No more. In a race fairly bursting at the seams already, there is no room for the unqualified runner. That is why – regretfully, in fact – the BAA established qualifying times. Since this has happened, responsible newspapers have, by and large, learned not to encourage surreptitious entries. The Globe, through Joe Concannon's estimable road-racing column, has decried the practice several times a year, even to the extent last year of informing the governor of New Mexico that he "was not welcome" in a race for which he had not qualified.
Last Monday, the Globe assigned assistant sports editor Bill Griffith to run as an unofficial entry and then write about the experience.
The best venue, obviously, for watching the start of the Marathon would have been a bar near the finish line that had a color TV. Accordingly, at 11:30 on Patriots' Day morning, a teenager from Rhode Island attempted to get into that bar on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Avenues where all the runners hang out.
"I'm sorry," he was told at the door, "but the drinking age in this state is 20 now." The kid objected and was told, gently, "Hey, don't blame us. Blame Ed King."
"Who is Ed King?" the kid asked.
The aforementioned saloon, incidentally, wound up doing so much business on Marathon Day that a steak house across the street had a record day at the register just from the overflow. The bar on the corner of Massachusetts and Commonwealth was so filled with television cameras, newspeople, and what Tommy Leonard describes as the "Gucci Running Set" that it was uninhabitable for drinking.
Up front with the leaders, everything was proceeding according to form, which is to say, nobody knew what was going on. Perennial bridesmaid Tom Fleming had seized an early lead and held it for half the race, with most of the contenders within striking distance. Rodgers was not tempted. "Tom is a strong, consistent runner who never drops out. But I thought the cold weather would slow him down, because, by my own calculations, he was running about a 2:08 pace."
Rodgers thought about the race later. "I knew it'd be fast. I personally don't like rain, but the competition there was going to bring out the best. I was a bit afraid of the cold, but it was, all in all, my best-quality marathon. When I set that record (in 1975) I said that it could be broken. I knew some day I'd get the bugger."
As Fleming fell by the wayside – he eventually finished fourth – a pack led by Garry Bjorklund, Rodgers, Toshihiko Seko and, eventually, the Greater Boston Track Club's Bob Hodge pressed onward. At one point, Bjorklund blistered out to a substantial lead of his own. "I thought then," recalled Rodgers, "that Garry was going to win the race.
"I remember right around there, about 17 miles, I offered Seko some of my water," said Rodgers. "He either didn't want it or didn't see me. I don't know. I just threw the bottle away. The Japanese camera crew was filming the whole exchange."