A PLACE WE COULD ALL CALL HOME

The Hub

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.

SI Cover Boy

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. Continue reading

FAILURE WORKS – The Blog Begins

The author

The author

Let me just say from the onset I have no agenda, nor any ax to grind. I seek neither credit nor blame for what exists, and profess neither infallibility nor rancor. And though I decry and bemoan like the rest, let it be known these are but the eyes of experience, nothing more.

*****

When the first chill winds began to haunt the eaves of the Beacon Street turret, and ragged-edged leaves tumbled down the cracked gray sidewalks like passing fragments of thought, I’d walk the few blocks up to Cleveland Circle for my morning rounds. Inside Eagles Cafe, I’d sit over a steaming cup of coffee and browse the morning Boston Globe as the Green Line trolley clattered toward town beneath the heavy, leaden clouds.  Sitting there I knew that the Circle would soon be footed with mounds of snow, and that walking would be reduced to a single, slippery lane.

It was routine these seasons in New England, their turning, my adjustments and moods.  But just as in my boyhood home in St. Louis, I never found in their rhythms the comfort, the true joys of winter – other than for them to be over.  Sure, I enjoyed a good hunker every now and again (who doesn’t?) but in this, my adopted city of Boston, the fierce nor’easter storms would howl for days at a time, leaching precious cheer from the hearts of the people.  Continue reading