Amby Burfoot, the 1968 Boston Marathon champion, former Runner’s World magazine editor, and author, will be introducing me when I read from my memoir “5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours” at Bank Square Books in Mystic, CT on Sunday, June 28.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, and not just because Mystic is pretty much the most idyllic place to spend a Sunday afternoon in summer.
Amby was a major part of the 1970s running revolution that inspired my mother to lace up her Nikes each morning for a three-mile run before work. (She’s still going strong, by the way, at 75.) She in turn got me going.
My first magazine subscription was to Runner’s World, where Amby has served as writer and editor since 1978. I ran cross-country and track at Hamden High and competed in the New Haven 20K Road Race each September. There, I met Amby’s Wesleyan roommate Bill Rodgers, former American record holder in the marathon and heartthrob of high-school cross-country and track-running schoolgirls across the Northeast.
Aside from the endorphin highs, running served a deeper purpose as I negotiated an adolescence rocked by my parents’ divorce. It was on the roads that I found my footing, where I forged my identity within our family, where I learned that an A on my report card wasn’t the only way to excel and, more than anything, that I could suffer pain and doubt and still function.
I write about this in my memoir—in particular, during the running leg of a triathlon I take on to mark my 10-year anniversary of surviving a glioblastoma, the most lethal form of brain cancer.
When people ask how I’m still around 17 years after a prognosis of one year to live, my first answer is I got lucky. That may be true, but I’m quite sure the lessons I learned on the road contributed as well. When you’re jogging past a snarling dog, my high school coach used to tell us, pretend you don’t notice it. Don’t change your pace. Just keep going.
Which is what I tried to do. My pace might have slowed, but I contended with my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, forged a regimen to keep myself going the rest of the day, and here I am.
Full disclosure: I’ve yet to meet Amby. When I do, on the last Sunday in June, I’ll thank him. He was, after all, among those who got me started on what kept me going.