1987: Back to the Roots

Immediately after the Twin Cities Marathon in October 1986, I began to focus on the World Cross Country Trials to be held in February in Dallas. I was also looking ahead to the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trial and thought that training for this event would make a good start to that preparation.

1986 had been a good year for me, and I felt that I was in a solid position both fitness and motivation wise. Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason my shoe company sponsor offered me only a paltry contract which I declined. For the first time in eight years I was flying solo. I decided to join up with a local running club in my hometown where I had attended high school and had begun running. I would also be working with this club as a coach. I had come full circle.

In February I funded my own trip to Dallas for the World Cross Country Trial where I finished sixth. I now had the World Cross Country to focus on in March. I ran some good indoor track times including an 8:45 2 mile with little track work. The indoor races were my “workouts.”

I was having problems with my plantar fascia, an injury which went back to my earliest running days in high school. In Warsaw I became ill and ran a lifeless race, very disappointing. After the Worlds some of the team including myself traveled to Italy where we would spend a week in Formia, southern Italy before competing at Cinque Mulini in Milan. I trained very well all week by the Mediterranean, under warm skies, and I felt rejuvenated. I ran a respectable race in Milan finishing 16th.

On returning home my next order of business was a qualifier for Track Nationals. I would be running the Penn Relays in three weeks. The plantar fascia was bothersome particuarly in the heal area. As I warmed up for my race at Penn, I was limping through my strides until my heal warmed/numbed up sufficiently. In those days the track at Penn was hard and a 10k in spikes was tough on the feet and lower legs.

When the gun sounded a large field sprinted out. As the runners on the outside broke from the stagger they slowed as no one seemed willing to take the lead. I took it and led nearly the entire race. I was passed in the last 200m by JP Nadyasanga of Belgium, but nearly caught him back in the straight just before Troy Billings got by me on the other side. I was third and very pleased with my race, my second fastest 10k.

I now could prepare for Nationals to be held in San Jose, Ca. in June. A problem I now encountered for the first time since my earliest post-collegiate days was finding the travel funds, now that I was no longer sponsored. The local club that I was running for did not consider travel money for the Nationals T&F Meet a justifiable expense for them.

My solution was to find a road race where I could win the prize money to cover my trip. The only race which fit the bill was the Mt. Washington road race only five days before the 10k at Nationals. I proceeded to compete in some all-comers track meets running 3k’s and 1500m races with a final tune up 5k at the NET&F Championship Meet. I was especially looking forward to this race as a great field had been put together and I felt that I could run a large PR. When I arrived at the track I discovered that I had been left out of the seeded race. I was disappointed but did not dispute it. Instead of just going out and hammering as I might ordinarily have done, I wound up running a dispirited race pacing off of Paul Gompers lead until I passed him hard with 700m to go, right in front of the race “officials” responsible for seeding the race. I finished nicely with a 60 second last 400m and ran 14:01.

Afterwards I watched a great 5k where several runner I had been beating handily ran big PR’s. At Mt. Washington I won the race easily but missed out on a significant bonus payment when I equaled the course record. Nationals in San Jose went well everything considered and I finished 9th. The temps were near 100 degrees just hours before the race. Everyone who saw the result from the Mt. Washington race could not believe that I had competed there so close to the National. I did not feel it effected my race at all.

In July I ran the 10k for the East team at the National Sports Festival at Duke University. The temperatures were oppressive. Our coach Vin Lannana of Dartmouth and Paul Gompers who had been selected to run the half marathon approached me and tried to talk me into running the half so that Paul could run the 10k. I just laughed, very hard in their faces. I ran a good race leading into the last lap where Jim Hill went by me and put in a 55 second last 400m. Danny Martinez also got me on the last straight in a photo finish, I was third.

I finished off the year with a low key marathon at Sacramento. The normally fast course had a headwind this year and I struggled to an eighth place finish. A good year. The push was now on for 88, My last go round.