Life is a metaphor for rowing, chap. 19: Doing the Hurt Dance – | Candle Made Easy

After the race, the Mallory brothers, me in my MERCERSBURG TRACK t-shirt, with our cousin Sally

In 1967, at the age of 21 years and 11 months, I graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and get married. Then my life takes me around the world. After spending the 1966 holidays in Italy restoring Renaissance art and writing articles for American newspapers after the terrible floods in Florence the previous month, I return the following summer to continue my work. . . AND rowing on the Arno every afternoon, now between its banks again.

Museo del Opera del Duomo, where I worked

Museo del Opera del Duomo, where I worked

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

I will spend the next three years teaching, but in the summer of 1968 I will return to Boathouse Row and the Undine Barge Club. This year it’s going to be a light quad, four guys with two oars each and no helmsman, and we’re going back to the Hunter Island Lagoon but sadly without Fred Leonard. No more summer training for him. our loss.

Simple story here. Again we never took a picture. When I got old I even had to ask Tom Cassel if he had been in the boat. It turned out to be him, and he even had an old, faded newspaper clipping from The New York Times. (By the way, we all are now. Old, faded newspaper clippings… and from The New York Times when we are Happy!) Me in bow, John Cantrill at 2, Cassel at 3, my old teammate from 1965 US Nationals Eight, Don Callahan in stroke. I wonder if he remembers. “We’re a family, Don. I’m in the phone book! La Jolla, California.”

What happened? Four of us men, good boat, favorites according to the Old Gray Lady, we were beaten, fair and square. No buoys. By then they were gone, thank heaven, and no crabs either. Just a better boat from the Detroit Boat Club, a bunch of guys from the same 1965 eights that had beaten Don and I and the rest of our buoy-challenged crew. Beat us by 11 seconds this time. No big race for them. I wonder if they even remember. A great race for us. As we dropped back to second place about 600 meters from the finish, I suddenly realize that we have left our lane 1 and clear the course, thanks to me, I’m “the toe”, it’s my responsibility to row, to steer and feel sorry for myself at the same time. . . and we’re heading straight for a little dock just off the course! A little maybe, but still an insurmountable obstacle. Oh my! Crank up a big correction! As I straighten up, we find a boat from the Upper Merion Boat Club five miles up the Schuylkill River from our home on Boathouse Row, a boat from Upper Merion suddenly comes at our heels.

Upper Merion? Impossible! These guys seem like jokes! You rowed in Philadelphia forever and never won anything. They’re ancient, over 30 for heaven’s sake! (An uncomfortable statistic for me today, now that I’m more than twice as old as they must have been then! path more I’m afraid!)

And the boat is petted by a small child! A little kid, for heaven’s sake! What is his name? Billy Belden? He must be a future world champion if he can carry a bunch of ancient wrecks down the course alone and challenge us at the US National Championships. “Don’t you know we’re the favorites, little Billy Belden?”

US silver medal number three. Holy cow! But who counts? Who actually?

* * * * *

I told you that for my first two years out of college I taught at a boarding school in central Pennsylvania called Mercersburg Academy. I taught math (for the benefit of the drafting committee) and art studio, art history and philosophy to my students and myself. Very rewarding but no river or lake nearby so no rowing at school. Instead, I trained cross-country and track, and began training hard for my very first marathon: Boston in 1969. Things were simpler in Boston back then. After the race, I received my result in a handwritten sketch from organizer Jock Semple, who later recalled trying to rip the race number off Katherine Switzer’s chest two years earlier while she was competing. Despite the ban on women, she started as a KV-Swiss. Other runners came to Switzer’s aid, oh yes!

Handwritten note by Jock Semple

Handwritten note by Jock Semple

My brother George was a junior at Harvard in 1969, and he had already attempted the Boston Marathon in 1968 only to be brought down by an upset stomach. We trained separately in 1969, he in Cambridge, I in Mercersburg, but we decided to run together during the race out of solidarity. I stayed with him for about ten miles before deciding his pace was a tad too ambitious for me. I reluctantly offered Adieu. He backed away, but I could see his head bobbing in the mob in front of me for at least a few more miles. Watch it in fascination.

Like many before me, I suffered tremendously on Heartbreak Hill, and for the last six miles my quads were on the verge of cramping with every next step. As I neared the finish line, one of my former members of the Mercersburg Cross Country Team, now a freshman at BU, encouraged me to sprint past the person directly in front of me. “Hey Mr. Mallory, pick it up! There’s a guy right in front of you!” I assured him that I was already walking as fast as I did possibly could. Everyone is laughing. I literally hobbled home in 3:44:27, 507th in a field of around 1,500, according to Jock Semple’s handwritten note to me.

As I neared the finish line, no amount of encouragement from a former member of the Mercersburg Cross Country Team would allow me to go even a millisecond faster.  Couldn't!

As I neared the finish line, no amount of encouragement from a former member of the Mercersburg Cross Country Team would allow me to go even a millisecond faster. Couldn’t!

Look what a fool I was back in 1969. I didn’t turn out to be a particularly talented long-distance runner—many of the Mercersburg kids beat me in training day after day—and when I thought about the marathon, twenty-six miles seemed like such a long way . . . To boost my confidence, I decided to run the entire distance a couple of times before going to Boston. I mapped out a course on the farm roads of Cumberland Valley and ran the full distance the two weekends before the race, around 3:20 each time. That’s how the 1969 Boston Marathon ended for me third Marathon in fifteen days! No wonder I did the injured dance on Heartbreak Hill!

Be continued . . .

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