Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bob Lobel: My Marathon Experience

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

This is our own version of Mt. Everest.   

For some dreamers, the reality of running the Boston Marathon remains the carrot on the stick. You really want it, but can never get it. The range of runners include the world class elite (maybe 15 in any race that actually have a shot at winning). Winning is a goal held by those who know what world class running is.  

The other end of the spectrum is a group called the “bandits.” These are people that couldn’t qualify for a number if their life depended on it. Running and finishing a Boston Marathon, for some, is reward enough.  

Sadly, 37 years after finishing the Boston Marathon, I'm in need of a confession. Confessing that I was a bandit in 1978 makes me one today. It’s a stain that cannot be erased! 

You just have to live with the way it all went down. Here's how it did go down.  

Three weeks before that 1978 marathon, a companion runner, let's call him Doug Mackenzie, because that’s his name, and I decided we should at least run 17 or so miles, from Concord, NH to the YMCA in Manchester.   

We thought that if we couldn’t do that length, then the 26-plus mile marathon was beyond our reach. We finished the trial day pretty much agreeing that doing the Boston Marathon, legal number or not, was not going to be a good idea.  

Still, with a tremendous lack of remembering the pain of three weeks prior, we did go the Hopkinton starting line to stalk a start to finish afternoon.  

Four hours and maybe 40 or so minutes later, touchdown!

Items along the race route include being outside Wellesley College near large crowds with transistor radios. On those radios that we tuned to one station, and when we hit the 13 mile mark at the college, it was Gil Santos calling the finish with another Bill Rodgers win. While Boston Billy was winning, we got only half way… Whatever.

Moving to Heartbreak Hill and remembering back in 1978 when The Globe had an evening edition. Yes, they did. One of our friends had positioned himself someplace between the second and third hill of the four hill challenge. It was that well-meaning friend holding up the evening Globe and its headline “Rodgers Wins Fourth Marathon." 

That was the word from Heartbreak Hill. The rest of the journey was tedious to say the least. What I do remember is the late Dave Maynard was at the finish line, and I kinda fell into his arms…  Since he had a new sweater on, he wanted no part of me. 

Sorry Dave.  

Believe it or not, instead of going home and sleeping, I cleaned up and went to the Boston Garden to be the analyst with Bob Wilson on Bruins radio. I did not have my radio "A-game." Doing that marathon earlier in the day just took it all out of me. Why I even went was a mystery, but guilt probably had something to do with it. 

The late Bob Wilson, a great play-by-play guy, knew I had done the marathon hours before, so he did the right and humane thing, sending me home after two periods. It was also an indication of how much my hockey acumen was contributing to the overall quality of the broadcast.  

So there it is. Embarrassed to be a bandit. Proud to have done it, with a same day finish as part of the story. Never had any desire to do another. Did the experience help me for the next 30 years as a part of the live telecast? Of course.     

If the elite runners were "Jaguars,” then my little running universe would be a Mack Truck with bad wheels and all that went with it. There was a reminder that the year before, Jack Fultz was a champion in the hottest (run for the hoses) event, around 95 F. 

That was the only break we got. The weather was perfect for Mack Trucks. If it had been anything else, we might still be out there trying to finish.

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