Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 1 - A New Hope (1980)

This is a republishing from last year.

This will be the first of 6 episodes - one for each of my lifetime marathons. I'll talk about what was going on in my life, my training, and the race.

So let me take you back to 1980. A few of you were alive then. Jimmy Carter was still President. The entry fee for this marathon was $5. It was the end of the first running boom and races were popping up all over, but most runners were serious. It was run fast or don't bother. This marathon shut down the course after 4 1/2 hours.

I had just graduated from high school. I was a serious track and cross country guy, running 50-60 miles per week. Lots of intervals, no long distance runs over 10 miles. Track had just ended a few weeks prior, and some of my friends and I had decided months earlier to do Grandma's Marathon in Duluth after we graduated. A week before the race I ran a PR 10K in 34:40. I was in good shape! So three of us and a few friends drove up from Minneapolis the day before with some tents.We camped out near the start of the race, which is 26 miles outside of Duluth, basically in the middle of nowhere, next to Lake Superior.

So I settle in for the night in a pup tent with my new girlfriend. Here I am, an 18 year old virgin, on a full taper, lying in a tent with a girl for a first-ever sleepover, trying not to think about my first marathon. Nervous for so many reasons. I'm wearing my only pair of running shorts, which I sleep in. Well, let's just say I had a little accident during the night. So, here I am, in the middle of the night, panic-stricken, walking around in the dark, looking for the nearest faucet, trying not to be seen, rinsing out my shorts. By morning they are still wet. I don't remember what I told people, but I had to get going to the start. At least I got rid of some excess energy!

Anyway, the race is a beautiful course that runs mostly along Lake Superior and finishes in Duluth. It was warm, but not too bad. I don't remember if I had a goal. I went out at my normal easy training pace at the time, 7 minutes per mile (!!!), and just cruised. I don't remember too many details of the race, but I never hit the wall or even slowed down much. I have one split - I hit ten miles in 1:11:10, or 7:07 pace. Otherwise no splits, no Garmin, not sure if there were mile markers, maybe a few. Probably only 3 or 4 water stations. It was a simpler time.

My friends got caught up in traffic, so I didn't see anyone the whole race. It seemed relatively easy I guess - I don't remember any real difficulties. Ah youth! I think my quads were not happy with me but I was able to keep moving. Most of the race is quiet and in the country - no people. The last few miles are in town with lots of noise and that was fun and helped me get to the finish. When I got to the end I was very excited about coming in under 3 hours (2:58:55). A few people I knew from the running community cheered me in. Average pace was 6:50/mile!!! Negative splits!

I remember finding a place to sit on the grass and just sat there and felt very proud. I do remember that the next few days were ones of excruciatingly painful thighs. I could barely walk. Little did I know that I would never run that fast again. At that time, it took a 2:50 to qualify for Boston, so I missed by 8 minutes. A new hope was born. But I think I already knew that I might be a runner for life. We had a good group of runners on our HS team, and a great coach who preached the lifestyle of running. He ran with us. Now 31 years later, many of us are still running.

Here is my official pic. I think I weighed about 120.
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And here is my race shirt that I still have after 31 years. No medal. They didn't start handing those out to everybody until a few years later.
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Someday I hope to go back and do Grandma's again. I'll be sure to get twin beds.

Next: Episode 2 - The Marathon Strikes Back


  1. This is a fantastic story! I love first marathon stories :)

    By your weight...I am totally curious how tall you are! That was a smokin' time!! Now I want to read #2

  2. I'm 5'8".
    I maxed out at 170 a few years ago but now I'm down to 150-155.