“Five forty! Five forty-one!” The young man yelled as we approached the first mile marker. Staring at his stopwatch, he paid no attention to the runners.
“Five forty-two! Five forty-three!”
“That can’t be right,” I thought. “I haven’t run that fast since high school.” My friend Chris was running next to me. Our eyes locked and he shook his head, arms raised in disbelief.
“Maybe the first mile’s short,” he gasped.
“Must be short,” I agreed, breathing hard. Oh boy, was that wishful thinking.
We had trained for a year. Chris, to run Boston, and me, well I just wanted to get back in shape. It was 1978, and the running boom was in full swing. Chris and I were hooked, eagerly reading every available book, and every Runner’s World magazine. We studied shoes, training regimes, and diets, and hung on every word uttered by Jim Fixx and George Sheehan. We were on a Grail quest, searching for the key to running success. We even started a running club, The Daviess County Front Runners.
Armed with the latest information, we set up a rigid training schedule.
Looking back it’s a wonder we survived the schedule, but we were young and a bit foolish. By Flora, we were in good shape. Chris could run forever, and I was getting my speed back. Yep, we were ready for this little 10k race (six and a quarter miles).
Late Friday night, Elain and I pulled into the Charlie Brown Campground, a quaint KOA just outside Flora. We must have been a sight – our new Toyota Celica pulling an old silver popup tent trailer. Chris and Vicki arrived a little later. He drove his bright orange van which was covered with hand painted pumpkin vines.
I’ll never forget the day he had it painted. It was in our work parking lot, during lunch. A friend of his painted the vines while Chris strummed his guitar. My boss called me to the window overlooking the parking lot.
“What the blankety blank is Chris doing?” He asked.
“Painting his van, I guess.”
Jim shook his head and muttered something about IU hippies. Anyway, Chris drove that van for a long time.
Saturday, September 2, 1978, was cool but comfortable. By race time, we were eager to go. As it turned out, we were a bit too eager. That first mile time was correct. We found ourselves in the lead pack surrounded by a bunch of College kids – lean running machines. Neither Chris nor I had any business running with that group, but in the excitement of the race, we let our adrenaline get the better of us.
We had started too fast. I’d blame our coach if we had one, but we were self-coached. Between the one and two-mile markers, our legs grew heavy, and we seemed to be running in slow motion as runner after runner streaked by us. Although we paid for the fast start, Chris finished 43rd and I finished 72nd, we both had personal best times. More importantly, we relearned a vital lesson.
The first rule of long distance running -PACE YOURSELF. It is not a bad rule for life in general. We ran several more races to close out the year. In each one, we paced ourselves, our times steadily improved, and Chris qualified for the Boston Marathon.
April 1979, found the four of us squeezed into my Toyota Celica for the 18-hour drive to Boston. Using topo maps, we scouted the course the day before, and Chris was ready to go. On race day, we headed to the starting line in Hopkinton, but the freeway exit was closed. Hundreds of runners parked on the shoulder and walked into town. Chris climbed out and joined them, while we headed to the finish line in Boston. We had no trouble finding a parking space and soon stood near the finish line. Three hours later Chris ran past completing his Marathon.
When we scouted the route, Chris and I agreed we would meet next to the reflecting pool at the John Hancock Building. Near where the race ended. We waited, and waited, and waited and no Chris. The morning was cold, and we worried what had happened to him. Eventually, I left Elain and Vicky by the pool and began to search for Chris. He was not in the first aid tent, and he was not on the street. I was concerned until I reached the other side of the John Hancock Building. There stood Chris, shivering under a foil blanket, a gift from a Good Samaritan. Then I laughed. Chris was dutifully standing next to a reflecting pool by the John Hancock Building. There were two pools, one on each side. Who knew?
Anyway, Chris finished his Boston Marathon.
David L Dahl
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