Thursday, November 20, 2014


Next Wednesday November 26 will be the 50th anniversary of my coming home for the first time from college. One of the most emotional times of my teenage years was the first year I went off to college. I didn't come home for the first time until Thanksgiving and I was pretty lonesome at school and missed my parents, my sisters and my dog Horton. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I got a ride from Edna Barker and I had her drop me off on Sisson Road in front of the old high school, now the middle school instead of our house on South St, which was a quarter mile away. I guess I wanted to savor the moment!

I walked down the school drive, passed the old high school, recalling all the good times, and when I got to the edge of the field at the east end of our property, by the old pine tree, I whistled for Horton. I had a special whistle I always used to call him. I had told my parents I should be home around 6pm so please have Horton waiting on the back steps and I will call him from the far end of the field.

At first I didn't hear anything, but then I heard the jingle of his dog tags on his collar getting louder and louder. It was dark, and I was squinting towards the west and then I saw him. He saw me too, and started yelping away and must have jumped 3 feet into the air to greet me! He was barking away, running in circles around me, giving me kisses as I bent over to pat him.

I had tears in my eyes and could barely see. All that was missing was Tom Jones singing the Green, Green, Grass of Home, And we did have a big, old oak tree in the back yard too! We ran together to the back door, me carrying my little duffle bag, and went into the kitchen to greet everyone. Little Frannie Larkin was home!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


33 years ago today, a third of a century (yikes!), I ran and completed the New York City Marathon. I had run off and on since the early 70's, but when my father died in November of 1980, I decided to train for a marathon and dedicate the race to Dad. I had run some road races and had a base already built up and I had several books and mags on running. I picked out a training routine to finish the marathon in about 4 hours. I just wanted to finish and not try to set any speed records! And over the course of a year, I followed the training routine and didn't deviate from it very much. I didn't want to get carried away and get injured.

One of my brother in laws and a nephew drove down from Topsfield, Ma. the Saturday before. We lived in Danbury, Ct at the time. I drove down to New York City with a racing buddy  the week before the marathon to get our numbers and race kit. They had them available at the Post Office right next to Madison Square Garden. We got pizza the night before to get those carbo's into the body.

The next morning we got up early and drove down to Staten Island, with our neighbor, who was a great runner and had done the marathon several times. So he gave me a lot of tips, although he would finish well ahead of me. My brother in law and nephew drove back to downtown Manhattan and parked in a garage near the finish line in Central Park and began the long wait!

For the male runners, they had set up the world's largest outdoor urinal. It was a wooden trough that was tilted at a slight angle and had running water going down it. I think it ended up in one of the sewer drains. For the ladies, there was a large row of portable potties. As it got close to the starting time, I walked up to where the first time runners and top lady runners were. On the other side of the bridge, it was the top men. I didn't want to stay at the back of the crowd and take 10 minutes or so to cross the starting line, so I positioned myself near the front of the first time runners, but well back of the top ladies. I certainly did not want to interfere with them.

When the starting cannon went off,  I crossed the starting line in a few seconds. It was finally here. I had trained for over a year and had thought of this moment for months. It was a clear day, temp in the high 40's and the Manhattan skyline was to my left. Fire boats were sending streams of water high into the air and helicopters were circling above. What a sight. And you read about the first mile being the toughest because its uphill on the bridge. I didn't even notice. I was so excited and plus I had trained on a lot of hills. So it wasn't any big deal.

I had on shorts, and a light sweatshirt, with no hood, my famous red winter hat and garden gloves. And in the left glove, I carried my father's last drivers license. I made sure not to go out too fast, despite all the excitement. I wanted to run about 4 hours or maybe a few minutes less. 2 weeks before when we were visiting family in Topsfield, Ma. I had gone for my longest run, 22 miles. I can still remember every mile of that training run, and occasionally drive parts of it, and think back. After that run, I showered, went to Mass, and then we drove back to Danbury. I felt good so I figured I could break 4 hours.

I ran on the left side of all the runners. I did not want to get tripped up by running in the middle of everyone. All the spectators in Brooklyn were high fiving and low fiving all of us and cheering us on. It was fantastic support. I felt great and hit the halfway mark a little less than 2 hours. I purposely was holding back and then wanted to up the tempo for the next several miles. And then as  I was crossing the 59th St bridge, my right knee started hurting. What the heck was this? I had no injuries for the past year and did a conservative marathon build up. I had stretched and was as flexible as I could be. The pain got worse and worse. I tried some stretching and asked someone at an aid station what it might be, but they didn't know.

I ran, walked the rest of the way. I was in a lot of pain, but I had dedicated the race to Dad and was not about to drop out. I finished in 4 hours and 46 minutes, about 46 minutes longer than I had hoped. My brother in law was starting to get worried where I was. I told him I would probably finish in about 4 hours. Then he saw the red hat coming down the last quarter mile. When I got to Central Park South, I said the heck with it. I am going to run the last mile and change without stopping. And I did. The pain didn't get any worse.

My neighbor had finished in about 3 hours and change so they were all waiting for me. But I finished. I did it. And I pulled Dad's license out of my glove, looked down at his picture, smiled and gave him a kiss. This was for you Dad!
We all talked about the race on the ride home. My right knee ached and I took some aspirin when I got home. I remember calling my mother to tell her I did it! The next day it was back to work and I had promised everyone at the regional office in Westport, Ct. that if I finished, I would bring in donuts for everyone. So I stopped and bought 6 dozen donuts for everyone.

I went to a running doctor a few days later, and the cause of the pain was my ilio tibial band (the ITP). That's a muscle that runs from the hip down to the knee and crosses over the outside of the knee. That had tightened up and was rubbing against the bone. That's what was causing the discomfort. I had to rest the knee for several days and then do special stretching exercises for the ITB and I was ok. And for the next 30 years as long as I did the stretching I could run and do races without any problems. I went on to complete a triathlon, a 25 mile bike race and over 100 road races, most of them 5 miles or 10K's. I finished every race and never had to drop out.  I stopped running 6 years ago. I figured there are only so many miles on the tires so why chance it.

So for the last 6 years, I walk, hike, bike, kayak and snowshoe in season. I have not done a century(100 miles) in bike riding so I think I will do that next year. That will complete my own personal trifecta, of completing a marathon, triathlon and a century. So as Paul Harvey said many years ago, "Now you know the rest of the story."