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 folk’s 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 folk’s 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 parent’s 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 naïve. I didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 men’s 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