Winter Solstice Some Years Ago

My running Gypsy life a roller coaster ride of highs and lows September riding high with a marathon PR making me one of the top ten American performers ever and an invite to the famed Fukuoka Marathon in Japan in December and November injured in the panic /denial first stages of woe is me.

After my marathon performance I had done some easy running for a few weeks and then ratcheted it up:

After a 146 mile week capped by a long Sunday run with mates Dickie Mahoney and Randy Thomas where the soreness and tightness in my adductor became severe It began to dawn on me dreaded injury.

Injury occurred after completing 146 mile week with a 2x2mile 9:44, 9:46 November 2nd, 1980.


December 16th—Got a confirmation today from the TACon a trip to San Cristobal Venezuela. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to go I’m just keeping my fingers crossed. My heal was a bit sore today I think from the long walks in my street shoes. I’m very paranoid, somehow I hope to get myself back together with a little luck and prayers I can do it soon.

December 18th— Got in usual swim this morning my spirits are up and down daily. My adductor-groin seems to be improving. It did not seem to hurt as much today when I put weight on it. I don’t want to get too hopeful. I plan on running a few miles on Tuesday and I fervently hope it is OK and that I can get slowly back into training. I received invitation to run the Tokyo Marathon on March 1st but I am still hoping to be ready for Boston.

December 21st— I had a good visit in Lowell with family I’m going to try running a few miles on Tuesday and see how that goes. I was given some neoprene trunks to wear for support and I think that they help. On Wednesday morning early off to Indiana for five days to meet Frannie’s family and Christmas Holiday of course.

December 30th— I began running on Tuesday the 23rd and I am still quite sore in groin area but it does not seem to get any worse or better. On my afternoon run it did feel much improved took Jacuzzi afterwards. I am running very slow and still favoring it but at least I am running and beginning to get the strength back in the legs.

January 1st— Went for 2 mile run early and then to the Eliot for the long run to Scituate. Managed to run 10 miles! Felt like crap!

January 5th— finally feel like I am back did doubles for three days today did quarter mile swimming and Jacuzzi A.M. and 6 miles P.M. I am making progress.

By Christmas time I had been to a round of doctors none with any practical experiences treating running related injuries and I was at my wits end but nearly about to turn the corner.

At Christmas I travelled to Indiana with my girlfriend Frannie to meet her rather large family and I was not my usual fun loving self seeing they were buried in snow I was barely running and seeing Christmas as a mere distraction from my very important pursuits.

I remember one day I ran three miles with Frannie and could barely keep up and that evening her sister Mary got her Ford Maverick stuck in the snow and we piled out and pushed it up a hill.

It was great fun I stopped worrying about my injury and finally relaxed.

Beer helped.

Rock bottom, not quite but I suppose most of us have run up against truly desperate times and I did once in 1981 when my young life of 24 years went from some years of struggle to a great achievement or two to athletic injury threatened loss of my main benefactor and a car that wouldn’t start on a cold and heavy snowy day in January.

I was a runner and had been for half my life by then but other than athletics I was also a low achiever in academics and a college drop out who had worked a number of jobs most recently as a shoe jockey and shoe cobbler in a running related retail store.

On that day in January I sat in my little Italian car probably the worst car ever made for a New England winter with a quarter mile of dirt road, hilly with two feet of snow covering it between me and the main street. On top of that the power in my little cottage in the woods kept going in and out.

I decided I had better get the wood stove going at least I had a cord delivered recently so I wouldn’t have to abandon the place with nowhere really to go too close by anyway. I went into the house just as the power went out. It was still morning so I just fired up the stove and boiled some water on top for tea.

I sat at my table and looked at the letter I had received the day before from my sponsor telling me that I no longer had a contract as we had verbally agreed upon and that they wanted to make some changes that would leave this hobbled runner destitute.

My head hurt but I suited up for the cold and headed out into the snow to shovel which I did like a demon until the sweat rolled down and then I walked to the Main Street through the drifting snow and when I hit the street which had been plowed I started to run.

I had injured my adductor muscle and my latest attempt at a fix was wearing some neoprene trunks for support and they were about the only useful thing that I would get from the quack chiropractor that was recommended to me by a teammate. He also gave me an electrical muscle stimulator. The look on my girlfriends face when she saw me wearing it to bed; priceless.

I had developed my own plan of rehab and after not running for a few weeks and swimming many laps in an indoor pool, riding a stationary bike and doing weight training with Bob Backus: I had begun slowly working up from three miles to an occasional ten miler but the injury persisted and winter roads didn’t help.

The frustration was palpable and I ran on slipping now and then on the ice and snow and cursing thinking about how I had missed running the famed Fukuoka Marathon in Japan a month before. As I continued I began to find a comfort zone I noticed now how beautiful it was and I began to drop my anxieties and just enjoy the run in fact I determined to run much longer than planned and made a turn for my 15 mile loop which I had not run for a month or more.

I dialed back my pace to a mere jog and completed the loop about ten minutes or more slower than I ordinarily would and when I got back to my little cabin in the woods and saw the smoke rising from the stack on the roof and the brightness of the snow sky and puffy white clouds with the sun already beginning to set in mid afternoon as it does in winter New England I felt a sudden euphoria all will be well.

As I was stripping down in front of the woodstove and hanging my soaking wet gear to dry the power flickered back on and I heard a truck plowing the long driveway but that would take some time my car would not make it out anyway. I had some canned goods and had put my few perishables outside in the snow including beer.

I put my hydrocollator pad in a pot of water threw some more wood on the fire and placed the pot on the stove. I then showered and reeking of endorphins grabbed a beer and watched the sun go down. I looked through the rest of my mail on the table and found a confirmation letter to compete in a race in San Cristobal Colombia in South America.

I was not in great competitive race shape and I tried to convey that to them but they were still interested so warmer climates here I come. Considering how despondent I had been just a few hours earlier I now felt at peace as I elevated my legs and sat on my steaming hydro pad and the moist heat warmed my sore adductor cozy in my little abode..

I made some notes in my running log and journal planning out my southern trip and the feasibility of staying in FLA for a while after the race to train in a more hospitable environment.

I pondered the state of athletics stupid useless shamateurism as I ate Dinty Moore canned stew Ritz Crackers and washed it down with cold water and bottles of beer the super foods of endurance athletes. How come when the seventh fastest individual performer in the marathon all time in the USA is hobbling around injured there is no available treatment or support network from the governing body blowhards running the show?

For tonight at least I was grateful and content no matter how in doubt my future in athletics it had been an interesting ride so far.