A band that had
been at the Newport Jazz Festival stopped its infernal playing to permit
trophies to be presented. Clutching my Joseph Nicpon Memorial Trophy with one
hand and David with the other, I wandered through a veritable wonderland of
elephants, camels and amusement rides for kids. But we could not stop. The real
loot was being dispensed at a beer-and-Polish-sausage party at a nearby
firehouse. My mouth watered, not at the Polish sausage but at both the quality
and quantity of the merchandise on display: lamps, glassware, ties, shirts, a
box of cigars, a can of paint and, best, a combination barbecue grill and
rotisserie. Great, only what do you do with a combination barbecue grill and
rotisserie when you have to cram half a dozen suitcases, one wife and three
small children into one compact sedan? You settle for one of those
wrist-watches that people wear on TV commercials when they dive off the rocks
at Acapulco. The grill went to second-place finisher Amby Burfoot, who had
wisely driven to the race in a station wagon. The box of cigars went to John
Hurley, who finished 39th and presumably will never do as well again after
smoking up his prize. As far as I know, the can of paint is still standing on
the Warren award table. Road runners are not that industrious.
Kevin began to
organize running races around our cottage with his younger brother and sister
and a blonde 7-year-old girl named Liz, whose family rented the place next
door. Theirs was the world's shortest outdoor track, maybe 60 yards around on
bumpy grass. One day Kevin announced the first race. "Two laps," he
said. Liz beat him.
around," he said a few minutes later. Liz won again. "Eight laps,"
said Kevin, who had discovered the secret of distance runners: if you can't run
fast, run far. Liz, who decided to be the starter, had learned a lesson, too:
if you can't make the Olympic team, become an official.
Wednesday we were back in Salem to help the town celebrate Heritage Days with a
10,000-meter race. I looked at the entry list and the runners in the dressing
room and automatically awarded myself the first-place trophy. Somebody
mentioned, " Kelley might come." I was past quaking at those foreboding
words. But while warming up I noticed Tom Laris and frowned. He frowned back.
Had he moved his estimated finish back from first to second, or was he mounting
my imaginary head on his trophy room wall?
Looks like you're limping."
"Hi, Hal. I
think it's wonderful that you're still able to compete at your age."
At 6:30 more than
100 runners stood shoulder to shoulder in the Salem Common. The starter pointed
to a narrow gate 100 yards away. We were to funnel through it. I took one look
and jumped the gun. I slid around a peanut stand and through the gate into the
lead, then slowed. I did not want the responsibility of the pace. Sapienza,
ever present (he had been passing out more blanks), took the lead and held it
with the help of George Starkus of the Wachusett Striders until there were two
miles to go. Then I spurted and shook everyone loose except Laris.
As we neared the
traffic-jammed center of town near the Salem Common I saw my opportunity, cut
around the side of a Buick, dodged behind two pedestrians, straight-armed an
old lady on crutches and shouted down a car that had tried to swerve in front
of me despite the presence of a traffic policeman. I had the lead coming back
through the gate. Suddenly I realized that in the near darkness I had no idea
which way to go next. An official's shout reoriented me, but by then Laris had
the lead, the impetus and the race. I received my second-place trophy to the
accompaniment of a barbershop quartet.
you lose Higdon?" a reporter asked Laris. "One mile out? Two
"I think it
was at the last peanut stand," said Laris.