1986 Marathon Inscrutability: Auckland, Boston, Minneapolis

As 1985 came to a close I was ready to leave my athletic shoe company position and re-enroll at the University of Lowell as an undergraduate student majoring in American Studies. I would also become the Head Coach for Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field.


It was difficult to leave the highest paying job I had ever had and the opportunities the position would lead to in the future, for a low paying college coaching position and a return to the running wars. It was a pivotal decision. The dream quest would not die and I had to continue through 1988 for good or ill.


I was feeling tentative toward running the marathon again. I had lost some confidence after my poor showing at the 1984 Olympic Trial and had developed a hamstring problem that would slow me to a crawl late in marathon races. I needed to figure out this mystery if I were to be successful. I decided to race somewhat more conservatively and try and re-learn the marathon race.


I was competing in my first marathon race in over a year in Auckland New Zealand in February. I had always wanted to visit the land of Lydiard and this race provided the opportunity. I needed to set aside my conservative race plan however as they had enlisted Pete Pfitzinger to pace out a first half 1:05:00. I hung with Pete and Alan Zachariesen of Denmark through the half at the desired pace. From there I hung with Alan until 25Km before dropping back. A runner from Poland Wieslan Beubiel with a 2:13 best caught me at 25 miles and we ran together till the finish. I finished third in 2:15 and fairly happy with this all things considered.


Boston was now ten weeks away and I had a good preparation through the winter with a mix of track and road races and a decent half marathon. I felt ready and I went with the conservative plan. It worked. I was never in contention for a victory, ( no one was close to Deek 2:07:51 that day see related Boston Globe article) but I felt well the entire race. At twenty miles I was in twentieth place but stormed the last six miles finishing with a five minute mile in sixth place. If anything I had run too conservatively! It was nice to finish one without falling apart at the end.

(See related Boston Globe article.)


The Twin Cities marathon in October would be the trial for the World Championships. This would be my next goal for 1986. Before that I had an opportunity to run a 10k on the track at the Memorial Van Damme track meet in Brussels Belgium. I always had felt that I had a good 10k in me and that my 28:24 in 1984 could be greatly improved upon given the opportunity. Running in this outstanding meet was a great thrill which I hope to write a seperate “remembrance” of. I was out well in 14:02 for the 5k running just behind Barrios. I faded and finished sixth. Mark Nenow set the long standing AR in this race.


I had a good summer of training and racing but developed a lower back tightness which hindered my stride. I decided to run Twin Cities regardless and hoped for the best. I ran very conservatively as I had at Boston and had lots left at the end. I wound up ninth in 2:15.


I had run three solid marathons in 1986. Could I get back to the 2:10-2:12 range and make the Olympic team in 1988? I felt it was a good possibility. In 1987 I would focus on the shorter events and cross country and run a late season low key marathon. In 1988 I would go out with a bang or perhaps just fade away.