Until recently either Joe or Patti, or both, had to work at least part time at Bill Rodgers' Running Center in the Boston suburb of Brighton, to make expenses. In 1978, when Patti had won a free trip to the Honolulu Marathon by placing in the top five of the Nike Marathon in Eugene, Ore., she and Joe experienced a moment of giddy unreality—basking on a Hawaiian beach 5,400 miles from home, while living on food stamps. Now, however, both are subsidized—Joe as a coach, Patti as a runner—by Nike through its team. Athletics West, which, along with providing shoes, running clothes and travel expenses to some races, gives them a monthly stipend in return for consulting and clinic giving.
"Things have really smoothed out in the last month and a half," said Joe in September. "We're our own boss at last. We can run our own lives." And now that Patti is a bona fide gate attraction for any race promoter, things are likely to get even smoother, because she'll get more liberal expense allowances.
Joe and Patti live in a basement apartment in West Roxbury. They train together every day, along the banks of the Charles in the mornings, through the streets of West Roxbury, Brookline and Newton in the afternoons. As Patti's running has become the focus of their lives, Joe's has suffered a little from neglect. "He's having a hard time," says Patti sympathetically. "You need a coach, and Joe doesn't have one. because he's too busy coaching me."
"I try to get out of it what I put in." says Joe, "but my main goal is to help Patti be as good as she can."
In trying to explain her breakthrough last spring, Patti says, "I had to be more relaxed mentally and emotionally to perform well. It's so easy now, so relaxed."
"I have what I want now."
She points across the lunch table at Joe and laughs. He rolls his eyes.
Most good distance runners are—at least outwardly—calm, soft-spoken and measured in their demeanor, as if they are hoarding their energies for a later, more important date. Joe is like that. Patti, by contrast, practically vibrates. She talks with her hands, even when she's running. She laughs easily and often, and she very nearly becomes airborne when something pleases her, as many things do these days. She's also as friendly as a puppy, a trait that doesn't always sit well with people she's beaten to the finish line, perhaps because they've seen evidence of another side of her. Kaggestad glimpsed it when he trained with Patti on the forest paths near his farm outside Oslo. "When it was impossible to run side by side, she always tried to move up," he says. "That's the competitive mentality."