gracious in defeat, went over to congratulate my wife. "What did he
say?" I asked her later.
"He wanted to
know if the house gift we left him was poisoned."
My winning time
was a record, of course, but the race established another first for me. I had
been running in the Boston area for weeks without a line of acknowledgment from
the Boston papers. But now that I had gone down to New York
The Boston Globe
had my name in headlines: KELLEY 2ND TO HIGDON IN 25 KM.
A single event
remained on my schedule: The Sons of Italy race in Haverhill, Mass., Tony
Sapienza's race, 10 miles long. In typical New England fashion, a host of
awards was offered: for the first local runner, for the first high schooler,
for the first finisher of Italian descent. "Do you get special
consideration if your wife is Italian?" I asked Tony. Yes, he said, half a
During the weeks
Tony had been passing out those blanks recruiting for the Haverhill race the
big gag among runners was that only those Tony thought he could beat got them.
Untrue. I got one, and I was favored over Tony. In case there were any doubts
about that, Kevin laid them to rest—while Rose hid behind the other two
kids—shouting: "Daddy's going to win. Daddy's going to win!"
For some arcane
reason known only to the officials we lined up at a street corner facing a
direction perpendicular to the one we would be racing in immediately after the
start. Noting the 90� turn dead ahead, I lined up on the far right. Thus when
the gun sounded I was immediately in front, with the rest trailing out in
single file behind me. On the first hill, however, I after-you-Alphonsed the
lead to Dave Dunsky of Northeastern University and to Sapienza.
A sound truck
preceded us down the road giving a running description of the action. "It's
the Sons of Italy race," the sound truck blasted as people fell out of
their rockers. "Dave Dunsky is in front by 30 yards, followed by Tony
Sapienza, with Hal Higdon of the Dunes Track Club of Michigan City, Indiana,
the Midwest's outstanding long-distance runner, defeater of Johnny Kelley last
weekend, the first American to finish in the 1964 Boston Marathon, 50 yards
behind." I loved it.
As I narrowed the
gap between myself and the leaders I thought of the psychological advantage of
having a sound truck on your side informing your opponent in stereophonic sound
that you were first 60, now 50, then 40 yards behind him, until finally the
nagging loudspeaker voice was a sword of Damocles hanging over his head. I
figured that by the time I pulled even with Sapienza he would be a quivering
Kids on bicycles
followed the race chanting, "Come on, Mr. Sapienza." He taught school
in Haverhill and, apparently, cheering your teacher is one way to raise your
grades. But, despite their support, I edged closer. Tony failed to collapse
when I rushed by, but the sound truck dutifully informed me that I was first
20, now 40 and then 60 yards ahead. When the loudspeaker stopped giving the
bystanders information as to Tony's whereabouts I figured either he had fallen
into a manhole or he was now too far in the rear to deserve mention. Over the
last few miles the loudspeaker began to inform people that I was, naturally, on
my way to a new course record. Tony had the old one.
Afterward I asked
Tony, "Did I break your record?"