When the 33rd Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon goes off this Sunday morning, among the 24,000+ lining up outside Dodger Stadium for the 26.2 mile jaunt to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica will144 running for the 33rd time – just as I will be broadcasting the race for the 33rd straight year (locally on KTLA-TV, from 6 – 11 a.m., and nationally on WGN America, 7 – 10 a.m. Pacific time).
This Friday at the pre-race press conference I will be joined on stage by one of those 144 LA Legacy Runners, Johnnie Jameson of Inglewood, California, Having just turned 70 , Johnnie still works at the Bicentennial Postal station at Beverly & Curson Streets in West Hollywood.
Last week I called Johnnie to discuss what we might talk about this Friday, and soon found out that we had a lot more in common than 32 previous marathons in Los Angeles. (more…)
Every religion has its Creation story. All runners do, too. And while most very fast runners generally had their beginnings on organized track teams in school or clubs, the vast majority of citizen runners we see in weekend races come to the sport later in life. Personally, I began running because my mother was Polish.
First of all, it wasn’t like Mom had been a runner, or that the Polish people were necessarily fast in the same sense that Central Highland born Kenyans and Asela-generated Ethiopians were fast – although the Poles do have a couple great 800 meter men right now in Marcin Lewandowski and Adam Kszczot. No, it’s because without realizing it, Mom attached to my small American male body what was considered by my peers to be a girl’s name, a combination that created issues that running seemed to address quite nicely, as in fight or flight.
See, my namesake is Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost items – “St. Anthony, please, tell God I lost my lunch money.” Anyway, A-N-T-H-O-N-Y is how we in the West spell that saint’s name. Thus the diminutive becomes TONY. But in Poland, they spell that saint’s name A-N-T-O-N-I. Accordingly, TONI is what I now had for a handle. And that one single letter difference is why I began running. (more…)
Father’s Day. Far as I know I never became one, but I sure had one to remember.
The pictures I cherish of Pop aren’t ones of forced or phony smiles. He’d seen too much. Been down too many hard roads. By the time I came along his days of posing had passed. Instead you caught him as he was, take it or leave it, made no difference to him. If you got a smile or laugh, all the better, but you had to earn it. And though he laughed easily with a contagious wheeze, a glare was all it took to freeze you.
Neither was he demonstrative in his affections when we were young. Yet never was there any doubt where his heart lie – hell, why else would he have gone off to work every day like clockwork without ever complaining or taking a day off?
One night when I was six or seven I stepped off my upper-deck bunk bed after dreaming that my sister was tickling my feet from below through a hole in my mattress. When I couldn’t get her to stop, I decided to go tell Mom and Pop.
When he heard the dull thud coming from our room, Pop rushed in to find me unconscious on the floor. He called a doctor who lived up the block to come help. And when the guy refused, because “it’s the middle of the night”, Pop sped me to the hospital all the while devising a plan to kill the SOB. And he’d killed a few in his time in war.
Maybe that’s the first thing to know about we Baby Boomers and our dads. We grew up in a decidedly non-child-centric environment. We may have been the last of the “shut up, and sit down” generation, kids who were actually afraid of their parents, and with good cause. These were people who had grown up in a Great Depression, then fought in a World War. They had known hardship and made sacrifices. As such they had little interest in the prattling of a generation for whom much had been given and little asked, love us though they did.(more…)
It was 40 years ago today that I drove into Boston in a white, right-hand drive post office van, as Richard Nixon was flying out of Washington D.C. in a green Chinook Marine helicopter. At age 26 I was fleeing my home state and old life, while at age 61 Mr. Nixon was returning to his.
It had taken me two days to drive the 1178 miles from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to my adopted town of Boston, and as I pulled up in front of 61 Empire Street in the Alston neighborhood the previous year’s Allman Brothers hit Ramblin’ Man poured from the stereo like an announcement of a campaign rally.
It was my new roommate, Patrick, bounding down the stoop with a joint fired up.
“Welcome to Boston,” he said extending the sweet-scented memory cleanser to me from behind a wide grin. (more…)
It is a long-lost tradition in these frenetic, more individualized times, but in days of yore families came together to eat dinner as a unit. In our house it was a time to discuss the issues of the day, learn the manners of the table, and generally upset Mom and Pop for the remainder of the evening — although that was more a by-product of the first two than a specific goal in itself.
