1980: Big Wheel of Marathoning




October 24, 1980

As he left the interview area beneath the Prudential Center following his record run in the 1979 Boston Marathon to lead a 1, 3 (Bobby Hodge), 8 (Randy Thomas), 10 (Dick Mahoney) Greater Boston TC blitz of the race, Bill Rodgers offered an observation.


He surveyed the performance of his frequent training partners, noted that this was all done at sea level and stated that the marathon capital of the United States was not in Boulder or Atlanta or Eugene, but right here in Boston. “Today,” he said, “we beat every nation.


Well, here it is 1980, in the wake of the latest offering served up by transplanted Midwesterner Greg Meyer, who moved to Boston two years ago to become a part of what was going on, and, on Sunday in Detroit, ran the fastest first marathon (2:13:07) by an American.


Put it in the perspective of 1980, and what the Boston/New England delegation has done in the Year of the Olympic Boycott. Starting with the American record run by Joan Benoit of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, (2:31:23) in the January heat of Auckland, New Zealand, it has been quite a year.


Rodgers ran the last 11 miles alone to win his fourth Boston Marathon (2:12:11), Patti Catalano ran a personal best (2:35:08) in Boston and lowered the American record with the second fastest time ever run by a woman (2:30:57) in Montreal on Sept. 4.


Thomas ran courageously in the US Olympic Trials and finished seventh (2:13:39); Hodge became the ninth fastest American with his second (2:10:59) in the Nike-OTC Marathon on Sept. 6 in Eugene; Nancy Conz of Northampton finished second in the Avon International Marathon in London.


All of this with New York City on the Sunday horizon where Rodgers goes for a mind-boggling fifth straight, Thomas runs his first marathon since the US Trials and The Rookie, Alberto Salazar of Wayland, confidently steps on the marathon stage for the first time and talks of “running to win.”


But, back to Meyer, the Boston Freedom Trail winner who set an American record for 15-kilometers (43:40) on Feb. 9 in Tampa and decided to run his first marathon less than two weeks before he ran in the race that started in Windsor, Ontario, and finished in Detroit.


Originally, Meyer had planned to enter the Atlantic City Marathon, given the concept that prize money would be awarded on an above-board basis. When that ran into a snag, Meyer backed off. “I decided to make Detroit the end of my season,” he said. “It was an afterthought.


“I was sluggish for the first five miles. I was keying on a few guys. We were running slow, 5:10 and 5:15 miles. I thought that wouldn’t have given me a shot at running a decent marathon, so I picked it up. At 10K, we were still 31:30, pretty slow. I started to pick it up at 8 miles.


“From there on, I was running alone. I did some 4:54s and 4:57s. Gradually, it averaged out, so at 15 miles, I was averaging a 5:00 pace. I didn’t have a hard time running alone. I was concentrating on the distance. Everyone throws these scary things at you about the marathon. I was waiting for all the disastrous things that didn’t happen.


“I was shooting to break 2:14. I starting thinking about the fastest first American (David Segura, 3:13:59). I didn’t go in intending to run that fast. I


went in to win. At 20 miles, I thought I might run 2:12. But from 20 to 24 miles, I ran into a pretty stiff wind. I put my head down and barreled through it in a 5:07 and a 5:20. It was a combination of being tired and the wind hitting me. I knew I was slowing down.”


Meyer, a graduate of the University of Michigan and a new resident of Holliston, will run a second marathon on Nov. 15 in Rio de Janiero, a honeymoon marathon after his Nov. 8 marriage to Paula Lettis of Hingham in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. The future?


“Confidence-wise,” said Meyer, “I know I can run a competitive marathon. But I don’t plan on just being a marathoner. I think the marathon helps your shorter runs because it helps you concentrate. Maybe I’ll run one a year, maybe two. If there aren’t some big races in the spring, I’ll think about running Boston.”-


In case you’re wondering why Ch. 38 will put the New York City Marathon telecast on Sunday night (7-9) instead of live (11-1) as Ch. 6 (New Bedford) is doing, part of it is a reaction to the inaugural telecast of the race last year, which was an artistic bomb. Reason No. 2: “I hesitate to say it’s a limited audience,” said Ch. 38’s Judy Jurisch, “but it’s a specialized audience.” . . . Boston Marathon director Will Cloney will be honored on his birthday at the Dinner of Champions program put on by the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Wednesday night at the Copley Plaza. Rodgers, Catalano, New York Marathon director Fred Lebow and Yo Furukawa of the Hochi newspaper in Tokyo (sponsors of the Ohme race that is a sister race to Boston) will be at the head table. For tickets, call Conventures at 267-0055 . . . The Honeywell computers, after recording all 4650 finishers of the 4th Bonne Bell race within three hours of the finish, will supply the information for postcards that are being sent to all finishers, detailing their time, overall place, and place within their respective age group . . . What makes Rodgers’ four straight in New York so impressive is that he is the only runner to break 2:13 on the course, something he has done on all four occasions.


Copyright 1980, 2001 Globe Newspaper Company