Happy Hour

Happy Hour  

It is the summer of 1976 and I am a dedicated athlete and college student with a part time job working in the university athletic department doing mostly clean up jobs around the gymnasium and checking student ID s at the door.

Running was going well and I was piling up the mileage higher than I ever had before. I had only a few low key races planned and had already run a few including my first win at Mt. Washington in my third try.

We always had fun after these races and enjoyed the road race atmosphere of nonchalance with just enough adrenaline for a hard effort but not so much that you would suffer or be unable to handle the next day’s effort.

There were also weekly all-comers track meets at Cawley Stadium in Lowell and these were my weekly up tempo runs usually running multiple events after running the three miles from home to the track I usually ran back home again after the meet.

The goal was cross country season and beyond and a victory or a win over a rival or teammate in these races was nothing to get overly excited about. We kept our eyes on the prize.

One exception for me would be the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod. I finished fifth in the 1975 race and had met Frank Shorter Olympic Champion. This to me was big time racing and I wanted to do well so it was my one big effort for the summer.

One weekend I was invited to Cape Cod by a running friend and it sounded like a good time but I insisted on getting in my runs each day which was not always easy when you are around mostly non-runner football types who like to pahty.

One day we went to a beach bar where they were having Happy Hour with very cheap pitchers of beer, girls in bikinis and everythang!  The beer was cheap which was fine since I generally drank the cheapest available and I soon forgot about the ten mile run we were planning to do, about Falmouth coming up in a week, about Cross Country season and I got waffled. 

Well, what seemed like minutes later happy hour ended and the beach bar quieted down until the night crowd would amble in later at night.  My friend met a girl and the three of us walked back to our cottage where I grabbed my running kit and threw it on. I was sitting in the yard stretching a bit and drunk as a fart. I was pissed off with myself and my lack of discipline and there was no way I was not running ten miles.

Just as I was about to set off my friend appeared, “Hodgie, wait up!” he came walking up laughing and suggesting we cut it short and just do a few miles but I said nothing and just started running. It was hot and humid and my head pounded and my stomach sloshed.

 Only a mile or so in my friend said, “Hodgie, wait for me I need to stop for a piss” I just kept going I knew if I stopped I would never get going again.

It was a shitty run must have been on the main drag Route 28 with lots of traffic. I was running shirtless in just my striped dolphin running shorts and shoes. The beer buzz began to wear off as the sweat pored out and my tongue felt like the Russian Army had walked over it in their socks.

I had on my Timex watch and was determined to go 36 minutes out before turning around and retracing my steps back to the cottage approximately ten miles. Some punks in a convertible came up behind me and started yelling the usual stupid stuff, who’s chasing you skinny boy?” and whistling and cat calls. 

I gave them the finger, the middle one and picked up the pace doubled the clutch and good thing because one of them got out of the car and tried to chase me down. “No chance peckerhead” I thought and chuckled to myself nearly done with this torturous run.

I got back to the cottage and staggered to the garden hose which I turned on and doused myself with before drinking a gallon or two. Afterwards I pulled out some lawn chairs and sat down on one and put my feet up on the other.

The cottage was quiet everyone probably gone back out to the bars. I sat there a long time just watching the girls go by my oh my. Eventually I went and got a bite to eat and found my friends at the bar. They thought I was nuts doing that run but I think it was the turning point for me as a young runner a lesson to be learned and now I felt quite content and I had a beer and just sipped on it  and enjoyed being a goofy college kid while also placing myself well above it.

Why above it? Because I was an athlete with Olympian aspirations real and imagined.

A Fan’s Note

The following is the text of a letter I received while training in Tampa, Florida in January of 1980. Let’s just say I took this message under advisement and appreciated the writer’s concerns.

Dear Bob,

You don’t know me but I was standing next to you in the Eliot last April right after the Marathon. Everyone was having a good time and I asked somebody who you were and why all the fuss. I had never heard of you and the next day I read all about you and the great race you ran.

Bob, you are without a doubt a great talent and with proper training and good judgement you have a tremendous career ahead. I just want to tell you briefly that at age 46 with 19 years or funning behind me and many, many beers down the pipes, I am finally realizing that I have never reached my potential as a runner primarily because I thought I could combine running and beer drinking.

Now that I have stopped drinking altogether I find that I can work out harder and recover more quickly. I expect to surprise a lot of people this year in local races.

I met Nick Rose at the pre-race party before Springbank a few years ago-he was the defending champion-he finished poorly and I believe it was due to the fact that he consumed too many beers the night before.

I’m not in a position to tell you what to do. I just hope you’ll give it your best shot at the trials on May 24. To do that I believe you have to face the realities, as the enclosed article states. (BAD MIX: Sports and Spirits are a losing team).

Good Luck. Running through life, Jim Gerard

I am glad that Jim was not around to witness Hodgie’s drunkenness for rest of the week following the marathon I am neither proud nor ashamed of it; it just was.

Drinking will never make anyone a better athlete. If you are a drinker, WISE UP…and watch yourself.