The Snoozeletter @

26 mi, 385 yd. = 42.195 km. 

Boston, 18 April 1977:

During 1976-1977, I was working as a bartender at Boston's Faneuil Hall and living in a crappy one-room cellar apartment on the unfashionable backside of Beacon Hill. The room came equipped with hot-and-cold running cockroaches and no windows, but it was all I could afford, back in those days. Plus, I was saving money to open a teeshirt business on the Côte d'Azur. But that's another story.

cert 477x358In the fall, I prepared for the 1976 NYC Marathon by working out at the Charles River Esplanade. It was a lovely run through the grassy park, looking across the river at Harvard, MIT and Cambridge, while watching the sailboats and rowing shells. After a reasonably-decent finish in October's New York race (3:28:01 for my first marathon, click certificate to enlarge), I continued working out, to prepare for the Boston Marathon in April.

When the snow arrived, it became harder to run on the paths of the Esplanade, so after the Charles froze over, I continued training on the ice of the river. It was also a special experience, in its own way, but the flat course couldn't really prepare me for what was to come.

My quadriceps still remember Heartbreak Hill, 36 years later. The five miles of the Newton Hills came at the 16-mile mark, just as I was hitting the wall. The results were not pretty. I finished, but just barely (4:XX:XX).

The year after I ran Boston, I watched my cousin Dave run it. He posted a much better time, but we had one experience in common. On the day following the race, I noticed that he paused at the top of a three-step stairway. He slowly turned around, and walked BACKWARDS down the three steps.

When I laughed like a hyena, he nearly punched me. ;-)


post 611x727New York City, 24 October 1976:

Poster Boy: "Over 2,000 Runners Crossing The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge"

The first New York City Marathon, in 1970, had 55 finishers who completed several loops inside Central Park.

In 1976, to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial, the marathon moved outside the park for the first time, to run through the city's five boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan.

2090 of us started on the upper deck at the Staten Island end of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It was the world's longest suspension bridge span at that time, measuring 4,260 feet.

News choppers were hovering everywhere. A few of them took some interesting photos, like this one (click to enlarge). You can see another helicopter, in the upper right corner. It's hard to imagine just how steep that hill into Brooklyn really is, until you run those 4,260 feet (1.3 km) on the roadway itself.

It was my first marathon, so I kept to the left edge of the pack, about halfway back from the leaders. I was wearing a yellow teeshirt and maroon shorts, and there's only one guy with that color combo on the railing in that poster. So I stuck a red arrow on the glass, as a reminder.

So sue me.

Bill Rogers won in 2:10:10. I finished about 80 minutes later.

Below, left: ACB in Brooklyn, 1976, just before he lost the will to live.
Below right: ACB & Jørgen Stærmose at the WTC, 1980. See "The Day The Planes Stopped Flying."

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NYC Postscript, 28 October 1978:

I was living at the West Side YMCA in New York City when the 1978 marathon rolled around. It was just after my year of failing miserably at a teeshirts-to-the-tourists venture in southern France, and just before my six months of failing miserably at driving a taxicab on the mean streets of Manhattan. I wanted to get a different perspective on the dramatic marathon start at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, so I hopped a bus for Staten Island on the morning of the race. The bus got nearly halfway across the bridge on the lower deck before the inevitable traffic jam, but I somehow talked the driver into letting me out onto the roadway. I still can't believe he agreed to do it. Do you remember that heart-stopping scene in Saturday Night Fever, when John Travolta and his friends climbed into the superstructure of the bridge? That was my route to the top deck. When I finally vaulted over the guardrail onto the roadway, both sides were clear... so I jogged up to the top of the hill at the middle of the bridge and looked down at the runners, waiting for the starting gun. They would be running on the north roadway, so as long as I stayed on the south side, I wouldn't be in anyone's way. Motorcycle cops were driving back and forth on the racer's side, and I assumed they would soon kick me off the bridge, but apparently their orders were only to keep the north side clear. The sun was shining brightly, the view was amazing, and the sea breeze coming in off the ocean made my heart soar. When the elite runners came charging up the hill, I ran with them for a short distance, on the other side of the double guardrail. They were fast. Way too fast for me. But the jog downhill into Brooklyn was a blast, and I still have these incredible memories, 35 years later.
Opera without the screeching. 


Wagner: The "Ring" Without Words