A Marathon victory, a 10k Best, and an Unexpected Appearance in the USA v USSR T&F Meet
After spending the last month of 1980 and the first few months of 1981 re-grouping from the worst injury of my athletics career, I was training with renewed intensity and had my sights set on the Beppu, Japan marathon in early February. I had heard some of the race history where in 1978 Shigeru Soh had run 2:09:05 then the second fastest marathon ever run behind Clayton’s questionable 2:08:33. In 1981 Dick Beardsley had battled both Soh brothers on the course. The race had a fine history dating back to 1952.
My preparations went very well except for a poor performance at a 10k in Miami where I had run a bit over 30:00. I would wind up running my first 10k at Beppu in 30:10. We had strong winds behind us for the out portion of the course and made the turn around in 1:04:32(see full splits on races page). On the return the head winds grew stronger as I became more fatigued. I was in the lead for nearly all of the first 35k pulling away after the half. I felt pretty well and confident and I was enjoying running at the front, waving to some of the people lining the course and checking out the scenery of the beautiful coastline and inland hills.
Suddenly without warning a Japanese runner whom I did not recognize (Nishimura) dashed by me and I was snapped out of my revelry. He was moving well and soon was 100 meters ahead of me. I had hit a bad patch and I needed to re-group. I soon realized that after gaining the 100 meters he had not continued to inch away, and that gave me hope. I gained on him and caught him at 40k. We ran side by side and at 41k I gave it my all and pulled away for a seven second win. Nishimura would get his victory the following year.
It was one of my finest moments though the time (2:15:43) was slow. The Japanese have tremendous respect and appreciation for marathon runners and running well there was extra special. The following day as I walked the streets, people would walk up to me and with their index fingers both raised, to indicate Hodgie-san, Nishimura-san running side by side and repeat this and laugh. I have a videotape of the television broadcast in which the commentator repeats many times “Hodgie-san, ichi-ban” (I was wearing number one). This is how Hodgie become Hodgie-san in running circles.
My next major race would be Boston (see related article: “Pacesetters”) where I would DNF at 21 miles severely dehydrated. At 19 miles I had been in fifth place behind Beardsley, Salazar, Mendoza and Rodgers. After this disappointment I set my sights on the National T&F meet to be held in Knoxville in June. But first I needed a qualifier. I decided to run the Tom Black meet in Knoxville in May where I had run back in 1978. It was very hot for the race. I needed to run 29:13.7. I would run 29:13.1 and finish third.
I continued to run 100 miles a week and did not have great expectations for Nationals. I loved running track but never considered myself much of a force there. I wound up running a personal best 28:44 in less than ideal conditions and finished fifth. At Nationals the top ten in their respective races can sign up and become eligible to be chosen for international teams. I did so but did not think that I had much chance of being chosen. I returned to training at the same level but did no real track work thinking about a summer of base building. The weekend after Nationals I spent frolicking on Cape Cod and training of course. When I returned home I found in my mail a ticket to Indianapolis, leaving Boston on Wednesday. I could not call USATF right away and so I sat down to ponder why they had sent me tickets. Uh Huh, I vaguely recalled the US v. USSR Tack meet was being held there!
The meet was to be the first held at IUPUI’s new T&F venue and generated a fairly high level of interest though not like it had in the cold-war days, it was to be held over the Fourth of July weekend. My team mate in the 10k would be occasional training partner Paul Gorman who had run a 28:18 at Penn. Relays in April. The race itself was one of the strangest I have ever run. The “coaches” gave us no insight as to strategy and we had no idea who the Soviet runners were. I don’t recall that Paul and I discussed strategy either, he four of us just lined up and went.
Predictably the Soviets sat and never touched the lead. I led the first two miles in 9:20, just clicking off 70’s. The weather was much too hot for me to risk pushing any harder at that juncture. Suddenly Paul rushed into the lead and dramatically picked up the pace, before I knew it I was 50 meters in arrears and dying a dogs death. Paul and the Soviets were away. I ran with my head down in embarrassment only wanting to get the race over with. With five laps to go a group of US athletes came up track-side on a far corner of the track and began cheering me on wildly. The din they were making snapped me out of it and I realized that I was about to catch the others.
I grabbed the lead with three laps to go and just went as hard as I could. At the bell I checked behind thought I saw Paul and moved by to let him through hoping he could out kick the Soviets. Problem was it was not Paul, we had left him. I had un-wittingly allowed a Soviet runner to pass me on the inside. I wound up third behind the two Soviets. I enjoyed this experience and only wished I had been better prepared.
My plan for the rest of the year was to prepare for Fukuoka where I hoped to run a marathon best. My training went well with a mix of road races at Falmouth where I was ninth and at a new five mile race in Agawam Ma. where I finished a close second to Greg Meyer in a PR 22:47. The club that I was running for figured that they had a good chance of winning that years National XC Championships to be held at the Meadowlands in NJ. This would be the venue for the Worlds in 1984. I did not originally intend to run the XC Nationals as the team looked very strong without me and it would be only six days before Fukuoka.
I was approached and asked to run and I remembered that Frank Shorter had won both the National xc and Fukuoka in a similar time frame so I gave it a shot. I wound up being our first finisher in ninth place. Paul Cummings (RIP) and I traveled the following day to Japan. I ran a strong race there taking the lead at the half up through 35k. At 40k I cramped badly in the hamstring and came to a complete stop. The crowds of people were screaming, I massaged the leg and wobbled home in 2:11:52, my second fastest time.
It was a successful year but I was feeling ragged. Would I rest and recover in 83 before pushing on for a try at making the Olympic Team in 84?