Run, Alan, run.
Run, Abe, run was the cry from George Halas 21 years ago as the Bears' founder and owner watched the hefty Gibron grunting toward the tape during training camp. Gibron was a lineman who weighed 290 pounds, and Halas had told him he would not receive a contract until he shed 40 pounds and could run a mile in under six minutes. In his first 10 miles, Gibron fell victim to a swift early pace and walked down the homestretch. The 11th time he made it.
Halas was ahead of his time. The stereotype of the football lineman demands gargantuan size. Beef. If a player is good at 225, he will be better at 250. Why?
Page points out that Muhammad Ali fought at about 222 in his prime, which is what Page now weighs. At his present 250, Ali in trunks is absurd; indeed, he says he has retired. Why does a lineman need speed and stamina any less than a boxer? Why was beefy Buster Mathis never champion of the world?
Shortly after the Vikings released Page, ostensibly because his reduced weight had become detrimental to his performance, a Minnesota physician, F. Douglas Whiting, wrote a letter to The Minneapolis Star in which he said, "The notion that heavier football players are better football players dies hard...." He stated that performance correlated with maximum lean body weight (muscle, bones, gristle) and not total body weight, which includes fat. He cited studies by Dr. Donald Cooper, team physician for Oklahoma State, that showed an athlete's speed and endurance improved when he shed fat pounds, with no loss of strength. Whiting suggested that Page would be as effective with 40 extra pounds of fat on his body as he would with 40 pounds of pig iron hanging from him.
Diane Page is especially fond of this letter. It is Diane, after all, who is responsible for launching the trimmer Page. Two years ago she gave up smoking, and to occupy her lungs she took up jogging. Alan went along to keep her company. Soon the pastime became a passion. "Running is one of the few things for which I have jumped on the bandwagon," he says. "I'm not much of a joiner."
There is a lovely string of lakes near their Minneapolis home. They trained for the marathon by running around them, 60 to 70 miles a week. But Page will probably cut down to 30 miles or less once the football season begins. The house, which the Pages designed, is filled with modern furniture, with an emphasis on the practical. Four children are about: Nina, 11, and Georgianna, 9, from Page's first marriage, and Justin, 4, and Khamsin, 2, from his marriage to Diane. The large kitchen-breakfast room is the center of the home. Diane, a free-lance marketing consultant, has taped a handwritten note to the refrigerator—"Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel." On one wall is a Warhol silkscreen of Chairman Mao, the thinker. Opposite it hangs his silkscreen of Marilyn Monroe, a woman of feeling.
Diane Page looks at her husband with open pride. "Alan feels very good about Alan," she says, "I don't know anybody else who feels quite that way."
Alan, what was going through your mind as you saw the finish line?
"Not much by then."
The final six miles are within the Duluth city limits. Parts of the city are quite nice, but not the waterfront, with its warehouses and railroad tracks along the docks where iron ore is unloaded. The marathoners weave through heavy traffic, grimacing as they breathe exhaust fumes. It is downhill through here, and the pace has picked up as they race to bring the incessant pounding to an end. Alan has been at it nearly four hours.