I dreamed of running the Boston Marathon for eleven years. I first considered the Boston marathon in 1975. I ran my fist marathon in 1978. That was the Paul Mason Marathon. I was on sub 3 hour pace until 22 miles, and finished in 3:29:30. It was the beginning of a love / hate relationship with the distance.
In 1982, at the age of 24, I ran the Summit Marathon in 2:51:28, just missing the Boston Marathon qualifier. This was my ninth marathon. I had, until the Summit Marathon in 1982, gone out way too fast, and would die miserably in the second half. In 1982, I had begun to train with marathoners who helped me understand the beauty of negative splits. In the 1982 Summit Marathon, I went out in 1:30 for the first half, and came back in 1:21in the second half marathon, an eleven minute PB! In 1984, I ran 2:48:12 on the Summit Marathon, a nice PB and my first qualifier for Boston. That was my 13th marathon.
In 1985, I ran NYC. In 1986, I ran Boston. Both were life changing experiences. I did not run well in either, but the memories are still with me.
Boston is the most iconic of global marathons. The excitement in the city, the meeting of running royalty, the culture around the marathon has been part of my spring life for the past four decades.
And now, the 124th BAA Boston marathon is cancelled, in this time of the coronavirus.
Here are my thoughts on this difficult decision…
1939 marathon shoe, hand built by Adi Dassler, photo by adidas Communications
The Boston marathon became part of my running world in 1975. I knew of Bill Rodgers from his bronze medal in the 1975 World Cross, just weeks prior to the 1975 Boston marathon. Bill Rodgers was truly fit, and his 120-140 mile weeks, plus the World Cross just put him in amazing shape. His masterful run, his first win, was an AR in 2:09.55, was iconic, exciting and life changing. I read the entire Runners World issue on Boston. It was amazing. As a high school junior, I was into running, as track was my life. And between Track and Field News, and Runners World, I would read each and every page.
Ten years later, I had been working at Runners World for three years. Derek Clayton, then, the world record holder of the marathon (2:08.33), was my boss, as VP/ Advertising. The founder, Bob Anderson, seemed to poop gold. He had begun a dozen titles on various sports, and some worked amazingly, and some failed miserably. One comes to mind, a pub on the Tylenol drug scare, published in a couple of weeks, sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Runners World was sold to Rodale Press in 1985. Six of the 100 plus staff stayed with Rodale Press. That summer, I began to visit the big East coast events ( I was Special Projects manager at Runners World), such as Falmouth.
As part of my job, I managed the booths at various events. That meant putting booth together, a wonderfully easy job, thanks to the bespoke manufacturing in Emmas, PA, our head quarters. Mike Perlis, the new publisher and I had bonded, and he liked to get me out to major events and meet runners. I spoke at events, I managed the booth, would run the races and pitch runners to subscribe. I had drunk the Kool aid. I loved my job. One spring, I hit 22 events in 24 weeks.
In 1986, Boston went pro. The Boston marathon was going to collapse, and John Hanckock’s David D’Alessandro made a deal to sponsor the iconic event. Guy Morse, the first executive director, was juggling the BAA’s stuffiness, the concern about change by Boston marathon cultural key players, and the need for Boston to go screaming into the modern athletic world.
At a press conference, David D’Alessandro was asked by me, why he spent millions on sponsoring the BAA Boston Marathon. D’Alessandro noted, ” For $3 million a year, I own the city of Boston for a day.” D’Alessandro looked at me, and noted that I had better get the quote right. And he never forgot my accurate assessment of his comments. For years after that, Mr. D’Alessandro’s office made sure I had a nice table at the Boston marathon JHS party (special guests included George Burns, the Monkees, and my fave, Smokey Robinson).
In 1986, the Boston Marathon was won by Rob de Castella in 2:07.51. Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen won the women’s race in 2:24.55. I had met both. Rob was a runners’ runner. As class act. In 1984, my training buddy, Tim Gruber and I got to run with Rob. A seventeen miler in Nisene Marks park, where, with five miles to go, Rob and Tim looked back, said, ” Larry you know way back?” I said, gulping air, “Yep.”, they went from six minute pace to about five and a half minute pace. I just saw dust in front of me.
The other workout was an 8 x 400m where Rob de Castella and Tim Gruber ran 8 times 400m in 61-62, with a 40 second float. The 3 miles took 13:31. I ran 8 times 400m in 72 and then, 45 second floats, and felt amazing. Rob de Castella was amazing. His training was one of his strengths. Boston showed Rob de Castella at the top of his form: he won Commonwealth in the summer and then, in the fall, took 3rd (actually second after a doping positive on a Polish athlete) in NYC.
My Boston visits began in 1986. I missed 1991 and 2018 and 2019. Boston celebrates the sport. If you are a running brand, you must be there. I would spend the week prior, and for the past decade, heading to London to make sure that we covered both.
The Boston Marathon is a sanctuary of sport. The BAA, and sponsors like John Hancock and adidas protect the iconic nature of the event and they should! The thousands of fans, athletes, and families along the streets of Boston inspire me. My favorite moment is the morning of the Boston marathon, as I leave my hotel, the Charlesmark hotel, and walk to the media work room, about 800m away. At 7 am, fans are already out on the course to stake their claim to the real estate along the final miles of the Boston course.
What will happen in 2020?
Well, on May 28, the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh cancelled the Boston Marathon, supported by the BAA changing the event into a virtual event.
The @BostonMarathon is an annual event that showcases the best of Boston. Canceling the 124th Marathon was a difficult decision but a necessary one to protect the health and safety of our city. (1/3)
— Marty Walsh (@MartyForBoston) May 29, 2020
The 124th Boston Marathon will be a virtual event in 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic makes it too dangerous to hold the Boston marathon. Consider this: Hosting Boston also means that first responders are being used to monitor 40,000 healthy people.
The Boston marathon means different things to different people. Seeing the former Boston champions always meant alot to me. Meeting with finest media people in sport each year meant catching up with my role models and key players. Catching up with the excitement of long time veterans, and newbies to the Boston scene was a blast. Heck, just inhaling the air, the cool, crisp air of Boston in the spring invigorates you!
The event was moved from April to September. Now, the September event is cancelled, and a virtual event will take place.
In this modern plague, which is, contrary to some popular social media rumors, not a) product of an alien suprise attack, b) results of the new G5 technology, c) not a communist plot. This is what happens when modern society thinks that they have tamed nature. Mother Nature is reminding us that she still has the upper hand.
Tom Gilk, the BAA CEO, is one of my favorite people to catch up with in Boston, had the following to say on the cancelling of the Boston Marathon :
BAA CEO Tom Grilk says the Boston Marathon will move to a virtual format and the BAA will refund entry fees to every registered participant. pic.twitter.com/eKlA9UUclM
— Jonathan Gault (@jgault13) May 28, 2020
We hope to see you all at Boston in 2021. Stay healthy. Socially distance. Keep up the running.
I will see you in Boston!
Boston Marathon is cancelled, going virtual…NBC Boston
Newsweek: Boston Marathon cancelled and gone viral, what about virtual marathons?