I was not sure of it at the time but this first ever prize money race at Boston the last bastion of amateurism would be my last race here.
I ran my first in 1977 and now I was coming close to the end of my athletic journey which took this Lowell MA young man far and wide.
In my early days as a marathon racer I ran from near the front always with a strong desire to be in a position to win and I am sure this strategy close to being a crash and burn, cost me.
In 1986 I still felt close to my athletic best at times, but it had been going on a decade of running and racing and the mental and physical grind was catching up to me.
I would run a “smart” race this time, Boston had prize money (and appearance money, but not me) and I wanted to come home with a check.
I had a solid winter and raced well from 5K indoors at Dartmouth in 14:00 to a marathon in New Zealand in 2:15 and a half marathon in 1:04 at New Bedford all with an eye on Boston knowing it would perhaps be my last.
I was living in Hopkinton in 1986 I found this to be appropriate and I would lounge around at home the morning of the big race and jog the two miles to the start line.
The usual hype around the race was ramped up with the prize money angle but for me personally it was subdued. I was still running for New Balance Track Club but no longer working in the offices there.
Pete Pfitzinger who won the Olympic Trials Marathon in 84 and been the first American finisher at the Games would be running and New Balance were promoting his participation. I had little contact with the media and did not attend the pre-race presser.
Greg Meyer 83 Champ was running and legend Bill Rodgers and a host of other top Americans. None of the “experts” picked me to finish in their top ten except Joe Concannon. This practice of insiders giving their picks was a tradition at Boston.
Race day I was relaxed no worries getting to Hopkinton. I left my house on Hayden Row Street and started out walking to the start in my shorts and racing singlet temps in the 50’s and a light sprinkle of rain. A neighbor drove past me and another in his pajamas out getting his newspaper they yelled “go get them Bobby! Have a good race!”
I barely knew these folks but they would see me running twice daily all over town and this was their marathon the best one in the world. They loved to see the locals do well and I was that.
I started cautiously as planned and when the leaders hit the mile in 4:37 I was back in the pack letting them go. As the pack shook out in Ashland I saw Billy Rodgers just ahead and I instinctively wanted to catch him, but I fought the impulse and ran my own race.
Probably I should have gone with him, but everything worked out well anyway in the end.
A fellow runner and neighbor in Hopkinton Bob Johnson, his house stands right on the start line, rode by me on his bicycle shouting encouragement. It reminded me a story Billy Rodgers told me how he had a dream that he had gone to Bob’s house to use the bathroom minutes before the race and locked himself in and missed the race!
I hit the half in 1:06:40 I felt almost too good but it don’t pay to get cocky in a marathon at half way also I was in somewhere around twenty fifth place.
Still by the fire station in Newton 17.5 I began to move and my fellow racers were coming back to me. Come to Papa.
At twenty miles I was in twentieth place but looking up Heartbreak Hill I saw a line of runners including Itoh from Japan and old friend Paul Cummings who shouted encouragement as I passed .
At Coolidge Corner I saw Coach Bob Sevene he pointed just up the road were Meyer and Dan Schlesinger “looking good Bobby go after them” yep.
As I pass Greg I give him a pat on the fanny
Kenmore Square mile to go passed the Eliot Lounge and the crew on the flatbed I gave a thumbs up to my fellow Loungers. See you soon.
Turning right onto Hereford and left onto the new finish line straightaway Boylston St. I see old friend Domingo Tibaduiza from Colombia and I chase him down that never ending stretch of road I pass him and see the young Arturo Barrios from Mexico soon to be setting the running world on fire but not today.
I finish in sixth place 2:14:50. Deek runs 2:07:50! Wins by three minutes! Bill Rodgers finishes in fourth I am the second American home.
I go to the Copley and recover a bit the top Five go to the press conference and I start walking back up Boylston toward the Eliot. I had left a change of clothes at a friends office on Boylston and I went there toweled off put civies on and made my way to the flatbed at the Eliot where I met Franny my best gal and the rest of my best pals.
Later I was convinced to go to the awards ceremony at the John Hancock Bulding the marathons new sugar daddy. There the top five were called upon the stage. I guess I received my trophy as well now ensconced in the basement files and my $8,500 check long spent after a good laundering in the Bank of Boulder under the old ridiculous TACTrust system.
The next day I met old friend Sharpless my mentor and employer for a number of years and we had a long long long “lunch” went to the Eliot where we met Jazz pianist Dave McKenna who was playing a gig that evening at the Copley and so we went there with him.
Somewhere along the way I had been given a cigar and in those pre prohibition days I lit up ordered a cognac and listened to Dave and let it all wash over me.
I got up to use the Men’s cigar in hand and passed some diners with familiar faces many of the BAA players and I probably made an ass of myself when I approached their table and regaled them. Oh well boo hoo.