After lubricious reference to the awards banquet and attendant debauchery that would be denied to non-entrants, the form concluded with a request that the runner submit his money and T shirt size if he were ready to do the manly thing, his panty size if he were not.
There followed a torrent of acceptances, most of them profane. "I'm ashamed that I'm succumbing to this social pressure," wrote Jimmy Jake Jaqua, 35, lawyer, central Oregon builder and drama student. "If the value of seeing the perpetrators of this ripoff fall down and puke is one cent less than $25, you'll be using your winnings to pay legal fees."
Barry O'Donnell, a wrestler and fitness consultant, said, "Due to an iliopsoas strain, it might be necessary to ambulate upon the rotator cuff and groups of the anterior and posterior arm. In other words, if I can't run on my legs, I'll run on my hands like any other good gorilla."
And Clark Meinert, a sporting-goods executive from West Linn, a town to the north, asserted that "only blockage of Interstate 5 by a lava field would deter me from sharpening my spikes." Later, when Mount St. Helens let go, Henderson said, "I wonder how Clark did that? Of course, the lava completely missed Interstate 5."
"Merely a warning," returned Meinert. "A smoke signal compared to the hell I'm going to raise in June."
In fact, Meinert took the race so seriously he hired a coach, former Pac-8 steeplechase champion Bob Williams. In response, Lary Simpson, Meinert's business partner, signed an Olympic steeplechaser (1972), Mike Manley, as an adviser. Soon the town was webbed with secret interlocking alliances. Leonard and Jimmy Jaqua, unbeknownst to each other, approached the same Olympic marathoner, an austere and almost contemptuous recluse, who gave them training programs of heedless severity. Within a month, both were injured. Jim's brother, Chuck, also a builder, trained so hard he broke his foot.
The prime beneficiary of this carnage was another competitor, Dr. Stan James, portrayed on the entry sheet as "a multiseason athlete rumored to practice medicine in his spare time." James is one of the nation's finest orthopedic surgeons, but the description was perfectly apt. A cyclist, cross-country skier, runner and kayakist, James is capable of such purity of concentration while, say, paddling that he has been known to churn blindly on for a mile past the finish line. His constant advice to injured runners is to back off, relax and rest because injuries are almost always the result of overuse. James knows because he's injured half the time himself. Consequently, he would run under the colors of the Do As I Say Not As I Do Track Club, but first, because at 48 he was the oldest entrant, he petitioned for a slight handicap—"two minutes will do"—on the basis of expert testimony of other doctors ranging from Louis Pasteur ("This nut wanted to boil me in milk!") to Madame Curie ("a strange glow about her") to George Sheehan ("Told me I had runner's knee, Morton's toe and hadn't read enough Thoreau"). His request was lovingly denied, the race committee saying, "He wasn't invited as a contender. It was thought that he could scrape together 25 bucks to help fill the pot. And he did. Next case."
Most entrants were in their 30s. "Old enough to know," said one, "that the leisurely pleasure of anticipation usually outweighs the brief rush of an event itself." The anticipation took the form of hyping the social implications of the race. Leonard, whose office had been involved in arrangements for a movie to be shot in Eugene at the time of the race, sent a description of The P.U. Or S.U. Mile to the film's star, 18-year-old Mariel Hemingway, who said she would be pleased to award the prizes. "But she wants to know if it's safe for such old guys to get all excited when she kisses 'em so soon after a tiring run," said her messenger.
"We're fatalists," said Leonard. "We figure if she's killed, she's killed."
Emboldened by success with a movie star, the committee pressed on. Feeling a need for a distinguished signature to lend weight to the award certificates, it prevailed on friends of then mile world-record holder Sebastian Coe to forward the papers to him in England. The documents returned, inscribed not only by Sebastian but also by his parents, brother Nick and sister Emma as well as Harry Potts—Milkman to the Coe Family. With them came a letter from Peter Coe, Sebastian's father and coach. "Just what is all this bull about putting up or shutting up?" he wrote. "For the record, I have put up with the iniquities of Watergate, and the peanut farmer's Olympic tantrums; with Margaret Thatcher and the worst fiscal system ever riveted upon a nation; 40 years in manufacturing; the British Amateur Athletic Association; countless race promoters; a wife, four children and three world records; and after that lot I'm damned if I'm going to shut up. Now, just how much time with Mariel Hemingway does my $25 buy me? P.S. Leave my son and athlete out of this—he's got enough going for him as it is, the lucky swine."