Monday, October 20, 2008

Mr. Hayes Goes To Toronto

I saw him before I heard the call, "Mr. Hayes." I replied, "Mr. Hayes." So began our walk together. Kurt Steege had just walked back from the finish line of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I was dragging myself in to a 6:11 finish; while Kurt, just cruising, had finished in 3:52, after having taken a big detour to call attention of officials to a woman down on the course.

Kurt had run this as an overdistance run in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon a month later. Kurt was dressed as Johnny Hayes, the 1908 Olympic Marathon winner, as was I. We'd been invited up to Toronto to bring up Johnny Hayes' gold medal along with his 3rd place trophy from the 1907 Boston Marathon.

While Hayes finished better at Boston (2nd) the next year, the 1907 trophy has a special tie to Toronto. Tom Longboat, Canada's finest runner of the era hailed from hearby. Longboat was an Onandaga Indian from the Six Nations Reserve about an hour west of Toronto. Plans had called for his daughter, Phyllis Winney, to have attended along with his Boston Trophy, which is held at the Woodlands Cultural Center. Unfortunately, at the last minute, this part of the plan fell apart.

The third major player in Toronto's presentation of the story of how the marathon came to be 26.2 miles was Dorando Pietri. Dorando's struggles to finish the marathon at the 1908 Olympics had prompted Queen Alexandra to give him a special cup. That cup had been brought to Toronto by Carlo Gabbi and his wife, Luisa Ricco, bringing those relics together for public display for just the second time since they were given a century ago. (The first was earlier this year at the Flora London Marathon.)

That's Carlo Gabbi of Italy as Dorando with Dorando's cup, me as Johnny Hayes with Hayes' gold medal, and Michal (rhymes with nickel) Kapral aka "The Joggler" as Tom Longboat at the prerace press conference.

After the marathon, Kurt and I flew home together. We both had some fun teasing each other about how badly we were both walking. I'm pretty sure I was worse. Kurt is slated to be running Marine Corps next weekend. If you see him, please wish him well.

By the way, my 6:11 was planned as a 5:45 to 6:00. I'd guessed at that kind of time based on Elliott Denman's past performances at the NY City Marathon. Elliott has rarely crossed to the slow side of 6 hours in his recent New York performances. I figured I could post a number that would match the man with a quarter century on me, I wasn't to be. I have even more respect for him after seeing how tough walking a 6-hour marathon can be.

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