Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Running the Chicago Marathon , October 26, 1978

In the fall of 1977, I returned to Kalamazoo College as an Assistant Professor of Education, having graduated from K in 1963 with an English Major and a career as a track athlete, high and low hurdles and the quarter mile, and football player, defensive end, and my football coach, Rolla, now Athletic Director, asked me to coach the men and women’s cross country teams, and I said, “I have never even seen a cross country race,” and the sly fox said, “OK, why don’t you be Ed Baker’s Assistant Coach ng in track this spring, and I said, “OK,” and I was hooked, I had forgotten how much I knew about running and, I just loved working with the guys, and I went up to Rolla and said, “I want to coach cross country, starting next fall,” and then  I looked in the mirror and realized I was about 30 pounds overweight and I hadn’t done any walking or running for years, and in January, 1978, I was reading the magazine, “Runner’s World,” and saw an article that said if you want to run a marathon, 26.2 miles,  this is the way to train, and I went to the track the next day, telling myself I would run a mile, ran two laps, a half-mile, and said that’s it for today, completely winded,  and so it began, going to the track every day and slowly increasing my distance and in a couple of months I hit the road, running two miles a day, and then over the months I increased it, until I was running about 5 miles a day, 6 days a week, and then in June I began increasing my speed until I was running 8 minute pace per mile, for 6 miles, and day after day I built-up my stamina, my speed and my distance, occasionally, some of the guys from the cross country team would join me on a run, particularly Joel Menges, and kindly run my pace, and I had long ago picked out the Chicago Marathon in October, and in late September, I ran my longest distance, 15 miles at 8 minute pace, and that was the farthest I had ever run, 11 miles shy of a marathon, and on the day of the marathon, it was 89 degrees F, and I began, at 5 miles, 40 minutes, 10 miles, 1 hour 20 minutes, and at 20 miles, it was 2:41.19, that is, 79 seconds off pace, it looked as if I were going to do it, and then….at 24 miles, I hit the wall, suddenly, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other, let alone keep my pace, I had never experienced anything like it, and I said to myself, “Look, you fucker, you are going to finish, even if you crawl in,” and I shuffled to the end, taking 24 minutes to run the final 2 miles, and the reason I hit the wall is because, stupidly, I didn’t drink any water along the way, although it was offered every couple of miles, I was stupidly thinking that if I slowed down for water, I wouldn’t be able to keep my pace….well, I ended up completing it in 3 hours and 36 minutes,  my goal was 3 hours and 30 minutes that would have qualified me to run the Boston Marathon in the spring. . .  and, I did finish what I set out to do.

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