A Look Back

BY ED GILDEA
FOUNDER, RUNNER'S GAZETTE

Putting on my hooded red-nylon rain jacket to begin my five-mile run in a downpour around 4 a.m. the day after Labor Day reminded me that I was asked months ago to write something about what must be the 23rd anniversary of Runner's Gazette, since the jacket's white lettering tells me "America's First Running Newspaper" was "Established September, 1976."

Yes, folks, I had to read it there to find out when it all started.

So today, the second day after Labor Day, late as usual, I hope to complete something about those early days after Rich Benyo and I started the Switchback Scamper, which will be held for the 29th time October 17.

But let me stick with the prime subject here¾Runner's Gazette.

In the cellar I was able to dig up, under dust and inhabited by at least one bug, the first five issues, which tell me what my vanishing memory can't.

Under a picture of a mass of runners starting a marathon beside bleachers and fencing in a small stadium, I wrote what seems, to me at least, okay to repeat today:

"Running in America. It has caught on. More and more people are doing it, alone and in groups, on roads and tracks, on paths in the woods, up and down mountains, over bridges, through rolling farmland, along the sides of highways, over streets of cities and towns. The runners move through heat, cold, snow, rain, sunshine, taking whatever comes, exulting, agonizing. There's something about it that grips you and won't let go. It's a fever that has sent this new publication to the starting line. We don't know whether to call it a newspaper or a magazine or what. But, like the spirited folks who took on the marathon at Syracuse, NY, May 16, we're off and running."

And the day before yesterday the fever still had me under a mass of blowing raindrops, distant lightning seen but not heard from its origin miles away, getting my shoes swamped by sudden rivers in the streets.

Also in that first issue of RG was a one-paragraph letter from Eric L. Weyman of Reading:

"If Runner's Gazette doesn't get off the ground I would still appreciate all the information you have on running events in the area."

And on the same page was a poem "Ten-Mile Run" from George VanDoren, including these lines:

"The men converse.
Their easy talk belies
the fact that running
is a silent act of will;
defying speech,
transcending thought;
A free ecstatic state,
kinetic poetry.

On page 32, the last of the first issue, is a photo of the start of the second annual Cherry Blossom Run in Wilkes-Barre on May 9, 1976 with Jim Lyons, the eventual winner, in the middle of the lead group, in black.

Then I see that I wrote the article headlined "Racing Luck at Wilkes-Barre" which turns out to be a strictly personal account of what I experienced in the race:

"…two incredible strokes of racing luck which enabled me to vault from 40th to 37th place in the last half-mile."

I see that I was 47 years old at the time, wrote in detail what happened, and concluded by reporting, "My time was a phenomenal 37 minutes, 28 seconds. It was the high point of my running career."

I'll spare readers from the details, but anyone unable to resist knowing what happened can write to me at 102 W. Water St., Lansford, PA 18232 and enclose a dollar for postage and I'll send one of the several copies I've resurrected of this collector's item issue on a first come, first served basis.

I was going to quit here, but I pick up the second issue dated Winter 1977 and see that it's increased to 40 pages which, at least to me, at age 70, look like incredible accounts of running history described and photographed while it was happening, showing people running who don't or can't run anymore, or who may not even be still living.

I'm stopping here without going into any details of those pages, except for the first, which has the front phalanx of thousands of runners in the first annual Marine Corps Reserve Marathon passing below the massive monument of the Iwo Jima Flag-Raising.

With the 1977 Spring and Summer issues also in front of me, I may have already exceeded my space limit.

God bless Runner's Gazette and the people who are keeping it going so well.