In 1974 I decided I needed to lose a few pounds. I was feeling a bit sluggish since I had entered my 30’s and wasn’t doing much to stay in shape. I had no clue about exercising until one Sunday morning while reading the newspaper between bites of a couple doughnuts and coffee, I saw an article about a couple in their late 30’s from Leavenworth, Kansas who raved about the success they had getting in shape through running.
The formula they used was simple: They started slowly and worked their way up as they gained strength and distance through their daily runs. They reached a point where they could run five miles out and back from their home. They lost weight, felt better, and had a nice improvement in their blood pressure readings, glucose, and other tests. It was exactly what I needed as an inspiration.
I met some other people who were like me and the Leavenworth couple in their desire to get in shape. We started running together entering 5 and 10 kilometer races and having a good time doing it. The running boom of the 1970’s was under way in America and we were part of it.
As interest intensified, races became gigantic by the standards of the day. In 1970, the first year of the New York Marathon, only 127 runners entered the race while 55 finished. By 2013, the number of runners had increased to 50,750; quite a jump from the lonely 55 who raced to the finish line in 1970.
"New York New York; it's a helluva town!" (Verrazano
In 1978 about ten of us from Kansas City made the trip to New York to give the Marathon a shot. At that time I had been emceeing and running half marathons and 10K’s for a few years. Some of those races had as many as 2,000 runners. That was pretty big by Missouri-Kansas standards but small time in the Big Apple so when I arrived on Staten Island for the start of the New York Marathon, it was a bit overwhelming to see 17,000 other runners ready to go. I knew at once that the race would be fun but with no opportunity to run a personal best time in a field that large.
My observation was correct as the premier runners were in the front row at the start while we lower echelon guys were far back in the pack. It took me eight minutes to get to the STARTING line! I managed to finish in a respectable 3 hours and 18 minutes to finish in 1,746th place. It was so much fun, our group returned in 1979.
Now that I have whetted your appetite for running I’m sure you are ready to “lace ‘em up” and go for a run to use up some of that adrenaline. Don’t be fooled; anyone who takes up running with a goal of doing a marathon needs to train accordingly or they are in for a big disappointment. Running 26.2 miles takes a lot out of you so it’s best to be in shape.
When I say training for a marathon, I mean plenty of running including a weekly 20 mile run with some hard-easy running in between and one or two days off for recovery time. REI has outlined a good schedule at http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/training-for-your-first-marathon.html.
My main goal in running marathons was to break the three hour barrier. When I saw the Fiesta Bowl Marathon scheduled for Scottsdale, Arizona on December 1,1979, I sensed an opportunity.
The course looked easy. It started about two miles west of Scottsdale Road on Dynamite and gradually descended south down Scottsdale Road to the area of Frank Lloyd Wright. It then went east to Pima Road then south to the finish at Scottsdale Community College. The weather was perfect: about 40 degrees at the 7:00 a.m. start and warming up to about 50 by the finish. There was no traffic since all the roads were rural two lanes in those days and the 101 did not exist yet. Our only observers were the few horses standing in the pasture of what used to be Chauncey’s Ranch on Scottsdale Road.
I felt fine all the way; I had no problem with hitting the proverbial “wall” but I still missed my goal of breaking three hours by four minutes and five seconds. As the French would say “C’est la vie.” “Such is life.” I missed my chance.
I never ran another marathon. Scottsdale was number nine and I figured enough was enough. Today, I don’t run as much as I once did but I still think of the couple from Leavenworth who were instrumental in my getting involved in the running community.
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