First run in 1933 this iconic race well known for its challenging course and scenic outlay was in my sights in 1992 after having finished a close second to Ed Sheehan then coach of the BAA, in 1991. In that race I ran in the lead group with Ed and his proteges who were running it together as a workout. The entire group had run a race the previous day this being Labor Day weekend there were plenty of races to choose from.
I thought that I had it in the bag over the last quarter mile I was pulling away and Ed came and blew past me. I thought well, maybe next year but at 36 and getting slower every year I would be fortunate to pull it off.
I liked the idea of winning this one because the ledger of winners was as iconic as the race itself. Jimmy Hennigan, Johnny Kelley, Charlie Robbins, Johnny Kelley the younger, Art Dulong, Dan Dillon, Paul Hammond, Mike Buckley who still owns the record run in 1978 1:18:49, Casey Moulton, Tom Derderian, Larry Olsen and Bill Rodgers. I wanted my name on the list.
I had been decompressing from the deadly serious racing I had bartered in for so many years but had let go in 1988. Since then I relied on minimal running around 50 miles per and residual fitness from the 100K miles in the bank. This stood me in good stead for a while and in late 1991 I had won the Rocket City Marathon and in June 1992 Vermont City both with times in low 2:20’s.
I was commuting into Boston each day for work and that was a grind and running became more about my general well being than preparation for the next big race. I had had a career if you can call it that and I was done but I still had a bit of competitiveness and a few goals to keep me motivated.
How did I know it was time to live that more conventional life when running no longer comes first? Well, some of you may know this story but anyhow it goes something like this. My wife Franny God Bless Her and I were at the US Olympic T&F Trials in Indianapolis and one evening in the lobby of my hotel, I was approached by a marathon race promoter from Sapporo Japan who offered me $3K appearance fee and any prize monies I might win to compete there.
When I mentioned to Franny her response was swift, “I’ll pay you $3K to stay home”.
In 1992 Franny and I had been having our fun trying to make a baby and though I think we did everything right it did not happen. We went to the different doctors for some time got different opinions etc. At some point we investigated adoption and did what was necessary to make that happened and waited.
Franny was on a business trip the week of the 92 Cape Ann race I believe she was in Paris France and because I was on my own I got home from work each night and ran a bit further than usual and then grabbed some fast food Thai, Pizza’s etc. or maybe just ate other healthy dinners like beer and potato chips. I looked forward to Friday to rest up for the Cape Ann race and slept a solid 12 hours on Friday night to catch up. Back then I was getting up at 4:30 A.M. each morning.
Race day arrived, and I headed up to Gloucester it was hot as it usually is, but I was feeling well and had a general positive vibe as I grabbed my race number did a short shake out run and towed the line. I let those early miles pass in the pack and at 10 miles or, so I began to push on one of the hills and I was away just me and the lead vehicle and at some point, they left me too.
Running all alone I had a few spectators tell me that they could not see anyone behind me comforting news. I never look back in races just a habit from long ago learned from coach, practical advice.
With possibly 2 miles remaining I heard a rumbling and train whistle and as I approached the tracks the gate went down, and the train came barreling through. Shit!*#*%@# I stood there and waited jogged a bit in a circle and stared at my watch as the second place runner came into view old friend Eric Beauchesne smiling from ear to ear we both laughed and as the train passed we headed off together to finish this debacle off.
I believe Eric said, “don’t worry Hodgie, I’m toast you got this one in the bag.” I’m not sure what my time was that year, but you can deduct a minute or so from it no matter I won.
When I recovered a bit, I jumped in my little Ford Festiva and headed home in a jovial mood. I blasted the tunes probably Exile on Main Street and drove with all the windows open looking forward to getting home and doing my favorite thing, nothing.
In the distance something was on the highway a bird large I was approaching it fast and before I could react it flew straight toward the car something in its talons a snake which it dropped and as it continued its flight looked me directly in my eyes! Eyeball to Eyeball with a Red-Tailed Hawk angry to have its lunch interrupted.
Wow, if I were a Native American that would be a sign of something momentous or was it just an exciting wildlife moment?
When I got home and walked into our kitchen currently littered with take out and empty beer bottles the phone rang and it was the adoption agency calling. This could be it, I called Franny and we talked things over we would soon become a little family our girl would be born soon.
I put some music on and cranked up the volume dancing with myself.
Postscript–Franny and I returned to Cape Ann 25K two years ago Franny running the entire route me running the first three with her and then turning around to run back to the start.