Bob Lobel: The Boston Marathon and Me
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I'm reading a book called “Proof of Heaven.” True. I can't make that up. I'm reading it because my wife told me to. Do I do everything she tells me? Of course not. But reading this book came in handy Monday night.
For more than three decades I have been at the Marathon finish line, doing the telecast of this great spectacle. You first realize it’s a spectacle when that river of runners leaves Hopkinton and pours down Rte. 135 towards Boston. We are not talking about the elite runners at all. They do what they do. We are talking about the other 20,000 plus who have dreams and are willing to put them in play.
This event of 117 years has had plenty of stories. Every year, there are 20,000-plus stories coming down that road.. They are either raising money for charity, in wheelchairs for hope, as solos for personal satisfaction or whatever. For every runner there is a beginning and end of their story for the day. I had my story in 1978, running with a friend and without a number (shame on me) but running nonetheless. In real time I can tell you that I remember Gil Santos calling the finish on the radios held by spectators. In this case, those spectators were students at Wellesley College. Do the math: Gil was calling the finish of Bill Rodgers' 4th Marathon win, and we were on the course 13 miles to the west, by Wellesley College.
Obviously, we gave up any championship hopes early in the race. Let me also tell you in 1978 the Boston Globe printed an evening edition in addition to the morning paper. As we were trudging up Heartbreak Hill, one of our friends was rooting us on by showing us the headline from that day's evening edition. It said, "Rodgers Wins 4th.” We still had miles to go before we slept. If it were Monday we would have finished just less than an hour after the bombs went off.
By saying that--when the bombs went off--I'm saying what is obvious. Nothing will be the same for Patriots' Day.
I loved covering the Boston Marathon. So much history, tradition, passion, triumph, failure, and hurt. Then there was the morning game at Fenway. Rosie Ruiz, Johnny Kelly, Tarzan Brown, Joan Benoit, Uta Pipig, Bill Rodgers, Switzer, Semple, BAA, etc. etc. It all gave meaning to the phrase “personal best”. Everyone's personal best was my personal favorite. There is no small touch of irony here. Last Saturday I did have my first Fenway Public Address assignment and the people who threw out the first pitch were two of my very favorite athletes ever. Both won the Marathon 30 years ago--Greg Meyer was the last American male to win here and Joan Benoit was the first woman to win an Olympic marathon in addition to setting a record here in 1983. First pitch strikes!
Jump forward to post-Monday. This event was always such a soft target. 26 miles, thousands of people on and and off the course, especially during a nice weather day. The ingredients have always been there for mayhem. So now what? Hey, we do it all again! I would do it again, if I could. I goes down as one of the best days of my life. Like most everyone who has done it whether once or 100 times, I refuse to let Monday be the memory I'm left with when Patriots' Day comes around again.
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