Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My first marathon

In 1970, I was a high school senior at an all-male boarding school, full of vim and vinegar, and I thought it would be cool to finish the Boston Marathon. I always looked for challenges that were different.

I was a wrestler in high school, but otherwise I had abandoned two years of running JV cross-country in order to play house (recreational), and then Fifth Form (club), football. You'd have to be a preppie to know what I'm talkin' about.

I think that high school cross country meets back in the 60s were 2.6 miles. The Boston Marathon had been in the news because that's where a male accosted a woman athlete and tried to drag her off the marathon course to ensure the "purity" of the sport of long-distance running, which hardly anyone even cared about back then. You see, women's constitutions were considered to be delicate, a myth I knew to be ridiculous, even in my youth. (Right: The way it was in 1967.)

I would be over 18 on the day of the race. I thought that I could do 26.2 miles, thanks to the energy of youth, even though my longest runs up until then (other than 5 mile training workouts which consisted of twenty quarter mile laps interspersed with 220 yards of walking) were those 2.6 mile cross country meets. I think a couple of meets might have been 5Ks. All I had to do was run the distance I was accustomed to, times ten. If I had to walk a bit in the latter stages, what was the big deal? Such is the brain of a teenager.

My guidance counselor at the school turned me down flat. Maybe he was wise and knew that I couldn't make 26 miles, no way no how, without a base.

I was irked because otherwise I was doing whatever I wanted on weekends. Meaning I'd sneak away from school for weekends in NYC while my stodgy stay-at-school roommate "checked" me in with the housemaster on Saturday nights. ("Oh Peter's here too. He's asleep.") Those were the late Vietnam years, when authority sort of adhered to "don't ask, don't tell" when it came to youth.

The problem was that the Boston Marathon was run on a Monday (Patriot's Day in MA) and I couldn't finagle being absent from school on a Monday in NJ without securing permission from a responsible school official. Permission was not forthcoming.

Sh*t, since I was already 1-A (that's draft lingo, I was draft-eligible because I refused to take a student-deferment as being an unfair entitlement), I thought, How could anyone refuse a request of mine?

I always regretted that missed opportunity to participate in the Boston Marathon before the advent of qualifying times.


Petraruns said...

You're such a speedster, spinster - I would think you could do this.. But maybe not on top of everything else you've got going on.

Love the story though - it really paints a picture..

Kelly said...

Wow. That story has everything... boarding schools, discrimination, war, lying, drafts, and running. I wish more people would write about their youth. We were all such interesting people back then (well... it wasn't too long ago for me!).

David said...

Ah, fifth form. The best year of all. No immediate pressure from guidance counselors and parents about where you were prepping for; and no drudgery as an underformer having to do stupid things at the whim of Napoleanic seniors.
A-1. My number was 104, as I recall, and they called off the draft just as I was booking freighter berths to Australia.
Cross country club running constituted being among the kids who could leave campus and run to the girls school for obvious reasons.
Ah, the good old days.

Just_because_today said...

my regret is that I could have run Boston this year and didn't. Maybe I'll qualify again on day

Dori said...

I guess everybody has some story of missing a big event and regretting it. Mine was Woodstock. Although I was in New York visiting my grandmother during the summer of '69, and my cousins went, I was only 16 and there was no way I'd get permission.

My other regret is that I never flew on a Concorde. But that was never within reach.

I'll bet you could qualify for Boston if that's something you want to do.