|CGAS Cape Cod 10K – 1985 //|
This is a post in my ongoing series where I am looking back at over my 40 years as a runner.
In this series you will find my recollections and honest reflections about a part of my life that others only glimpse, as that “crazy guy” they see out running in all kinds of weather, after dark, during the day or even during hunting season.
This post will be about the years 1984 to 1988 and I was living in
Groton/New London, Connecticut area
1985 & 1986 were my personal glory days when it comes to running. Starting in April ’85 until September ’86, I think I ran a different road race at least twice a month and traveled to a couple of out of state races, specifically to run them. During this time my race pace was usually between 6:00 and 6:20 pace, which isn’t that fast, but faster than I had ever run before or since.
We moved to this area in October 1984 and I found a wonderful running community at work, about 10-15 people who would run almost every day at lunch time, it was very seldom that I would run by myself, unless I wanted to. At first I had a hard time keeping up with most of them, but I got better with the daily runs. When they saw that I was going to train with them in all kinds of weather, they began to accept me into their running circle (this was before Google+).
USCG Academy Indoor Track
One afternoon in January ’85 Bill B. asked if I was interested in interval training. I had been reading a bunch of stuff in “Runner’s World” about interval training and told him sure. He told me that the Coast Guard Academy had an indoor track and that a bunch of the local runners that he ran with had used it every Tuesday night and were interested in starting up again. I told him sure and that I was very interested in trying it out. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
The next Tuesday night I met with Bill and about 10 other runners in front of the CGA Indoor track entrance, it was dark and cold, so we just went inside without doing introductions. The Cadet at the desk asked if any of us had a Coast Guard ID card and I showed him mine and we went upstairs to the track. It seems the reason that I had been invited to do intervals with them was that this “group” needed a Coastie to get into the track. I was being used and began to wonder what was going on.
Once we got upstairs, Bill introduced me to AB and a bunch of other runners (who I would find out later were a bunch of regionally elite runners). I had heard of AB from reading “Runners World”, read his articles and knew of his accomplishments, so I was appropriately intimidated by meeting someone so famous in the world of running. Surprisingly, during the first workout, I found out that I could keep up and beat most of these guys for short distances, but they were way, way out of my league once it was over 200 meters.
This indoor track intervals became a weekly habit, no I didn’t like the workout sessions while we were doing them, they hurt physically and it also hurt my ego, because I was easily the worst of the runners that were there and it bothered me a little to know that no matter how hard I trained, that wasn’t changing.
However, they were all a great bunch of guys, who didn’t look down their noses at me, because I wasn’t in their league or even near it when it came to running. They all really tried to help me be a better runner with their hints and suggestions to improve my running form/style or slowing down once in a while to teach me what a certain pace felt like. I know that I learned a lot from them, so I really didn’t mind being the “worst” runner there or being “used” to get them into the USCGA Indoor Track facility.
I know that those interval training sessions, the help and suggestions they gave me, made me a much better runner than I had been before. When I did my first race that year at Conn College that spring, I broke 20:00 minutes for a 5K pretty easily and a few weeks later broke 40:00 for a 10K. Eventually, I did get under 18:00 for a 5K, but I didn’t really enjoy running races over 5 miles and avoided the 10K, 1/2 Marathons and Marathon Distances, so my next 1/2 Marathon will be a PR for me ;-).
Pizza and Beer
After the Tuesday workouts we would go down for Pizza and beer at the pizza place just down road and yes they did drink beer/soda, eat and laugh just like the rest of us. Actually the socializing afterwards was as important to me as the interval sessions, I enjoyed the camaraderie that I experienced with those guys, it was the closest thing I had experienced to being back on board ship, without being on a ship.
After they moved outdoors and didn’t need me anymore, I would show up at the Waterford H.S. Track and still train with them. I was the guy they got to kick against in the last part of the 1/4 or 1/2 mile or whatever their repeat distance was, so I was able to add something to their training regimen. It meant something to me to be able give something back to them.
