I was re-learning the marathon this year having run more than twenty already In my “career “I found them to be cruel and unfair having worked very hard to prepare for so many only to be hit by outrageous fortunes.
My best was 2:10:59 and I had also run 2:11:52 and 2:12:30 but my best was five years ago and I had suffered slings and arrows of all stripes in my quixotic pursuit.
In my attempts to re-learn I had run a 2:15 in New Zealand in February and 2:14 in Boston ten weeks later, not world beating but enough to build some confidence back and give me hope. Keeping hope alive for one last go round.
My hamstring problems had been overcome in these efforts but there always seemed to be some niggling injury to deal with so it was difficult to maintain the enthusiasm and belief necessary.
I was day to day and I figured I would know when to say when.
I had a good summer got married in June finished 16th at Falmouth and pointed for Twin Cities Marathon the qualifying race for the 1987 World Championships in Rome.
I had been talking with Tom Jennings formerly with the powerhouse Pacific Coast Club and an agent for athletes on the European Track Circuit for some years. Tom had been doing some work with the New Balance Track Club athletes leveraging his athletic stable to get entry for as many athletes as possible in some of the top meets.
We had spoke about an attempt on the record for the Hour Run on the track which he had been working with others trying to get athletes interested in a race somewhere in Europe at the end of the summer track season. I was up for it, but the event never materialized.
Tom mentioned that if I wanted to run the Ivo Van Damme in Brussels in the 10K he could get me into that one.
Yes, most definitely if you have not been to one of the major track meets in Europe with 50,000 spectators filling a great athletics venue it is a wonderful experience for a fan or an athlete. This would almost definitely be my last chance to compete in a meet of this stature.
It turned out that New Balance would be willing to pay my travel and the meet organization would put me up. I flew to Germany with Jack Fultz then the Running Promotions Director for NB. I spent a day at a big sporting goods show in Munich and did a time trial on the “training track” just outside the Olympic Stadium a two mile in 8:50 and then travelled to Stuttgart and bought a ticket in the nose bleed seats at the European Championships. This is big time Athletics like nothing you ever see in the States.
Jack and I travelled to Brussels by train and I headed to the meet hotel to check in. Turns out I had a roommate the Olympic Pole Vault Gold Medalist in the 1980 Olympics from Poland Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz.
When I walked into the room he was laying on the bed smoking and we exchanged a few pleasantries. I don’t know if I offended him but when I returned late that evening after the meet he was gone never to return. Probably home or on to the next meet.
When it had been time to go to the meet I headed over to the stadium on a bus with the other athletes including old friend Keith Brantley. He informed me that fellow American Mark Nenow would be going for an American Record and that the pacers were taking it out in 13:45. As the bus road through town there were hundreds of people in the streets cheering!
Myself I was hoping to run a PR my best 10K a 28:24 from 1982 my secondary goal being not to get lapped. I came up short on both. At the 5K I was 14:00 and just behind Arturo Barrios. I though about Boston back in April.
Nenow ran the AR 27:22 which lasted 25 years I ran 28:53 and finished sixth. A bit disappointing but an unforgettable experience.
I finished 86 with a 1:04 half at Philly and a 2:15 9th Place finish at Twin Cities. Mediocre performances but enough to keep me going. I had one big goal in 1987, making the World Cross Country team in. This would be my last chance.
Whether I would continue into 1988? Keeping hope alive.
“Tis known by the name of perseverance in a worthy cause—and obstinacy in a bad one.” Laurence Sterne