One time in grade school I read an article about the Boston Marathon and for some reason, I decided then that I wanted to run in it. I can’t exactly explain why. There was the sense that it would be quite an accomplishment to finish it. Something I could look back at the finish line after I had crossed it and say to myself. “There you go, I did that.” Little did I know that this time instead of a person opening a door for me, it was a thing, an event.
My brothers and I were very active in sports in high school. Football, wrestling, track. We were all fairly accomplished at sports but that’s a story, (stories), for another time. When I graduated high school I wanted to do something that would help keep me in shape. I decided that I would take up long-distance running. My brother Stuart, who had been on the University of Miami cross country track team, thought that was a great idea, so we started training together.
We were very fortunate in that we had many places where we could train long distances right from where we lived. For instance, after running along a couple of fairly safe roads we came to the bike trail on Old Cutler Road. From there you could run to Matheson Hammock Park or Fairchild Tropical Gardens, for a “short” six-mile or so run or head north to Cocoplum Circle and beyond depending on how far you wanted your training run to be. Always a beautiful run, even in the rain. As an aside I always enjoyed running in the rain as long as there was no lightning.
Matheson Hammock Park
Believe it or not, when we started, running shoes were not really available in this country. That didn’t matter to us so much because we didn’t have money to buy them anyway. We really were starving, (not exactly), college kids. My parents passed away when I was in high school. So Stuart and I ran barefoot. That’s right our 1st couple of years of long-distance running was done sans shoes. We didn’t think anything of it. Most of the time it worked. There were the occasional blisters, but we built up calluses quickly and were fortunate not to step on anything sharp.
Maybe now is a good time to provide a short history of the marathon long-distance race. The marathon is a long-distance race of 26.2 miles. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory of the Athenians over the Persians in the battle of Marathon.
When the modern Olympics began in 1896, in Athens Greece, the organizers were looking for a great popularizing event, recalling the glory of ancient Greece. The idea of a marathon race came from Michel Bréal, who wanted the event to feature in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The journey of Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens also inspired the first Boston Marathon on April 19, 1897. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and is also notable for allowing women to compete in 1972 when the first Olympic marathon for women wasn’t held until 1984. I’ll talk about the Boston Marathon in another story.
Our 1st marathon was the Space Coast Marathon in Melbourne, Florida in December 1971. It was also the 1st Space Coast Marathon, now in its 50th year. Marathon races were different back then. There were a total of 61 starters. Stuart finished, but I did not. My knees gave way and by mile 21 I was done. My knees swelled up to the size of grapefruits and of course, my feet were covered with blisters. But it was my knees that were the problem. They slowly got better, but I have to admit I took the elevator to the second floor of the University of Miami library for a few days. Something I had never done before. Going up and downstairs is good training for long-distance running.
Stuart helped with my Knee problem. I was running flat-footed. I needed to run more on the balls of my feet and the outside edge. I have never had another knee issue once I started running this way. Now running barefoot might have contributed to my knee problems as well. We solved that problem soon after our 1st marathon. How? That’s also a story for another day.
The blisters on my feet and my grapefruit knees were not my biggest problem after the marathon. I was very disappointed I didn’t complete something I had started out to accomplish. I’m glad to say I went on to run many more marathons successfully and that I have learned to deal with failure much better. To learn from it and turn it into a positive experience.
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