FORTY YEARS AGO ON NEW YEAR’S DAY

Hodgie (in red) battling Rodgers, Salazar, Roche & Thomas at 1979 Freedom Trail Road Race in Boston

Hodgie (#3 in red) battling #1 Bill Rodgers, #2 Al Salazar, with Mike Roche & #14 Randy Thomas hanging on at 1979 Freedom Trail Road Race in Boston.

As 2015 slides into 2016, we offer a New Year’s story written by guest blogger Bob Hodge, a Lowell, Mass native who was a charter member of the Greater Boston Track Club.

A graduate of the University of Lowell, Hodgie went on to finish third in the 1979 Boston Marathon. He has also won the Beppu-Ōita Marathon in Japan in 1982, while setting his personal best of 2:10:59 finishing second at the 1980 Nike OTC Marathon in Eugene, Oregon.

The following is part of what made Boston a running Mecca in the 1970s.

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HARD CUTS

Fell Running

                 Fell Running

In Tracksmith’s inaugural quarterly, Meter, there was a fine story about what’s called ‘fell running’ in Northern England, which author Andy Waterman described as “a lot like trail running, only without the trails.”

I found Andy’s article particularly intriguing, because it reminded me of an urban expression of the same free-form philosophy that a few of us back in Boston in the days of yore sought to capture. While we didn’t have Northern England’s bleak desolation, as Andy put it, “all windswept moorland and steep-sided post-industrial valleys” to range over, we did have the serpentine streets and environs of Boston to negotiate, along with cemeteries, college campuses, and even the odd arboretum at our disposal.

Based on the premise that ‘shorts cuts don’t cut it’ in a sport defined by effort, and faced with New England’s wintry clime, we hearty band of running brothers began – without even knowing it at the time – a style of training that took the challenges of our sport and the season head on. Continue reading

STAR WARS & IAAF

Star Wars The Force Awakens Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (sub-head: “The Vault Opens”) smashed all box office records this past weekend.  Hopefully, that news might open the eyes of the leaders of the sport of athletics as they enter  2016 fresh on the heels of their worst year in recent memory – which is saying something.

Remember, it’s been a year starring institutional corruption and widespread drug charges that have drawn a dark cowl across the face of a once passably respected sport.

“The studios finally seem to be remembering, after years of over-reliance on visual effects, that moviegoers like a story,” Jeanine Basinger, a film studies professor at Wesleyan University told the New York Times for a piece that ran this past Sunday. “It can be a story we are familiar with. It can be a serialized story. But give us, please, we’re begging you, a story of some kind.”

Get it, IAAF? Stories are what move and engage people, not simply performances, which are track & field’s versions of special effects. Performances are great, but they should come in the service of a larger narrative. That means good guys and bad guys, high stakes and cliff-hangers, not an endless series of athletic exhibitions by athletes running around in shoe company gear that never add up to anything. Continue reading

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE?

2015

As the 2015 running year comes to its rather sad conclusion we find a sport existing, barely, on life-support, reeling from the toxic shock of massive internal corruption at the governance level, and widespread performance enhancing drug use at the sporting level.

But let’s not feel too aggrieved.  The self-inflicted wounds suffered by the sport of athletics in 2015 fit neatly into a world at-large now forced to come to terms with an apocalyptic nihilism that doesn’t share the basic assumptions of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And without such common assumptions and goals mankind will never fully reconcile the fratricidal tendencies that have emerged and now play out with an increasingly alarming frequency in regions both near and far. Continue reading