I had no running experience, other than trying to prepare for high school football, a sport I participated in only until the coach first handed out uniforms. Needless to say, this disappointing event marked a lackluster end to my short football journey.
The morning after I returned from the trip, November 2nd, 1977, I laced on my Converse Tennis Shoes and went to the Corinth High School football field and onto the cinder track. I ran a half mile. I rather enjoyed it, and ran well (little did I know the unkempt oval around CHS field was far less than a quarter mile!).
I continued and progressed with distance, endurance and speed. I trained all through the winter and towards spring, felt I was about ready to pick a marathon. Early summer I chose a "Big City" marathon, with all the hype, Chicago. The race was in its second year and was HUGE - 9,000 runners, perhaps the largest marathon at that time. Mid-September, my buddy, Terry, and I ran the Chicago Marathon.
I had a good training plan, heavy on miles, but I was lucky to avoid serious injury. The day was magnificent and I remember passing a fountain near the lakefront at mile 20 and thinking "No way I’m hitting the Wall." I finished in 3:48, arriving at the finish line with no money for food or a cab. And THAT began my search for the Boston Marathon.
The quest didn’t proceed nearly as fast as I planned. I made an attempt about 1980 and was hammering out seven minute miles at the Andrew Jackson Marathon in Jackson, Tennessee. Spectators were allowed to drive on the course and my buddy drove by me at the 9 mile mark and warned me to slow down, that I was going out too fast. My reply, which he never let me forget, was "I can’t slow down! I’m in the groove!" By the 18 mile mark, I was toast, and that took care of my BQ for a decade.
Finally, 12 years after my first marathon, I gave it another shot. In a less-than-brilliant moment, I picked a Labor Day marathon in Mississippi, the Tupelo Marathon! The temperature at the start was 73, with a high predicted of 99. Humidity was 90%. As my logbook from 1990 says, "I was ahead of schedule at 20 miles, just couldn’t quite hold out-- began losing it at 21."
I finished with a 3:26:25, a minute and 25 seconds ABOVE my BQ time. I was disappointed, but actually pleased with my accomplishment - a sub 3:30 in those conditions.
After unsuccessfully trying to qualify at Richmond Marathon later in the fall, I decided to submit the 3:26 anyway, and enclosed a clipping from that Sunday’s newspaper showing the high that day of 99, and sent it in on December 17th. No word. No word in January. I gave up. Finally, on February 1, 1991, I wrote another letter. No word. Even later, I called Boston. A nice guy said, "Oh, yeah, you are on the list. You should have been notified" So, finally, after 13 years, I was headed to Boston!! Little did I know that would ignite a passion for Boston that burns even brighter two dozen years later!
My wife, son Martin, and I took off in mid-April for a long weekend in Boston. We stayed downtown at the Marriott, very close to the finish line. I recall watching the wheelchair runners doing wheelies on the escalator. We did cool Boston things and when race morning came I made my way to the buses at Boston Common.
At the Athletes’ Village at the Hopkinton High School, I met up with my buddies, Lanny and Bill and we enjoyed the calm before the storm. It was a nice day for running, cool, overcast and with the wind either crossing or at our back. It was soon time to make our way to the start. There was only one start and that was at 12 noon. Several minutes after the cannon sounded, I was able to cross the start line and carefully begin my journey. I was nearly 13 minutes at the one mile mark, but was able to stretch it out afterward. I was caught in the moment and enjoyed the sights, but I was intent on running a good race, so I kept my head down and ran. I kept dreading Heartbreak Hill and so I just took each of the first hills as they came. Finally, I asked someone when we would reach Heartbreak Hill and his comment was "Oh, you just reached the top of it." Needless to say, I cranked it in from there.
I was nearing the Citgo sign when the rain began, but it had no negative effect on me and I finished, as with most other races, looking down at my Timex to check my time. I had run a 3:29:15, even after the slow start.
|Running Tip: If you want a good finish photo, don't stop your watch until after the photographer!|
It would be 11 years before my son, Ken, put the idea in my head with his comment: "You know, Dad, if you tried a little harder, you could qualify for Boston again." Then, along comes my buddy, Big Foot, who had made quite a habit of Boston, and together, we set out to go for more! That began an 11 year streak of Boston Marathon finishes, which I’m highly pleased to report, continues through the most infamous of them all, 4-15-13.
For more personal accounts of the 1991 Boston marathon, click here.
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