Patriot’s Day is a big day in our household. My husband hails from Lawrence, MA, and has been a lifelong Red Sox fan. But more than that, in his earlier life, he was a marathon runner. So, he eagerly arose this morning, and by 8:00 AM, was seated in front of the TV switching back and forth between the broadcast of the Boston Marathon, and the first of a double-header Red Sox/Orioles match today.
“You’re pretty happy right now,” I commented, as he cut away from the local Boston commercials about Bob’s furniture, back and forth between the two programs. He beamed.
This year, it all seems especially powerful, given the senseless violence of last year’s unfinished race aborted by homegrown terrorists who shall remain nameless; and by the victory of the first American runner since 1983, Meb Keflezighi; and by the fact that the first three female finishers today all broke the record of 2:20:43 of last year. Pretty exciting stuff.
Jimmie and I ran together in Central Park late in 1983, after just beginning our relationship. He ran, I jogged. He led, I followed. He had a really cute butt, which motivated me to try to catch up with him. We even ran that year in the first centimeters of snow, big flakes drifting down around us. It was so quiet, so charmed, the early days of our relationship. We ran around the reservoir, admiring the skyline of Central Park South, and Central Park West.
We had really begun our running together back in Philadelphia, where the play where we had met had moved to tour prior to going on to NY. Hal Prince had directed “Play Memory,” by Joanna Glass, and I was the dresser for the show at the McCarter Theatre, thanks to my college friend, Susan, who then promoted me to the Wardrobe Supervisor for Philadelphia. By then, I was pretty smitten, and in Philadelphia, our platonic relationship took a turn to romantic, as a group of about five of us went for daily jogs from the Drake Hotel to the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and back. After the performance ended at night we would all retire for drinks at a nearby watering hole. It was in Philadelphia where Jimmie and I had our first formal date- dinner and a movie.
The restaurant was Bookbinders. We were both pretty nervous; at least I was. Jimmie was 33 years older than me – we had made a connection that was not related to our age – he was so easy to talk with and funny; initially I had been drawn to his beautiful German Shepherd named Jasper who accompanied him to the McCarther theatre and sat with his wise eyes and sharp snout nestled between his paws in Jimmie’s dressing room, or watching intently from the aisle of the theatre while we rehearsed. Now, our group was running together in the City of Brotherly Love.
We arrived at Bookbinders, and there was a short waiting list. The hostess, a solid German woman with a stentorious voice gave us clipped instructions as we stepped into the foyer. “You vill stand here,” she said, pointing us to stand in front of a refrigerated case near the front door. We turned away and giggled into our hands.
I remember being so nervous that I ate about 10 bread balls before the entree, but Jimmie put me at ease and we really had a lovely evening. The movie was “The Right Stuff” and our reason for going was Donald Moffat, who played the lead in “Play Memory” and who had a part in the movie. We sat next to each other, and as soon as Donald came on the screen, our hands simultaneously reached out to clasp. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for that movie.
But back to the running.
Jimmie eventually told me (not that night, I’m sure, because he is much to modest to boast about such things) that he had run the Boston Marathon and placed 28th. His time, 2:52:18; this was in 1963 when yours truly was 3. But we talked about it again this morning in light of the contemporary finishing times for both women and men.
In 1963, as you can tell from his early placement, times were much slower. Everything has sped up, with finishing times for the men now in the 2:10 – 2:14 range.
Here are some stats from the 67th Boston Marathon’s Media Guide for 1963:
67th Boston Marathon – Friday, April 19, 1963
All eyes focused on the 1960 Olympic Marathon champion Abebe Bikila, of Ethiopia, who went on to win gold in 1964, and countryman Mamo Wolde, the 1968 Olympic Marathon winner. The duo forged a record-setting pace for the first 18 miles, before Bikila (fifth) and Wolde (12th) fell victim to a sudden cold east wind and the Newton hills. Belgium’s Aurele Vandendriessche saw his opening, and rushed home with a course record of 2:18:58. Again, John J. Kelley finished in the runner-up spot, while defending champion Eino Oksanen finished fourth.
|1. Aurele Vandendriessche (BEL)||2:18:58†||6. Jessie Eblen (WA)||2:27:42|
|2. John J. Kelley (CT)||2:21:09||7. Alexander Breckenridge (VA)||2:28:28|
|3. Brian Kilby (GBR)||2:21:43||8. Tenho Salakka (FIN)||2:29:13|
|4. Eino Oksanen (FIN)||2:22:23||9. Gar Williams (IL)||2:31:19|
|5. Abebe Bikila (ETH)||2:24:43||10. Louis Castagnola (DC)||2:32:23|
† Course Record
“Who did you run as in 1963?” I asked. This would seem to be an inane question, but my husband had had to change his name from James Nolan to James Greene when he joined AEA because there was already a James Nolan in the union.
“I ran as Jim Nolan,” he said, clarifying that he already was a member of AEA at that time. “My father was so proud. Everyone under 35th place got a medal and I wanted to give it to my father, but I wanted more to take it back to New York to show my friends. So later on, I assembled a plaque with nine of my running medals, and I presented it to my father, who hung it in the cabin in Maine.”
“Frank (Jimmie’s stepson with his 1st wife) told me at the time that I was really on an ego trip, until I explained that it was for my father.”
I asked Jimmie this morning as Rita Jeptoo entered her last mile, “How’re your legs doing? Are you going to make it?”
He smiled and said, “I am finishing strong.”
So, Boston, we raise a glass of juice to you today, on the anniversary of such tragedy from which you have rebounded with a second wind, to finish strong. And Jimmie, my love, I raise my tea cup to you for all the years of running, and popping bread balls, and holding hands in the movies. What a lovely run we are having!