Jeff Benjamin reviewed this wonderful book for RunBlogRun. As followers of RunBlogRun know, Jeff is one of our most enduring contributors. First, he wrote for American Athletics, our first title, and then, American Track & Field.
RunBlogRun recommends this book for those who love the sport. The Greater Boston Track Club is one of the most enduring clubs in our sport.
History of the Greater Boston Track Club
by Paul C. Clerici
Sometimes big things come in small packages. When one picks up the small 128 page History of the Greater Boston Track Club, one might underestimate Paul C. Clerici’s scope of historical storytelling about one of America’s premiere running clubs. One could NOT be more wrong! Cleric’s chronological tale, which weaves through four decades and through two running “booms”, not only packs a great wallop of inspiring stories, but also the people who brought about and continue to make the GBTC an influential club and a standard for other clubs to follow to this day.
The beginnings of the GBTC in 1973 were woven into personalities and events not unlike other places in America during this era and beyond (thinking Frank Shorter and Jack Bachelor’s Florida Track Club) – basically a group of dedicated, tight-knit post collegians looking for guidance with a club to compete with, and hopefully reaching the next level. The GBTC club was established on August 16, 1973. Some of the founding athletes included Jack McDonald, Dick Mahoney, Bob Sevene, Kirk Pfrangle, and others. Surrounding them were a few coaches, notably the already successful and intense Boston State College coach Bill Squires. Squires, still as animated as he was 40 years ago, (as seen by his justifiable pride in writing the foreward in the book) was the missing link in the eyes of the club. “What I took away from my time with Coach was the selflessness,” said Pfrangle. “It wasn’t about being famous, cashing in on the success of the club collectively and individually, but giving back to the sport he loved.”
And they repaid that love back a thousandfold!! Running under his guidance and inspiration, the dreamers chased their dreams as they competed at high levels over the next decade. It also didn’t hurt that a new guy named “Will” Rodgers joined them too! “Boston Billy” takes up quite a few pages in the book, and his record-breaking performance in the 1975 Boston Marathon only served to feed the desires of his teammates! It’s also worthy to note that joining the squad during this time was the “Rookie” – -Alberto Salazar. Yet even as great as Salazar would become, the pinnacle 1979 Boston Marathon Race would be the GBTC’s single best team performance, perhaps the greatest club performance on America’s roads!
As the book continues on, it also weaves right through the phases of the running “booms” and how they affected the team and their performances. Without giving away too much (remember, the book is small!), the same inspirations and goals of the GBTC have carried on to this day. What I also found really cool are the photos in the book; the teenage Alberto Salazar posing with the already “King of the Roads” Bill Rodgers (a title Alberto will inherit from Bill to begin the 1980’s), to many old photos combined with reunion photos of the GBTC members during the last 40 years! I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide how age treated these people!!
Today, Alberto Salazar runs the Oregon Project, an idea which he pitched to Nike’s Phil Knight almost a decade ago when he lamented about the lack of a true American club system to develop post-collegians for the next level. Other clubs have popped up in some other parts of America as well. I’m hoping these athletes and coaches will take the time to read Paul C. Clerici’s book. There are NO “Magic Workouts”, no “how to…” charts, but plenty of funny and inspiring stories. Sometimes chemistry is all you need. By the way, Coach Salazar doesn’t have to read it; he lived it. All you have to do is look at his results!