Nothing like Patriot’s Day in Boston

Patriot’s Day in Boston is aligned with the running of the Boston Marathon. This year is it Monday April 18th. Back in 1987, my pal Jack Mook asked me if I ever ran a marathon? He also told me that he was injured and wanted to know if I would consider running Boston? He would give me his number and I could run it if I wanted? I only ran in the winter for fitness. I thought about it and immediately responded in the affirmative and thought about what it would take to run the thing. I did my due diligence, ran my 20 in a raging snowstorm, went to Boston with Hot Harry Kirsch, Les Brodie, and Carl Trimbur and finished in a respectable time of 3:17. Not bad for a guy who basically rides a bike. The bus ride to the start was a bit intimidating seeing that I was in the company of a lot of pure runners and it seemed like a loooooong bus ride. LOL!! But the best part of that day for me was not the running, but the auxiliary experiences along the way which made it most memorable.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Experience #1- I went to the expo and met the 1984 Olympic Marathon Champion – Joan Benoit Samuelson. She was at the Nike booth with Frank Shorter and we had a great chat because we have a mutual friend- Jace Pasquale. As it turns out, Jace was Joan’s ski race coach during her years at the University of New Hampshire and all Joan could talk about was ” How is Jace?” ” What is she doing now” ” Please tell her hello from me.” Joan was such a friendly and unassuming person who was so humble – very impressive for an Olympic gold medalist. We chatted for a long time in the line and the people behind me were getting miffed so I thanked her for the time and moved on to collect some Boston Marathon SWAG.

Experience # 2- being with Carl, Harry, Les and Bill Shillinger, my running partner for the marathon. Bill had agreed to run with me and we had a great time. Bill kept my enthusiasm in check as we ran through Wellesley College with the roar of the college girls that could be heard for miles. I came smoking out of there all pumped up but Bill told me to slow down or I would have a problem. He guided me past the Green Monster of Fenway Park and as we finished together, I realized how valuable Bill had been for me in this initiative.

Hot Harry only had a running bag with another singlet and a pair of running shorts and a toothbrush. He traveled light but snored like a Stihl chainsaw- driving Les to sleep in the closet of the hotel room. Another treat of the hotel was the fact that the elevators were broken after the marathon and there was no hot water. A cruel punishment for those of us who had just run 26.2 miles. But eating at Legal Seafoods and laughing about the whole thing made me think that this mishap was all part of the experience. Running down the Newton Hills beat up my thighs to the point that I had to walk down stairs backwards the next day in the hotel and in the “T” running around town. I did not realize that running downhill beats you up more than anything.

Hot Harry- the man , the myth the legend

Hot Harry and Carl Trimbur are no longer with us. But the laughs of us all in one hotel room and traveling up and back to Boston is a time that I will cherish forever.

Experience #3- Boston is a wild place during the Marathon. So many people packing the sidewalks cheering on the runners along with the smell of beer all the way down Boylston St. Boston is resilient and even with the tragedy of the bombing a number of years ago, they have that Patriot spirit that keeps Boston strong. Eating Italian in the North End, seeing the sights from the Revolution days, and in general, taking in all that Boston has to offer is really the true essence of Patriot’s Day and marathon weekend.

I don’t run anymore because I am preserving my knees for cycling and skiing. But when I see the marathon on TV every spring, I think back to the good times that I had with the guys, the experiences of running the event, and the pull of Boston that will always bring me back to visit. Thanks for reading.

The Will to Win

What is it about the Olympics that glues us to the TV every four years? Is it the pageantry of the opening ceremonies? Is it the personal stories of the athletes that make them compelling in our living rooms? Is it the exotic venues that the IOC selects every four years? Perhaps as ABC once stated, is it ” The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” For me, it is all of the above and I must admit that I am addicted to the Olympics. download

Even though the commentary and interviews might be lacking from the color people at NBC, the stories are what interest me. The personal sacrifice of the athletes to get to this point in their career. The missed social lives, the early morning training and dedication to compete. These are the stories that make me an Olympic fan. Last night I watched the daughter of two friends of mine compete in the women’s freestyle relay. Allison Schmitt was a young girl when she left Pittsburgh due to her father Ralph’s new job with Ford in Michigan. We miss Gail and Ralph at North Park where we all were part of Hot Harry’s North Park Runners. But all of us North Parkers were glued to the set to see the gold medal gleaming from her neck last night at the awards ceremony. Aside from her record of 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in the London Games, Allison won her second medal of these Rio games with three other equally talented ladies bringing it home for the US. Impressive to me was the fact that during the presentation ceremony, they all sang the National Anthem. What an inspiring moment and what a picture of dedicated young ladies thrilled with victory and proud of their country. MTZSPDEC77XA8WFS_768x432

Equally impressive to me at the Olympics is the jubilation of the athletes who compete. They might not win a medal but the joy on their faces as they complete their events and the camaraderie between them at the conclusion is exemplary of the Olympic spirit. Edith Thys Morgan, who has a really good blog on ski racing called RacerEX, says it best when she says that when you compete in the Olympics, you are forever an Olympian. She should know, she competed as a US Ski Team member at the Calgary Games. It is akin to the Marines who say, you are a Marine, not a former Marine. You are an Olympian for life. I feel for the folks who were not able to go. My friend Mac Martin who was a national class road cycling competitor was not able to go to Moscow because of the Jimmy Carter boycott. No athlete should be denied their Olympic opportunity because of politics. Sue Haywood was denied at the Athens Games in Women’s Mountain Biking because of a scoring mistake by the governing body of US Cycling. A terrible tragedy that can never be rectified. As an aging weekend warrior athlete, I have so much respect for Olympic caliber athletes because in my own small way, I can appreciate the dedication, the pain and suffering and the joy of competing. The other remarkable thing about the athletes is their normal girl/boy next door attitude during the interviews. They are people just like you and me, as I learned when I met Joan Benoit Samuelson years ago at the Boston Marathon. You could not meet a more unassuming athlete than Joan. Her victory in the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon was indeed impressive but her humble attitude was the most impressive to me. maine-joan-benoit-samuelson

I had the opportunity to attend the Winter Games in Lake Placid back in 1980. I had the good fortune of receiving 900 dollars face value of tickets from my cousin Bill Carroll who worked for Coke at the time. The Durfees and I saw a lot of events that year and as a hopeless romantic, I was impressed with the atmosphere of the Olympics and the beauty of the High Peaks region in the Adirondacks. As we stood in line to get the bus into the village from the parking lot one day, it was wicked cold. But all I could think about was being at the Olympics as I remarked how beautiful the Olympic flame was with the peaks in the background. The guy behind me remarked that he wanted to ” sit his a#$ in that flame right now” and kind of burst my bubble of enjoyment. But we all laughed as we boarded the bus, freezing to death but excited to spend another day at the venues. I saw Eric Heiden win all of his golds in speed skating and noted the Russians who stood in awe of this amazing American athlete resplendent in his gold speed suit. 1081918_10_147x110

So, in the midst of all the political turmoil going on in the country and the world right now, it is relieving to me to be able to turn off the news and tune in to NBC to once again view the events of the Rio Olympics. The world takes a break for two weeks as the athletes and the world come together to celebrate the Olympic spirit. From the march of the refugee team to a standing ovation, to the excellence of our ladies gymnastics team( arguably the best ever), to Melo and his record scoring in men’s basketball without a jaded bone in his body appreciating representing his country, to the closing ceremonies, the Olympics are just so cool. Tune in if you have not already. Thanks for reading.