By family I mean in the extended sense, our dogs were also at hand (and underfoot). And as anyone who grew up with dogs in the house can testify, in general parents treated pets better than they did the children, although more times than not they would leave the estate to the bipeds.
In our household dogs could do anything, while we, the children, could do very little. And please don’t think this is some rose-colored remembrance. We were an eclectic family when it came to pets: birds, squirrels, turtles, fish, we co-habitated with each at one time or another. No cats, though. But always and primarily dogs, plural. One great dane and two dachshunds, that was the standard issue. Do not ask why; these things evolve. While the other pets were always treated well, in no way were they in the same class as the dogs, which assumed a status similar to that accorded cats in ancient Egypt.
Dinner was a time when this distinction in treatment was particularly acute. The dachsies, like many canines, had a difficult time regulating food intake. Put food in front of them in any quantity, and they would scarf it up no matter if it outweighed them by a factor of three. In that sense I always thought of cats as a faith-based species, perfectly able to leave their food unattended, with faith enough that it would still be around when next they sought it. Dogs, on the other paw, seemed to be natural atheists, as they took no heed of, nor faith in the future whatsoever. One of our dachshunds, Priscilla, required special attention. (more…)
An ArmoryTrack.com news release has informed us that two-time Olympic high jump medalist John Thomas of Brockton, Massachusetts passed away Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at the age of 71.
A soft-spoken gentleman, Thomas was revered – especially in his native New England – as one of his sport’s most enduring icons. He was also among my personal boyhood heroes, joining former mile record holder JimRyun, St. Louis Cardinals baseball star Stan Musial, and St. Louis Hawks basketball All-Star Bob Pettit. With great fortune I got to know “JT” during my quarter-century living in Boston. Meeting your heroes later in life and finding that they embody all the qualities you’d imagined of them as a young fan is one of the pleasures life can offer.
The following is from last March 25th’s High Jump Heroes which speaks to the seeds of a life long passion planted in a young boy’s heart by heroes like John Thomas and his great Russian rival Valery Brumel. (more…)
Among its gentler parochialisms, Boston is called “The Hub”, or in full, “The Hub of the Universe” — a title conferred by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1858. While a tad presumptuous given the size and scope of at least one other five-borough burg 220 miles to the southwest, it is nonetheless rather less disputable that The Hub of the running universe in the decade from 1977 to 1986 existed at 372-A Chestnut Hill Avenue in Boston’s Cleveland Circle, the address of the original Bill Rodgers Running Center.
For those too young to remember, even after the Running Boom hit in the wake of Frank Shorter’s Olympic Marathon gold medal in Munich 1972, we still bought our running shoes at regular shoe stores or general sporting goods shops. Back then there were no such things as running specialty stores. I remember buying my first pair – I think they were $9.00 ProSpecs – at a little hole-in-the-wall shoe store on Harvard Avenue in Brighton, Mass. I was just quitting smoking, so I didn’t want to spend too much in case I didn’t like running.
But as one habit was exchanged for another, and the running wave continued to mount, Wesleyan grad Bill Rodgers appeared as a legitimate rival to ex-Yale Eli Shorter. And with that, the sport of foot racing surged into the mainstream of American culture and finally business, too. There was a booming new market to service. A generation which had once assembled for ‘sit-ins” during college was now meeting for fitness runs after work.
“Ready, Set, Sweat!” announced the cover of Time Magazine in the summer of 1977.
Following his victories in the Boston Marathon in 1975 & 1977, then the first two (of four straight) New York City Marathon titles – when the five-borough course was still brand new – “Boston Billy” led running into its coming of age. Thus, with his fame still budding, Bill and his older brother Charlie opened the first Bill Rodgers Running Center in the fall of 1977.
Cleveland Circle was an ideal location, on the western edge of the city, just one mile from the leafy Boston College campus, and terminus for the MBTA’s Green Line “C” trains. A bustling urban neighborhood, The Circle also happened to join the Boston Marathon route as it passed the 22-mile mark as the route turned onto Beacon Street for the final four mile stretch into town.
I had moved to Cleveland Circle in February of 1976, and by the following spring had begun Runner’s Digest, the first radio talk show devoted to the sport of running. When Bill and Charlie opened the store just two blocks from my apartment, it all but became my production studio. (more…)