This is used with permission of both Mike Fanelli and Peter J. Thompson.
Bill Roe was a huge supporter of the sport, and a wonderful, colorful friend. Bill’s affection of the sport, ability to dig through the bull shit and bureaucratic detritus that challenges our sport.
Bill Roe was a friend to many. I considered him a friend and a supporter of the cause.
I found this piece posted by Peter Thompson and Mike Fanelli. We hope that you enjoy it. It was an amazing day, and Bill Roe was all over it.
Peter Thompson – REMEMBERING BILL ROE Bill Roe’s Epic Feat at…
REMEMBERING BILL ROE
Bill Roe’s Epic Feat at the 1978 AAU Men’s National Cross-Country Championships
West Seattle Golf Course, November 25, 1978
Here is Mike Fanelli writing on Facebook, 04 Oct 2016 – “Remember when we used to run AAU Nationals just two days after Thanksgiving? For years, we’d miss Turkey Day with our families so that we could compete in what was annually THE single most competitive distance race in America…an imperfect mix of all yeomen ranging from 800 meter sorts to marathon men…it was beyond cool!”
“On this particular year, the entire field was misdirected by a course official on the first lroop…race directors spun on a dime and had them run the originally intended LONG loop on the second circuit instead of the first…while the change ensured that the race distance would be the correct 10,000 meters in length, it completely screwed up the mileage markers placement and one’s entire understanding of exactly how far remained…as Alberto Salazar (who had won the NCAAs just a week prior) and Greg Meyer had led from the gun, they cooled their jets and just ‘paced’ versus raced, as neither wanted to be possibly led astray again and then left stranded…as they came around a hairpin turn very late in the ‘competition’, they realized all of a sudden that there was but 200 meters remaining to the finish line…for the next 150 they discussed a tie but as Salazar later said “We knew that they wouldn’t give us a tie”, so they decided with 50 to go, to make it a race…at that point, Alberto said to Greg, “We’d better sprint. One, two, three, go!”…with just 5 footsteps to go Meyer eeked by Salazar to ‘win’ 29:35.9 to 29:36.3”
“SIDEBAR: this was the very first Nationals that I ever competed in…I finished in about a millionth place…what I remember most was a light dusting of snow shortly prior to the race that made some of the turns appear quite like that Whamo Slip-N-Slide game from my youth…oh, that and the post-race party…well, in retrospect, perhaps I DON’T actually recall much from those festivities after all ;}”
My Recollections (Peter Thompson continues): The 1978 Championships was directed by Bill Roe and someone had assigned a very young, inexperienced marshal at the point very early in the race where the runners went straight on in the first loop and turned right in the later loop. The race started and I was standing by this critical spot observing the race. As the horde of runners approached the marshal at high speed, the lead runners suddenly shouted, “Which way? Which way?” – because the marshal was not indicating at all.
In wild panic, the marshal threw his left arm out and directed the race to go right. One lone runner had obviously studied the course map well and continued straight on, to be met about 60 yards later as he rounded some trees by a wall of photographers. The clicks of camera shutters suddenly quieted when they realized that this runner was not a recognized contender and was, perplexingly, on his own. The photographers dispersed rapidly to find the race! Meanwhile, Bill Roe was performing a Herculean intellectual and physical feat of re-directing all the race marshals in real time, to have the race run what was pretty close to the accurate intended distance, on a course that zig-zagged all over the golf course. The lone runner who continued and ran the course correctly the whole way finished and appealed that he should be recognized as the winner of thre Championships.r
Well, that appeal went about as far a VW bus going into deep snow. Nowhere. But, somewhere out there is someone (and I’m sure that Bill could recall who) who feels robbed of being the 1978 AAU Men’s National Champion. Another little factoid – this wras the first excursion on the country for the newly formed NIKE elite club – Athletics West. I vividly remember the sloppy, very muddy conditions and how some of the AW athletes put small soccer studs/cleats in their spikes, at my suggestion and as I had done many times in Europe, since they provided traction in the prevailing conditions much better than the longest spikes.
But my enduring thought and memory remains, how on earth was Bill able to re-calculate and re-organize in such a calm and capable way. Rudyard Kipling said it so well, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you …. yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”