On the eve of the annual Yankee Homecoming road race in Newburyport, Massachusetts, I am reminded of just how far road racing has come since those early days. Some say the running revolution began with Jim Fixx and the "Complete Book of Running", but runners have been toeing the line in this 10 mile classic through the streets of Newburyport for 51 years now. Obviously then, the revolution started slowly with only a few amateur, "patriots". Today, however, the YH road race attracts runners of all talent levels, and that is why this event has truly become a community activity. However, that wasn't always the case, and I'll explain.
I recall registering for my first YH road race in the 70's, and frankly, running 10 miles did seem to be somewhat daunting. But what I remember most was that I had to apply first for membership in an amateur running association, before I could even submit my application to run the race. Given the remarkable changes that have occurred since then, it is almost hard to conceive that there were ever such restrictions for participation. Equally, the total number of runners in those days was minuscule compared to the crowds that will make it to the starting line today, and of course, there weren't any T-shirts.
Over the years, I have several vivid recollections of the YH race. Along with the need to provide proof of my amateur status, that race was my first long distance run. Consequently, I had little knowledge of the benefits of carbo-loading, so I had a nice steak and green beans as a pre-race meal; bad idea. I was haunted by that fare later that evening; lesson learned, never run after eating such a heavy meal. On another occasion, my brother, who had just eaten a Big Mac snack, asked me where I was headed for another of my YH appearances, and when he found out that I was going to run a race, he said he'd be happy to join me. Who knew, a Big Mac was just like carbo-loading in his world. He finished without as much as a hiccup. I also ran one of the YH races in a torrential downpour, another bad day at the races.
Yes, the YH 10 miler served as a practical, early training ground for a lifetime of involvement in running. As I reflect back on some of those plebeian behaviors, there should never have been any question about my amateur status given what I know today; and now that I have a lifetime of experience, I no longer have youth on my side. Oh well, stay active my friends!