Monday, April 15, 1991

1991 - "After the rain chased my family from the finish line, I finished alone, but elated!"

Gerald Holbrook
I only began running at age 51. I ran my first Marathon after 21 months as a runner. It was the Memphis Express Marathon, and I ran in 3:58:07 at age 53. Over the next eleven years, I ran a total of 17 Marathons, until after knee surgery, I followed the doctor’s advice and cut back to no more than 20 miles per week.

Like most runners who love running Marathons, I began to wonder if I could qualify to run Boston. By 1988 I had been elected President of Memphis Runners Track Club, and I was leader and director of a local program to prepare runners for running a Marathon.

At the end of that preparation was the Memphis Marathon, the first Sunday in December. I conducted the same Marathon training group in 1989 with my personal goal to qualify for Boston at the Memphis Marathon. I was now 58 years old and needed 3:35 to qualify

That December morning the temperature dropped to 28 degrees, with the wind chill 20 degrees lower. This weather sapped my energy. I was on my planned pace at mile 11 at which point I turned into a strong north wind. After two miles into that wind, I was defeated. My finish time at age 58 was 3:50:44. I missed by 15 minutes.

In 1990, now 59 years old and still needing 3:35, I again led the marathon training group, usually about 50 runners, still with thoughts of Boston. I also had thoughts if I waited one more year, at age 60, my necessary time would have five extra minutes, but since I was going to run Memphis any way, I thought I might as well plan my performance toward Boston. God was on my side. Morning broke at 54 degrees, and I have always said my favorite conditions are 55 degrees, a cloud cover, and no wind. I had just that. I finished in 3:33:02, feeling great.

A prominent sports writer for The Commercial Appeal was at the finish line. He was a good runner himself, and had run Boston; and because I had been MRTC President the two previous years, he grabbed me and wanted to interview me. I only gave him one word repeatedly: "Boston!" That same sports writer came to my home the following March to give me advice about running Boston. Back at that time, if you gave proof of qualifying, you were in. Monday, April 15, 1991, my wife and son accompanied me to Boston.

Everything went well. I had been told family members could estimate the time I would be near the Newton Hills, take public transit out at about that time, see me go by, and then take the transit back to the finish area before I would arrive. They did this and it worked perfectly, except it started raining when I had three miles to go. My wife and son had run for shelter; and I finished alone, but still elated to finish in 3:40:15. This was prior to invention of chips. It took me 3:36 to get to the starting line after the race began and I was just tip toeing when I got there. I have all this in my running logs. I was unable to run normally until I had completed five miles. I then ran the 6th mile in 7:29, half Marathon in 1:40, second half in two hours. The field was 9,000 runners. Because of the delay in getting to the start, Boston gave me five minutes toward re-qualifying, so I was in. Then on November 3rd, the same year, age now 60 and needing a Boston Qualifying time of 3:40, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 3:35:54, so I was double qualified.

However, at that point, I had my mind on other Marathons I had not run, so I did not go back to Boston. Kinda like "been there and done that." I ran eight Marathons in Memphis, the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis/St Paul three times, Grandma’s in Duluth (I lived in Minnesota two and a half years, and have a son there), Boston, Marine Corps, Houston, New York, and Blue Angel in Pensacola for a total of 17. However, what I am most proud of is not Boston, or any other separate race, it is that I started 17 and finished 17, and only gave up marathons due to knee problems, and not because of burn out.

Gerald Holbrook

For more personal accounts of the 1991 Boston marathon, click here.

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