to DO with my life for now I would run and compete. I sent Tommy a postcard from New Orleans to the Eliot Lounge where he was making a big slice of running history and giving it a temporary home.

I told Tommy that I would definitely be back to run at the Holyoke race now in its third year. Our second to last stop before returning to Lowell was Cape Cod where we met up with two of my friends and teammates from the Greater Boston Track Club, Danny Dillon and Vinny Fleming in Falmouth MA.

We visited the outer Cape and went for a run on the sand dunes in Truro where Danny just ran away from us somehow running as easily in the sand as on the macadam. I was looking to find some peace and serenity and I did as long as I could stay in my right mind and not let the vapidness of everyday- everyday life drag me down.

Ronny my Lowell companion on this junket and I were sharing I think a bit of trepidation heading back to Lowell knowing we would wake up tomorrow having arrived and it would be just like we never left.

Ronny might perhaps go back to his old job and I had a few hollow promises of employment but my immediate prospects were not too good. Holyoke race was coming up soon so I focused on that. I took the bus to Holyoke on Friday the day before the race.

I booked a room at the Holiday Inn but didn’t mention it to Tommy because he said he had a place for me to stay, but I wanted to have a quiet night and be ready to race.

It was a good field with Frank Shorter, Billy Rodgers and many of the best runners from around New England. I raced pretty well and it solidified my feeling that if I might make the proper effort I might become a champion at the highest level I might become transcendent. 

I was feeling good hanging out with some runners from Cambridge who I knew from the Eliot. At the Yankee PedlarRestaurant watching the parade I saw Tommy talking with then Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis passionately lobbying for a high school indoor track facility for the athletes in the Greater Boston area. Tommy’s animation and emotion always made me smile.

At some point in the afternoon Billy approached me and asked if I was going for a run. Well “yes of course Billy I’m just re-hydrating here, let me go get my gear.” I was waffled but I idolized BR so I tracked down my Cambridge friend and we went to find the car where I had left my stuff but it was gone baby gone turns out to Florida.

I explained to Billy and he said “well Bobby, you got your running shoes on and me and Ellen got some extra gear you can wear” so then I was out running and catching up with Billy.

Turns out Tommy asked Billy to look after me and make sure I got home to Lowell okay. He was worried about me hanging with those rapscallions I was with.

We ran five miles and then cleaned up in a room at the Pedlarthat was made available for Billy and Ellen. Then we climbed in Billy’s VW Bug for the ride back to Boston listening to Billy rant and rave about the bastards in the AAU and their poor treatment of athletes.

Well we were in a masochist sport of athletics but what else could we do? We love to run and we had our fun.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day