Friday, April 18, 2014

Vol 4 No. 28 Boston Marathon, Thoughts from Some of our Readers

April 18, 2014

The Boston AA will put on its 118th  marathon in three days.   If you have watched TV in the past week or two. you cannot have missed coverage of the memorials, the testimonies of victims of last year's  bombings, the triumph of many in their recoveries and the lingering grief of the families of those who did not survive.  Because of the bombing,  this year's race will have unprecedented coverage, that only a media craving  ratings could possibly wish to present to a public that has little fundamental knowledge or interest about the race up front.   In a normal year we would expect to see ten seconds of coverage showing the men's and women's winners.   This year we  will be inundated with human interest stories that will supplant what is going on with the race itself. 

Since this is a blog mainly about the past, I will put out to our readers some comments that came from John Bork and Orville Atkins.  John, an NCAA 880 champion, who never ran a marathon, and Orville, who was a top marathoner in Canada, and a fifth place finisher at Boston in 1962.  Both men found their way to California in the 1960s and are still there.   Both trained under Mihaly Igloi.  They are sages about our sport, and I expose you to some of their memories and wisdom.   Ernie Cunliffe was one of America's top 880 men in 1960, ran at the Rome Olympics, was on a 4x880 WR team, and set the 1000 yards world record indoors.   Steve Price was a top 100 finisher at Boston in the early sixties and coached many very good female distance runners.  Tom Coyne ran at Western Michigan and has contributed several articles to this tome.     I'll throw in a few of my own memories of Boston and hope that some of you might send in some of your memories and thoughts to add to this post.  Just write me at the address in our header.  Thanks , and enjoy our blog.  
George Brose

My Friend Tom Trumpler and I were having an e-cussion about the difficuty of the
Boston Marathon Course, as touted by the unknowing press..

I mentioned that I had seen a chart sometime in the past demonstrating that Boston actually had a gradual drop with "Heartbreak Hill" and a few others that came at just the wrong place in the course. It turns out that the Boston ccourse has the steepest down hill grade of any of the five
major marathons. 

So Tom, dug deep into his google search skills and came up with the site below (see Link below)

At least 3 of you guys, herewith have conquered this course, of course,:: Nick Kitt, Orville Atkins,
and Paul Bishop. Here's to you! Guys.

Monday is Patriots Day. So, go for a run in the early AM, then turn on the TV at 10AM PDT
and watch the marathon race(s) unfold.

60 Minutes did a great profile on Shalane Flanagan's quest to train for and win this year's women's
race. (She was 4th. last year!) She grew up in the Boston area and both her parents were good marathoners, I was told.

But, for me any 26 mile course is tougher than I care to imagine.
So, on Patriot's day my running buddy Paul Bishop and I will run our usual 3 miles
Happy Easter
Aka John Bork


Dear Ernie:

You are a better statistician than I.

I heard her parent's pedigree's on the 60 minutes profile but, could not remember them accurately like yourself.

Good to hear from you, Ernie.

Happy Easter,


Below are some great recollections and comments by my old buddy, Orville Atkins in Santa Monica, CA.
Orville's best finish was 5th. place at Boston in 1961 ?  Later I coached Orville for a year in about 1967.


Yep, Boston is an aided course.  I have written a lot on the message boards about THE race but haven't paid too much attention to it being aided.  I still consider it the best race of them all.  Massachusetts will be shut down Monday as it is every Patriots day.  Two of my neighbours, non runners, said they grew up in Boston and every year their family stood on the side of the road and watched the runners go by on Patriots day.  I was going to say flow by but when I first raced it in 1962 there were only 181 starters.  Families do that generation after generation  The race had no females no liquids or gels and only splits for the lead runner.  The leaders' times were given in each of the towns the race went through, so they were at odd distances.  When I started to lose the leaders about ten miles into the race an official ran back to me at ten and half miles and said I would not get any more splits unless I caught up.
I ran the race 4 more times after that first year, the last being in 1974.
Marathon courses were often not accurate in those days.  Culver City was labeled short for many of its years.  And in 1957 it was found that Boston had become 1,183 short so it was lengthened.
What I found the hardest on me in 1962 was the gently sloping downhill after heartbreak Hill resulting in my being unable to walk down stairs the next day.  A problem in Boston is that many start too fast.  The first 10 miles are rolling and basically downhill.  Your quads get pounded before the hills and the downhill slope
!81 starters and between 500,000 and a million spectators!
But now we look to the future.  The race will continue to change but it will always be the oldest and the greatest.

