After reading an article by Jane Bernstein entitled, “Still Running” in The Sun, February, 2017, I was inspired to write for our Writing Class about training for the Chicago Marathon in 1978.
I started to run for the first time as an adult in 1977, when I was thirty-six years old.
In 1963, I graduated from Kalamazoo College with a BA in English. It was also the end of a rather successful high school and college career as a football player and a track runner, running the high and low hurdles, and the s440 yard dash.
In the intervening fourteen years, I did not run a step.
Then, in the fall of 1976, I became an Assistant Professor of Education at Kalamazoo College, returning to my beloved alma mater.
My former football coach, Rolla Anderson, was Athletic Director, and he asked me if I would coach the Men and women’s Cross Country teams. I said “No,” for one thing, because I had never even seen a Cross Country Meet. And Rolla kept after me. Finally, he said, “Ray, why don’t you be Ed Baker’s Assistant in coaching t rack next spring. I said, “Yes,” and that did it.
When I started coaching, I had forgotten how much I knew about the fundamentals of track, and I loved working with the guys, and I went to Rolla and said, “Yes.”
Furthermore, when I started coaching track, I was 30 pounds overweight, and so I was determined to start running again. I went to the t rack, determined to run a mile, and I was totally winded after a quarter. But I kept at it.
Then, In January of 1978, I was reading a “Runner’s World” magazine and came across an article saying, select a marathon 6 months away, and begin training for it in this manner.
Now, I was getting serious. I selected the Chicago Marathon in October.
I hit the streets, running 5 miles a week, then later on, 10, and months later 15 miles per week.
In late summer, I was running s40 miles a week.
In August of 1978, my Cross Country guys were beginning training for the season, and sometimes when they hit the streets for a six-mile run, they would ask me to go along, kindly running the first two miles at eight-minute pace with me, then they would take off at their six-minute pace.
My goal for Chicago was to run 8-minute pace, so that I would run the 26.2 miles in 3 hours and 30 minutes, and qualify for Boston.
On the day of the Marathon, it was 89 degrees F, and very humid. Along the way times were given at 5, 10, 15 miles, and so forth. Water was available every 2 ½ miles.
This was 39 years ago, and drinking water was not emphasized as it is now, and I made a very poor decision: I won’t stop to grab water because it will slow me down. Duh.
At 5 miles, I was right on the mark: 40 minutes; at 10, 1 hour, 20 minutes; at 15, 2 hours; at 20, I will never forget it, 2:41.19, only 79 seconds off pace at 20 miles!!!
Then, at 25 miles, I hit the wall. Suddenly, I had difficulty taking the next step, I had absolutely no strength, and I had 1.2 miles to go. I said to myself, “Look, you fucker, you are going to finish if you have to crawl.”
I did finish at 3:36, 6 minutes off pace.
I never ran another marathon, and I jogged on and off for the next several years.
And, now, I am happy to walk 30 or 40 minutes a day with Christine.