As President Carter says, bigger is not necessarily better, and one of the things that have grown too big is the Boston Marathon. Its 81st running the other day was the biggest ever, with 2,807 officially entered men and 126 officially entered women—plus numerous race crashers and assorted coeds in hot pursuit of Paul Newman, who was shooting footage for a marathon movie.
The back end of the field was so far from the starting line that it took the last entrants 3� minutes to jog and push up to it. And since the weather was ideal for watching, the road from Hopkinton to the downtown Prudential Center was mobbed by an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 spectators, many spilling onto the road. Traffic was tied up all day and one official remarked, "It's like Kenmore Square after a baseball game."
For the serious runners, the race had a nightmarish beginning. Winner Jerome Drayton, 32, of Toronto said, "The organizers ought to make up their minds whether they want quality or quantity. At the start, the first thing I knew there were 50 guys pushing from behind. One guy was grabbing my shirt and pulling me down. I was jostled, kicked and booted around. Twisted my ankle and got kicked in the calf. I almost went down in the first 15 yards." Miki Gorman of Los Angeles, the 41-year-old winner of the women's division, said, "I started too fast. I had no choice. Everybody was rushing and I had to rush along, too. Otherwise, I would have tripped and fallen."
In a postrace debate with Jock Semple, a veteran race official, Drayton said, "All you have to do is seed the first 50 runners, put a rope behind them and let the others start later."
"I handle the whole thing," Semple said, "and I think there are too many bloody entries. But when we cut down, we get flak from the road-runners clubs and all the other clubs in the country. I got flak that I didn't put a man with a wooden leg in. I lost 14 pounds organizing this thing."
Qualifying times for Boston have been in effect since 1970 but the stampede of runners keeps growing. Drayton's solution—to let the few world-class runners compete ahead of the pack—may have merit if Semple can find a rope that will test, oh, some 500,000 pounds.
Pro football fans will recall that George Atkinson, the Oakland Raiders' defensive back, kayoed Lynn Swann of the Steelers last season on a play that generated controversy, countless replays and, for Atkinson, a $1,500 fine from NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
On May 21, Atkinson will be one of 21 Northern California athletes entered in a "Superpros" decathlon for the March of Dimes. Each contestant is sponsored by a business firm or an organization, which donates $500 to the MOD. In the draw for athletes, Atkinson was picked to represent the San Mateo Law Enforcement Agencies. San Mateo is Swann's hometown.