Many thanks for sending me Orville's blurb. Neat to hear what one of the "greats" describe what I thought only happened to us mere mortals.    Thanks


The Boston Course drops from a 462 foot elevation at Hopkinton to 20 feet at the finish.  The drop is fairly continuous.

However, from mile 16 to mile 22 (Lower Newton Falls to Cleveland Circle) there is a rise from 49 feet to 236 feet and
then a drop to 147 feet.  From the 147 foot level it goes gently down to the 20 foot level.

The Newton Hills from mile 16 on are killers but the long downhills probably impact the runners the most.

Take care,

Tom Coyne


I ran Boston in 1978, the year Bill Rodgers beat  Jeff Wells  from Dallas by a few seconds.  A Yugoslav expat carrying a placard almost interfered getting between them just before the finish line.   I went there hoping to do a sub 2hr 30 having had an easy 2hr 35min.  PR the previous October at Quebec City.  However as Orville stated the early downhills seem to pound your quads into submission by the end of the race.  Heartbreak Hill was not difficult.  Lots of spectators yelling and screaming after about 4 miles. No splits and no mile signs anywhere.    Many people had a list with names and numbers, and they were actually calling your name or the state you were from when they could find it quickly enough.  I do remember the down hill after Heartbreak becoming really bad and having to walk at that point and getting passed by the leader and eventual winner of the women's race, Gayle Barron from Atlanta.  She was very attractive.   Wonder if she is still doing television broadcasting which she was locally in Atlanta at that time.  I blew up pretty badly and ran 2HR. 51 min. 50sec.    and was 1259th by the time I crossed the line.  In those days you had to have a sub 2hr. 50 min to even get in the race.  And it wasn't very expensive.  Maybe $20 but I don't recall that number.     I finished one place behind  Tom Antczak from Wisconsin who had won some national level race that year, so I wasn't the only one having a bad day.    I went into the parking garage and lay down on a cot just to recover, and there was some poor soul moaning and groaning next to me and some doc or nurse was cutting away  blisters from his feet.  He was saying something like, "I can't stand pain."     I looked over and it was Bill Rodgers , the winner.  Thirty minutes earlier he had been on the victory stand.  Obviously he was being facetious.    A week later I had my best ever 6 miles   30:30.   I always tell people to try a moderately long race right after a marathon, I think because your endurance is really jacked up after a marathon if you didn't get hurt.    One other highlight for me was getting kicked out of the little high school gym dressing room in Hopkinton by Jock Semple.  Also got a great Boston  cussing out from him.  It was supposedly reserved for the elite runners.  There were no Porta Johns then, and people were doing their business all over the village green near the start.  Also a number of people were on the gym floor getting dressed, men and women completely starkers .  The things we remember.  George 

Here is a link to Gayle Barron who won in 1978 from the Atlanta Constitution.
Gayle Barron in the late 70's

Gayle in 2006 still looking great.  Guess Waffle House taken in moderation is not too debilitating. If you live out West or overseas you wouldn't understand this institution.  It's a diner much like a good bar.  You're only a stranger there once.
I'll have my hash browns smothered, covered, scattered, splattered,  slashed, bashed, hashed, and mashed

Gayle touts the Waffle House as a healthy place to eat if you can believe it.  Sounds like the Woody Allen film  "Take the Money and Run".   By the way ,  Woody was an alleged 2:06 half miler in high school.  Ok so he's gone somewhat astray since then. 
 Here is a composite of photos of the 1978 leaders taken by Mike Hewitt somewhere out on the course, possibly on Heartbreak Hill, but I can't be certain.   Mike, a 14.2 hurdler at Oklahoma  was my college roommate. He  lived in Winchester, Mass. and hosted me that weekend.   His wife Patty Mac was inspired by the events and started running after that, and she became a very good age group runner in the 80's until a knee problem forced her off the roads.
Top Row   (L) Bill Rodgers, Melrose, Mass., 1st 2:10:13   (2) Eda Tikkanen Finland 3rd 2:11:15
Middle Row (L) Frank Shorter, Boulder, CO 23rd 2:18:15 (M) Randy Thomas, Brighton, Mass. 5th 2:11:25  (R) Don Kardong, Spokane, 7th 2:14:07, Jeff Wells, Dallas, 2nd 2:10:15
Bottom  (L)  George Brose, Muncie, IN, 1259th, 2:51:50  (LC) Bob Hall  (RCenter) Yutaka Taketomi, Japan, 9th 2:14:34  (R) Tom Fleming, Bloomfield, NJ, 10th 2:14:44
Below are pages from the results book sent out to all finishers in 1978

Top 80 men 1978.  How many do you remember?  How many did you know?

