People say you never forget your first. I agree, especially if you are talking about your first Boston Marathon.
GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN – After five years of trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I finally made it in November 1992 at the Omaha Riverfront Marathon. I have had my 15 minutes of fame several times over. At the 1992 Riverfront Marathon a local television station was filming me on the course. I reached the finish line in 3:10:42, barely missing the 3:10:00 qualifying time. Finishing the last eight miles in cold-windy-rainy conditions, I was just glad to be finished. I had given up the idea of qualifying at the 23-mile mark. Of course the first thing the reporter wanted to know was how I felt about missing the qualifying time by 42 seconds. I told the reporter, it just wasn’t my day and I’ll try to qualify again in the spring. I took this near miss better than my mom and sisters who were both trying not to cry without much success.
The next day, a viewer informed me that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) allows a one-minute variance to allow for different race starts. After I verified the allowance with the BAA officials, it was time for me to start training for Boston.
VISUALLY IMPAIRED RUNNER – When I received the application for the marathon, I noticed a check box for a “Visually Impaired Division”. Well, it was time to contact the BAA officials again, this time to learn more about the visually impaired division. To qualify for this division an athlete had to be legally blind. Not sure if I qualified, I called my ophthalmologist. It turned out the visually impaired division was a lot easier standard for me to meet.
THE THIRD MONDAY IN APRIL (PATRIOTS DAY) – In the small town of Hopkinton (26.2 miles from downtown Boston), runners are lined up according to their qualifying time. So, when it was time to line up, I had to part company with my 5-year training partner Bill, my stepfather and good friend. Once the gun went off, I started to feel visually impaired. There were so many runners; I could not run comfortablely because I was scared I might knock someone down. A few minutes later, I was rejoined with Bill. The father-and-son team were literally joined, as I ran with my right arm on Bill’s left shoulder. The two of us ran by the girls of Wellesley College, the Boston College crowd, and up-and-down Heartbreak Hill. Around mile 22, the crowd thinned out and I took off to complete the last few miles by myself. My 3:32:12 time on a hot-humid day was fast enough to win me third place in the visually impaired division.
Bill and I still go running or at least for a hike when I go to visit. Now the father-and-son team socialize during their runs instead of running hill repeats or going to the track for a speed workout. Of course, much of the time is spent re-living the great times we had training and racing together.