Essay: $2 and Some Pancakes Went Far at the 1969 Boston Marathon

Fifty years ago, in April 1969, I ran my first road race, and it was no local fun run or 5K. I decided to run the biggest road race there was: the Boston Marathon. I had no idea if I could finish the 26.2-mile grind, but I thought I should at least give myself a big challenge.

I chose Boston in part because I didn’t know any better, and mostly because the world of running was very different back then. There were few runners and fewer races — only a handful of marathons across the country.

Back then, Boston did not require runners to meet a qualifying standard. I was 34, and to run Boston you only had to send the race organizers $2 and a physician’s letter stating that you were healthy enough to run 26.2 miles. Since my longest training run had been 13 miles, I’m not sure how my doctor established my readiness, but he did.

I had begun running less than a year earlier. In April 1968, I was a part of a small group that started New York magazine in a fourth-floor walk-up on 32nd Street, with writers such as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin and Gloria Steinem.

We all put in long hours and six- or seven-day work weeks. Because of the late nights and too much junk food, I soon had to let…

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