I ran my first marathon in Chicago in 1992. That race started me on an addiction that would last through 17 marathons over five years. I was never a speed demon, so the marathon seemed to be my race. Everybody who runs a marathon dreams of qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.
I was living in Corinth, Mississippi, and training with Harvey Pendergrast and Phil Hinton. We ran a couple of marathons together. Then I started training some with Kenneth Williams. Kenneth and I went on to run several marathons together. But in late 1994, I moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, away from all my running partners. I learned how tough it is to run in the Midwest in the winter without encouragement, but I was addicted.
I qualified for Boston at the 1995 Glass City Marathon in Toledo, Ohio. This was my 11th marathon, and I broke my PR by 12 minutes. I knew the 1996 Boston would be Number 100, and was going to be big. No way was I going to miss it! I ran three more marathons in 1995: Tupelo, Detroit, and Memphis.
1996 rolled around, and the excitement grew. For the first time ever, the BAA let some runners in on a lottery basis – about 5,000, I think. Plus, everybody wanted to qualify for the 100th. So, the number of entrants grew from 9,416 in 1995 to 38,708 in 1996. This was going to be huge!
Even though I tried to book early, I had to stay way out in the suburbs – I don’t even remember where. I knew I didn’t want to drive into the downtown area, so I took the train/subway. I went in on Saturday to pick up my packet, and the transportation was fine. By the way, I believe this was the first year they used the scoring chip. There was a trial area at packet pickup, so that you could verify the chip worked and was scoring your name – very exciting stuff for 1996!
Saturday and Sunday were both very cold and rainy. Snow had fallen earlier in the week, so the rain cleared some of the snow away. I went back to downtown on Sunday to take the pulse of the marathon. There were folks everywhere!
I got up super early Monday morning. It was very cold and windy, but sunny – a great day for a run. Everything went super on the way in. Lots of folks on the train were dressed in running gear, headed for the big day! When I got downtown, the streets were very crowded. Long lines were already waiting for the buses to go to Hopkinton. I finally got on a bus, but we all got in a huge traffic jam. Lots of us would leave the bus, run to the bushes for a bathroom break, and still catch up to our bus. Eventually we made it to the Hopkinton High School.
Not sure how many bandits ran, but it looked like a lot more than 39,000 runners! No way to use a bathroom. Everybody was going anywhere they could find a little cover. Finally got to my gate, and it was elbow to elbow. At least all the bodies kept the wind away. The race started on time, and it took me 10:17 to reach the start line.
When I got to the start, it was fabulous. People were everywhere cheering. This was a major league event! This was not a day to try to set a record – it was just a day to enjoy the race. My knee had been bothering me the last couple of months, but I just had to work through that – I couldn’t let that rain on my parade! After a few miles, the mass of runners began to thin out a little. I remember the college girls hollering very loudly – that was a big lift. I remember that Heartbreak Hill was not as tough as I thought it would be. I remember that the wind was very bad the last few miles, and it was very cold. I remember what a thrill it was when I had the finish line in my sights. I finished in 3:56:29, certainly not a great time for me, but still under four hours on a bum knee.
There were people everywhere at the finish. It was very cold and windy. I had to stand in line to get a Mylar blanket, had to stand in line to get a cup of soup, had to stand in line to pick up my bag – are you getting the idea about the lines? Still I took it all in! Eventually I hobbled to the subway and headed back to the rental car. Then I drove down to Hartford for the night. I was stiff and tired when I arrived, but what an experience – the 100th running of the Boston Marathon!
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