Renowned writer, editor, running guru, Joe Henderson posted on social media this week, “Once you run the Boston Marathon, you never really leave it. You come back each April, if only in powerful and enduring memory.”
This is exactly how I feel, I may leave the city, but Boston stays in my heart always. Last April was the first time I’d physically attended in a few years, in great part because it was the first time in a few years it could be scheduled at the traditional date and place. There was the pandemic, and the event was cancelled, postponed, virtual, and finally held in person, but in the fall season.
The Marathon returned in its traditional manner just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of it’s first “official” women’s winner, Nina Kuscsik, and the small field of women who ran with her. It was a grand celebration. How fitting that Nina would wear that crown (albeit a laurel wreath) in 1972. After all, she led the way to include women as “official” entrants in what was previously an all men’s event. She is the former Women’s Long Distance Running Chair (WLDR) of our US federation, originally the AAU, then TAC, and currently USATF. She is the one who worked diligently through Law & Legislation Committee efforts to seek equality for women distance runners in all road races. She is the one who staged the sit-down strike at the NYC Marathon (where she also holds champion titles) because the AAU insisted that women and men needed separate start times, when no really, we don’t. We all have Nina to thank for leading the way. I was proud to work for her in some of the committees she oversaw, and proud that she worked side by side with me in the International Runners Committee (IRC) later, to lobby for our rights on the international and Olympic level. We’ve shared some awesome memories together over the better part of 50 years.
I enjoyed Boston this time around on multiple levels. There was a golden opportunity to experience Boston with my travel partner Kay Overcash Jenkins. Kay and I had reunited in 2019 for the 35th anniversary of the first Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon in Olympia, Washington. Since then, we kept in close touch, and as sole sisters (pun intended), supported one another through a couple of TKR surgeries (yes, you know, “total knee replacements”) — which is another story for another day, and believe me, all our friends are “doing it.”
Kay had a special reason for attending. She made a significant and unique contribution to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA). Our recently departed, and cherished Gloria Ratti, VP of the BAA, would be so proud and pleased. Gloria was the keeper of the marathon’s treasures, however her colleagues referred to Gloria as a national treasure. The treasure Kay donated is an original edition, hardback, and autographed biography of Clarence Demar, of Boston and Olympic fame. May I add, the book is in mint condition. Kay inherited it from the original owners, the family of the person who obtained the autograph. Tom Grilk, former BAA President, was beyond thrilled and impressed with the artefact and the backstory.
Caroline Merena and I also reunited, from the moment we touched down in Logan airport, when we ride-shared into town. In a way, I am Caroline’s mentor coach, clear across the country, and in turn, Caroline is a private coach for distance runners, with one particular athlete I was looking forward to meeting in person. Steve Nugent is a two-time liver transplant recipient, who upon surviving his second one vowed to run the Boston Marathon. He has surpassed that goal and has now completed all the US major marathons. I was happy to assist with a wish-come-true for Steve, back in the Fall Boston, arranging a meeting with Steve’s lifelong running hero, Bill Rodgers (thank you Bill!). Now I had the chance to meet Steve and his family at last. Fortunately on Monday, I managed to spot him through the crowds as he finished to congratulate him — and Coach Caroline– at the finish line.
I was also on the finish line — my favorite spot to be — for my very own runner, Adan Acevedo. This one is a long story, but suffice to say, I had a hand in coaching Adan in his high school years, and then again when he turned up in my class in college. I trained him for his first marathon, and his subsequent marathon goals from LA to Boston. He never ceases to amaze me with achieving his goals, whether it is uniiversity degrees, his running goals, or fundraising for charity. I have a picture of him here with his other coach, his Dana Farber Cancer charity coach, none other than Boston Champion Jack Fultz. Truly, it’s a small world.
My one obligatory appearance was a speaking engagement at the Boston Marathon Expo. How fortunate for me, that my interviewer was none other than my good friend Barbara Huebner, journalist extraordinaire. Who knows better to guide the questions and narrative especially from the perspective of the women’s history. If you watched the virtual Expo the previous two years, Barbara moderated a panel of several of the women’s pioneers via Zoom. It was marvelous, but I’ll admit, it was even better to see her in person.
From this event, my reunion expanded to include good friends including Rosy Spraker with Angela Kwong, Charlie Rodgers, Warren Monk, Tracy Sundlun, and of course Bobbi Gibb and Jack Fultz. I was deligted to see Phil Stewart, a surprise, and Guy Morse, Toni Reavis, Meb and his brother Hawi, as expected, but completely caught by surprise with Steve Cram. Dinner with George Hirsch, was a joyous occasion with Amby & Christine, Joanie & Scott, Deena, and others new to me. I’m sure there were more I’m leaving out, with apologies.
To quote Amby Burfoot, we don’t all go to our high school reunions, but we go to Boston. So true.
The entire long weekend was filled with reunions, and I’ll just post photo memories rather than spell it all out. Caroline, Kay, and I together tried to count all the magical moments we shared, and we simply lost count. It was one amazing time. Like I mentioned, you might leave Boston but it stays on your heart forever.