Top 63 Women 1978

The following links appeared on Walt Murphy's blog This Day in Track and Field.  One is a recently discovered documentary on the Boston Marathon.

Walt Murphy!  Now there is a name from the very beginning.  More stirred up memories by George.  It was 1964 and I was moving to the US by way of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  Jim Snider and I arrived in Los Angeles the night before our plane to Tokyo.  We knew no one but Carl Reid had paved the way and we went to Dorsey High School where we met John Bork.  We slept on cots in the Bork living room and the next day started our trip.  We spent time in Honolulu and watched the Tokyo Opening Ceremonies on Television in the hotel. Also while there we ran in a short race.  And then came Tokyo. I still thk it was the best Olympics of the 7 I have seen.  I remember the pole vault final being on the 4th day of the games at one o'clock and going on and on as the competitors played chess.   Most of the spectators left, the lights were dimmed in most of the stadium and many of us moved so we were sitting in the area of the pole vault pit.  That is my first memory of Walt.  He was there too.  I have all the jumps and passes recorded in my "Official Programme"  Both Fred Hansen and Wolfgang Reinhardt missed twice at an Olympic record of 16 feet 8 and three-quarters.  The 2 vaulters each had one jump left and looked very lonely standing in the darkened stadium  contemplating that last chance.  Hansen was first and made it. Reinhardt then missed and the 9 hour competition ended.  I do not remember seeing Walt since that night of October 17, 1964 But I hear of him often  He is THE Track and Field expert.  
John Bork mentioned coaching me.  After my time with Coach Mihaly Igloi in 1966 John began to coach me and in 1967 I ran my best Boston Marathon time.
Those are happenings as I remember them now.
Oh,and I Also I vividly remember that on Heart Break Hill in '62 I was very tempted to drop out.  There was a head wind, it was raining and I was cold.  I remember repeating to myself  several times that I had blown.  Tempted to drop out I told myself that I could not drop out while in the top ten.

I just got through all your blogs and addenda(s) Some of my recollections included the all night bus ride back to Dayton, Ohio. My quads were so sore, 65' I think, that I had to go up and down the bus station(s) stairs backwards. After my second Boston, I drove the legendary Dick King part of the way back to Chicago. On the way there, we spent the night at Dick's sister's place somewhere in upstate New York. She, along with her mortician husband and kids lived on the second floor of a mortuary.

Dick, along with the equally legendary Arne Richards, never had a car but he and Arne had almost all of the bus and train schedules for the entire Mid-West. As was his custom, Dick often wore a white dress shirt to race in.    They are both gone to the big race in the sky and are missed. We need more eccentric, interesting people like Dick and Arne.

Steve Price
Steve,  thanks for that, and another eccentric to add to the list is  Claire Duckham, the race walker, bike racer, marathon runner who was an avid collector of cool stuff including his Ducatti motorcycle.  When Claire was in his sixties, he drove the bike from Dayton to Boston , over 500 miles, ran the race and drove home the next day.  As any biker knows, a five hundred mile  ride is a challenge under any conditions, but the day after running the Boston marathon and in your sixties? Holy crap. They don't make them like that anymore.    I remember just 8 or 9 years ago when Claire was well into his 90's, I saw an exotic car going down the road with two bicycles mounted on the roof.  As I passed the car to see who could juxtapose those two bikes on the roof of a hot sporting vehicle, it was Claire at the wheel and a pretty young lady in the passenger seat.   Remember when we went to his 80th birthday party and he had recently done a  200 mile bicycle ride, the double century?  Claire jokingly confided that the only problem he had was getting the bicycle seat out of his ass.   George


A Ride Over the Course Lasting 8 Minutes
Race morning here on Vancouver Island.   The women started at 6:30AM our time, men will go at 7:00am (10:00am Boston).
Women are off at 5:09 first mile men at 4:44 in the first.   Bright sunny but not warm. 
I'm blessed with Canadian tv and some sports channel which has the race from start to finish.  What a change after watching the 1964 documentary last night.  The organizers could barely handle a 400 runner race start. Today about 36,000.  

No comments:

V 8 N. 43 Book Review "My Marathon, Reflections on a Gold Medal Life" by Frank Shorter and John Brant

To read an autobiography of someone who was a contemporary, though miles above one's own abilities in the sport of long distance runni...