The 1979 Boston Marathon – A Watershed Moment

The 1979 Boston Marathon: A Watershed Moment

by Bob Hodge

I grew into adulthood as a runner and ascended as a
competitor to a near peak of perfection in 1979. Now age 61 I can look back and
comprehend this progression, but back then I had no notion what was in store
for me.

: New Zealand’s Kevin Ryan, Gary Bjorklund (MN) and
the GBTC’s Dickie Mahoney and Bill Rodgers. In back between Bjorklund and
Mahoney is S. Africa’s Johnny Halberstadt; just visible to his right is Randy
Thomas, and to his left, Bob Hodge. Photo by Charlie Rodgers

I moved from Lowell, MA to Hanover MA in 1978 to work in a
running retail emporium called the RUNNERY. The owner of this establishment was
Sharpless Jones, a raconteur with many hopes and dreams and plans and schemes. His
business partner, Stevie Calder, looked every bit the part of a runner and, in
fact, when we began to run together in the winter of ’79, Stevie qualified for
Boston and ran a 2:49.

Another running partner and friend, Earl Fucillo, was a
truck driver for Hendries Ice Cream and a RUNNERY regular. Earl, at age 40, who
seemed so ancient to me then, also ran in the 2:40s at Boston.

Without their support and friendship – well, things just would
not have been the same. Of course I had been running with the Greater Boston
Track Club since 1975, and I would go to Boston at least once a week to run on
the track or over the Boston Marathon course with teammates that included Bill
Rodgers, Greg Meyer, Randy Thomas, Danny Dillon, Vinnie Fleming, Dickie
Mahoney, Scotty Graham, Brad Hurst, Gary Wallace, and Freddy Doyle just to name
a few.

We were competitive with other clubs around the country and
also amongst ourselves. I particularly liked to challenge Randy, who had in
turn been challenging Bill. When Greg joined us from Michigan I knew that would
be an asset to all of us, but I also wanted to beat him when we raced. Mike
Roche also joined us around that time, moving up from NJ. They were both sponsored
by New Balance and brought on board by Randy. They both had better PR’s than I
and were paid accordingly.

I ran with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. (PHOTO: Tom
Fleming and Bob Hodge at the base of Boston College before turning right into
Cleveland Circle.
Photo by Leo Kulisnki, Jr.


When I first moved to Hanover I was homeless and did not own
a car. I lived a gypsy life with Sharpless finding me temporary quarters with
his grandmother in Scituate or with other friends. At some point I set up shop
in the basement of the store. Eventually, I found an apartment in the upstairs
of a house that I could afford. This place was in Hanover and three miles from
the store.

My brother Mike helped me move in. I didn’t have much so it
was pretty easy. I loved having my own place even though it cost me dear. I had
recently received a modest contract with New Balance Shoe Co. and without that supplement
to my earnings working at the store, I would not have been able to manage.

I biked to work and to the grocery store, etc. In the winter
I ran to work or had someone pick me up. Earl and Stevie let me borrow their
cars now and then so I could go up to Lowell and visit friends and family
without having to take the bus

One day Earl said, “Bobby, time for you to get your own

“I don’t think I can afford it, I have almost no savings.”

Earl “knew someone” so we went to a dealership and I picked
out a 1969 Mustang that cost $1,500.00. I put down $100.00 and paid $100.00 a

Next Earl aked, “Bobby, why don’t you have a credit card?”
We went to the bank together and filled out the information and I walked out
with a MasterCard with a $400.00 credit limit.

I was becoming an adult and I wasn’t sure if I liked that.

My friend “Stevie from Lowell” as he was known by my running
friends, came down occasionally and we would meet up at the Eliot Lounge in
Boston; many times, it was our runner’s clubhouse and we’d be welcomed by barkeep
Tommy Leonard, our friend and supporter. I was on a roll.

In February I travelled to Atlanta with the GBTC to run the
International Cross Country Trials race. The first nine finishers would make
the team for Limerick. I finished 16th while Danny and Randy were 5th and 7th. I
felt strong but had no leg turnover when it was needed. It was a real
disappointment. and invited
to many races. Fortunately or unfortunately life became more complicated. It
was a watershed moment.

Sidebar to run by end of article


B.A.A. Marathon Top 10

1. Bill Rodgers, GBTC, 2:09:27 CR

2. Toshihiko Seko, JPN, 2:10:12

3. Bob Hodge, GBTC, 2:12:30

4. Tom Fleming, NJ, 2:12:56

5. Gary Bjorklund, MN, 2:13:14

6. Kevin Ryan, NZ, 2:13:57

7. Bobby Doyle, RI, 2:14:04

8. Randy Thomas, GBTC, 2:14:12

9. Herb Atkins, WA, 2:14:17

10. Dickie Mahoney, GBTC, 2:14:36








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One comment

  1. RIP Tom Fleming 4/19/2017

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