Taken at the Eight Mile Road Race in Golden Gate Park on April 12, 1975 and wearing the Pamakid green singlet .
Recently, a running question was brought up regarding a defining moment, race or an event in the sport that helped me both physically and mentally.
Before proceeding, so much has changed in the sport from what it was 40 years ago. Yet, one thing that hasn't changed in the sport is getting from the start line to the finish line as quickly as possible.
I've never been one to think for a split second that I was a good runner back then. Being there and running a specific distance was a learning experience each time out. It was a carry over from the two years each of Tamalpais High School cross country and track and field. Track and Cross Country was far more fun than "riding the pine" or sitting on the bench during basketball season! The feeling that I got in high school basketball was that I was never good enough. Using that experience helped during the next few years.
Moving forward in the 1970s, the first four years of road racing (1971-1974) was okay. In 1973, there was a decision made that I'll always remember, and for the better.
The green-clad Pamakid Runners Club was organized in 1971 and a fun group to be a part of. Joining it in 1973 was an important phase in my running career. Several club members talked to me about the club's philosophy and it was more than deciding to give it a try. Becoming a member was an opportunity of running with some really good runners who had tons of experience.
The group would meet during Wednesday nights at the Lake Merced Boathouse parking lot for a near five mile run clockwise around Lake Merced. After showering at the boathouse, we would have pizza in Daly City and share experiences whether running or what was going on in the world.
The men's team back then had Ken Scalmanini, Alex Monterrosa, Pat Cunneen, John Novitsky, Gene Fitzgerald, Bill Jensen, Tim Swezey, Bruce Dingwall, Jim Fauss, Phil Paulson, Harry Cordellos, Theo Jones and many others. They provided much needed confidence for this runner-blogger. On the women's side, Betty Cunneen and her tireless work putting on the Wednesday night runs put a lot of quality into one's training week. There was also Helen Fauss, Jeannie Jones, Robyn Paulson and many others.
Prior to joining the Pamakids, the two years of road racing didn't show any improvement whatsoever. However, listening and learning from the training procedures was priceless. The above runners weren't bashful or hid what made them the runners that they were then. Indeed, there was plenty of room for improvement.
It was no accident that at the start of 1974, the mid to back of the pack runner changed. In May, I was fortunate to finish fourth at the Avenue Of The Giants Half Marathon. It was the first time at an out of town race and wearing the Pamakid green.
Two weeks later, on May 19, the Bay To Breakers race provided another personal best at the time. Finishing in the top 150 places and timed in 42:27 was a 12 minute improvement over the time in 1973!
Having and wearing the green uniform was with pride. There were a lot of good Pacific Association AAU clubs that year such as West Valley Track Club, Excelsior Track Club, Marin AC and others. However, I always felt that the group had a lot of fun, especially when we participated in the very first Christmas Relays in 1974. The route was from University Of California Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay by the way of Highway 1. Watching the relay as a participant and a spectator had a meaning back then as it does today with some of the big relay races on the West Coast.
Going into 1975, the confidence that was built up in 1974 carried over. Setting personal bests in the mile, half marathon and 25 kilometers were nice, but I craved to continue to get better. Also, I won one road race in July 1974, but wanted to at least duplicate it in 1975.
Early in January, things went okay with a couple of second place finishes in Dolphin South End Runners fun runs. With February 1 in sight, there was a popular AAU event in Vallejo known as the Channel To Lake 10 Miler (the course was later remeasured to between 9.7 and 9.8 miles).
Channel To Lake 10 Mile Results courtesy of the DSE 1975 results archives.
Remembering some of the events of that day, the weather was showery with some peaks of sun. The only issue back in that time with wearing the Pamakid singlet was it would really stick to your skin in the rain. However, that didn't hurt as I quickly covered the course in 55:49 (according to the 1975 DSE Newsletter) and finished 10th overall! Among the Pamakid Runners Club contingent running that day were Bill Jensen, Alex Monterrosa, Bruce Dingwall, Theo Jones, Harry Cordellos, Bob and Priscella Meyers, Roger Anawalt and Connie Cunneen. My apologies for anyone left off but the DSE had their members only on this list. Nor Cal Running Review might have the full list but was unable to find it on the DSE Archives website.
You would think that I would be satisfied with running a personal best for a near 10 miles! However, I doubled the following day (February 2) in the Dolphin South End Ferry Building Run. The distance was 3.83 miles and was an out-and-back from the Dolphin Club to the Ferry Building.
Finishing the DSE Ferry Building Run on February 2.
The result was a fifth place overall finish and a podium (five deep) appearance. The weather appeared to be a carbon copy of the day before with some sun mixed with rain showers.
The San Francisco skyline from Twin Peaks.
The Thursday before the race, I did a time trial on the course that we would be running at roughly 4:30 p.m. The course record was roughly 17:30 and I knew I wasn't that quick. The regular wrist watch that I was wearing showed me finishing just over 20 minutes, not bad for running by myself.
Race morning was an hour earlier at 9:00 a.m. because of the potential heavy traffic. The weather was partly cloudy but ideal for running. I remembered that there were several good runners including a U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon participant - John Weidenger. John ran a sub-2:30 marathon at Eugene in 1972. The course had some positives and negatives. I wasn't and am still not a good uphill runner. Back then, I enjoyed the downhill part of running and was confident that I could do well on this course.
The whistle blew for the start and without a watch, I was in a pack of five to six runners. Staying with the lead pack for the entire uphill, I knew the course very well. The plan was to make a break right before descending downhill to the turn around at Clarendon Street.
At the start of the downhill, I was five yards in front and extended it to nearly 20 yards at the turn around fire hydrant. Being the target was something I wasn't used to. Going back uphill and heading south on Twin Peaks Drive, I kept thinking that someone was closing until several runners yelled out encouragement to pump the arms more. At the top of the hill, I looked back and the 20 yard lead was now about 30 yards. I was tired but knew that those following were just as tired as I.
Twin Peaks Run results courtesy of the DSE archives in 1975.
The downhill to the finish was the toughest part mentally. The runners ran on an open road which meant there was vehicle traffic. The DSE had no permit, something that any running club that puts on a race has to have today. My problem was that in front of me during the last 400 yards was a tour bus that I actually caught up to if you can believe it. Luckily and fortunately for me, there was another tour bus right behind me keeping the next runner behind it. It was a bit scary but there was enough room (25 yards or so between the buses.) The exhaust from the tour bus was bad enough but not enough to keep me from finishing. With 125 participants finishing, I won in a time of 19:19, 17 seconds ahead of the second place runner, Dennis Martinez. John Weidenger finished third and was the first to come over and congratulate me afterwards. He mentioned that I ran a strong race and used the hills to my advantage. He had seen the improvement over the previous year and told me to not alter the way I was training.
Two weeks later, I ran very well at Lake Merced in the 4.95 mile run covering the course in just over 27 minutes. I guess that February 1975 was a February to remember!