By July of ’85 I told them that one of my dreams was to break 5:00 minutes for a mile and they helped train and paced me during my attempts, but the closest I ever came was 5:01:42 (I puked after that one), I had a couple of 5:02 miles before and after that time, (it was always the third lap, that I had problems maintaining my pace and focus). I am very proud of that time, but was always disappointed that I couldn’t find that extra couple of seconds somewhere in me to go under 5:00 minutes.
5 Mile Race Redemption
When I came back to Maine for a vacation in August ’85 and to show off our first daughter, who was born in July to my family, there was a local 5 mile road race over in Corinna, that I wanted to run in. I saw a few people that I had run with in high school and I think that I surprised them and myself by coming in second overall in that small town race.
I finally had in my own eyes redeemed myself in a small way for all those years of futility and under-achievement while running Cross Country in high school. It is one of those moments when you cross the finish line and you know only one other person finished before you did – it was very satisfying. Especially when a couple of my old Cross Country teammates who had beaten me easily and regularly, congratulated me on beating them that day.
I was going to run a Marathon in Lyme, CT. in hopes of qualifying for Boston, during October ’86 and after a 20 mile training run a couple of weeks before the marathon, my right knee swelled up like a balloon. I couldn’t walk, much less run on it and the Doc at the Academy told me to forget about running the Marathon. So I volunteered as a helper that day (I knew the organizers) and watched my friends finish. I guess right up until I had surgery last May that my right knee has always bothered me, it does make me wonder about how long something was wrong with it and why it was not addressed or diagnosed correctly before then.
One of the things that this training with those regionally elite runners is that I found out how much difference there is between runners who could/would run sub 5:00 minute miles for several miles, train in the 5:30 range, versus someone like me, who at best was training between a 6:30 and 7:00 minute pace and 30-50 miles per week.
A vast difference.
Most of us don’t realize the how fast these people can run while watching them on TV and you can’t see the difference when they are in a race with you (because most of us never see them for very long). In order to appreciate how fast they are actually running, you have to be running beside and then behind them and watch their back just floating away from you effortlessly, while you are struggling with everything you have to keep up, several times to appreciate how different they really are from the average runner.
I am not a name dropper, but AB was a great guy and I am glad that I had the opportunity meet and see him in places other than races he participated in locally. At those I never would have talked to him, I am too intimidated by famous people and by all the other people who are usually trying to catch their attention at something like that. I just don’t like those kind of social interactions and I am better in small groups, where I do not have to try to attract someone’s attention.
I still remember watching him run back then and how fluid he was, really let me see the difference between the local elite runners and a former elite runner and this was 15-16 years after he won Boston. His form was amazing, but what set him apart from the others in my mind was his mental toughness. He just didn’t quit.
During this time I also got to meet and talk with John Kelley (the Younger) on several occasions at his Running Store and in other social situations. He always was a gentleman, very knowledgeable of running and the last time I saw him in 2003, he was gracious enough to act like he remembered me from all those years ago, after I told him the nickname that I used back then “Radar”.
After moving to Jewett City, CT in the summer of ’87 – it was one of those times where life got in the way of my running. Our first child born in July 1985, so she was beginning to be more needy, then the second one in April 1988, a new home, a much longer commute, the injury and a different boss who was not as lenient about time out of the office (for running at lunch), all played into making it more difficult for me to run consistently at home or work.
All those factors led to a steady decline in my running, plus I began playing AD&D while injured and drifted away from my running circle, they found another Coastie to get them into the Indoor Track during the winter-time and I didn’t run a road race again for almost 10 years. After the knee healed up I started running again, but not with the passion or zeal that I had had and certainly not the mileage or speed work.
It seemed like I had emptied a piece of myself out during those two years of racing and needed a long time to get it back.
The years 1985 and until October 1986 were my glory years in running.
If you are interested in other posts in this series here they are:
40 Years of Running
I hope you enjoy reading these recollections, I know that I am enjoying going through the pictures, yearbooks, journals and reflecting back on these parts of my life.