Before the race started, my fellow competitors were busy stretching or lounging all over the place. They were wiping blister-preventing Vaseline into and over every nook and cranny of their bodies. I casually stood around and ate donuts.
As we lined up for the start I tucked an unlit cigar into the corner of my mouth. I put some spare cigars and some donuts in the trash bag I carried. I then put on a Santa Claus hat to ensure a total loss of respectability. It worked.
Mayor Koch fired the opening cannon, and we were off across the bridge. I once again headed to the very back of the field. The spectators along the route were enthusiastically responsive. After all, who could possibly root against Santa? Many offered me a match for the cigar; the more conservative cautioned that smoking was bad for my health.
I ran at a very relaxed pace for almost 10 miles through Brooklyn and learned that Alberto Salazar had already won the race. The crowds were all but gone now. This was a definite signal to me to show my true competitive strength. I broke into a walk.
During my lonely stroll toward the Queensboro Bridge I overtook an English runner named Eric, in no hurry himself. When I told him about my quest, he decided to join in, much to my chagrin. Fortunately, the chilling winds buffeting the bridge persuaded him to drop out of the race, and I breathed a little easier. I treated him to a hot chocolate at a coffee shop near the 17-mile mark, in Manhattan, and, like a reasonable person, he returned to the warm comfort of his hotel.
I was now entering the strategic phase of the race. The task ahead of me required nerves of steel. Would I be tough enough? As I walked up First Avenue I came across a 25-year-old New Yorker who stood about 6'3" and weighed in at something near 275 pounds. Although a competitor, he was at this point walking the course with a 12-year-old boy from Poughkeepsie.
The pace set by this Mutt and Jeff convinced me that they would prove to be stiff competition. I walked with them for half a mile until I was greeted by two friends who appeared on the course at a prearranged place. We chatted for a while, allowing my competitors to move on and develop a slight lead.
Several minutes later I continued my promenade. But then, one of my friends ran up to me and said that a young woman was several blocks behind me. I walked just slowly enough to allow her to overtake me at the 19-mile mark. She eventually joined up with Mutt and Jeff, and that weary trio, some 75 yards ahead of me, edged ever so slowly toward the finish line in Central Park.
I would have been content to maintain that distance for the remaining five or six miles, but the day's light was dwindling. I started to fear that at the snail's pace the threesome was setting, we'd cross the finish line to find a deserted park. Thus I reluctantly joined my fellow runners in the hope that I could speed them up. I even offered to give the plucky youngster a piggyback ride, but he'd have none of it. We finally hit Central Park and had about three miles to go. Evening had fallen, and it was bone-chillingly cold. Although I feared that my companions would try to upstage me by coming in behind me, I valiantly outlasted them and they eventually edged ahead.
I finished some 10 yards behind the woman and just in front of an ambulance that signified the end of the race. It was 6:07 p.m. and I had spent seven hours, 37 minutes and 42 seconds on the course.