Rambling Roads: Boston Books

By George A. Hancock

Friday begins October’s 31-day run. October’s magnificent glory is visible to all roadside pedestrians.  Motorists see some of October’s seasonal sights, but the running crowd gains the full autumn experience.

October is perhaps the most scenic running month. Autumn’s changing hues are superb. A run near any wooded region is breathtaking. Our five senses are in full autumn overload. Mother Nature provides daily thrills for the outdoor enthusiasts.

Trail or road racing also provides delightful October views. Even a bad race is enhanced by October’s natural beauty. So, what happens when a historic race moves to the October month?

The 125th running of the Boston Marathon is scheduled for Monday, October 11, 2021. This classic race moved from its normal April date to October due to various COVID-19 issues. Marathon runners can tour the historic route while viewing New England’s fall foliage. Running Boston’s historic course is always an incredible experience. Now, runners get an October bonus in the magnificent fall foliage. 

All 50 US states have runners entered, plus runners from 87 other countries. Roughly 9,000 other qualifiers failed to gain entry. A sad point yet shows the Boston Marathon remains a popular must-run race.

I ran Boston in 1984. That April 16 day was raw, chilly, and wet. I ran in shorts, gloves, and beanie cap and really enjoyed my trek on the historic Boston course. There were about 5,000 runners in 1984. My last several miles were an incredible experience. I finished the 88th Boston Marathon in 2:58:55, placing 2,150 in the 1984 race and earning a lifelong memory.

I recently discovered two intriguing novels concerning the Boston Marathon. Both novels are very good and worth your reading time. The first is titled Runner in Red by Tom Murphy. The book-cover blurb states this is “A search for the first woman to run a marathon in America.”

Tom Murphy had previously penned the book Just Call Me Jock. That book about legendary Boston Marathon icon Jock Semple was coauthored by John J. Kelly. Kelly was the 1957 Boston Marathon winner.

Runner in Red is based on a true scenario that a group of Canadian Marathon runners witnessed a mysterious woman in red sneak into the race. These runners did relay their observations to marathon officials at the end of the 1951 race. However, those race officials discredited/denied their story. Women, at that time, were forbidden by Boston rules to compete in this race.

I personally never heard this story before. I checked my excellent Boston Marathon history book Boston Marathon: The History of the World’s Premier Running Event by Tom Derderian for any collaboration. However, Derderian’s history has no account of the incident. Online searches basically take one to various narratives about this novel. It seems we have an intriguing Boston Marathon mystery here.

Murphy creates a splendid scenario covering the lady marathon runner in red. I was never familiar with this incident or the novel and really enjoyed it. The book was published in 2017 by Encircle Publications. I found my copy on eBay. The cover price of my trade paperback is $15.99.  Runner in Red is an excellent story.

The second book is Heartbreak Hill by Tom Lonergran. This book was published by Writers Club Press in 2002. The publisher describes this book as a thriller. It is. Tom Lonergan is a writer and marathon runner. Longeran, by 2002, had run Boston 17 times. He also resides at the Brookline 24-mile point with his wife and four children. Obviously, Tom Lonergan had the marathon experience to write this novel.

The book follows main character Sgt. Mike Quinn as he attempts to unravel a terrorist plot while protecting a high profile female Boston runner. One troubling point I had with this novel was that it was written in 2002, over a decade before the actual finish line Boston Marathon bombing. Lonergran demonstrates how realistic a Boston terrorist plot remains.

Heartbreak Hill is another excellent Boston Marathon novel. I also purchased this novel through eBay. I recommend both novels.

So, scan the race field for the lady in red as we watch October and the Boston Marathon unfold. October is one of my favorite running months. Enjoy! Run well, run smart!    

Categories: Features

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