It was a great day to go to the races. An even better day to race. The weather was sunny, humidity low, temperatures balmy and, except for a brisk wind, running conditions were ideal.
The event was the 3rd annual Parklawn Five Mile Classic on a hilly, circular course spanning the U.S. government complex on Parklawn Drive in Rockville. Featured runners were government workers from the health services headquarters of the Department of Health Education and Welfare.
While friends and family members cheered, runners strutted racy-looking track shorts and tee shirts in shades of canary yellow, royal blue and crimson.
About 135 jittery participants, including 26 women, divided into three running classes at the starting line: the open division for men and women under 40, the masters division for men over 40, and the master's division for women over 40.
The Parklawn Amateur Radio Club provided communication with the racers, and the event ended without a single drop-out or injury.
Perspiring faces radiated. Knotted legs pumped furiously and sun-chapped lips grinned from ear to ear as the athletes neared the finish line.When it was over they kissed, hugged, squealed, danced, swilled iced tea and Hawaiian punch, jumped up and down and ran around like excited children.
First, second and third place finishers received gold, silver and bronze trophies depicting long-legged male and female runners poised on a marble stand. The outhers received the joy of finishing.
"I've got the first place in masters (for women)." squealed May Grossnickel, a computer analyst with gunmetal gray hair and an inability to stand still even after running 54 minutes.
"Look at that Just look at that," she said pointing to a still gamely gam. "Not bad for 58 years old is it?
Michael Taylor came in first overall with a timing of 30 minutes and knocked out the old Parklawn record (31 minutes).
Psychologist Richard Pine, the second place finisher overall, came in with a timing of 32 minutes.
"And somebody stole my trophy!" he wailed at the trophy table as his 4-month-old son Roger looked at him and yawned.
Harold Goldstein, running his "best time ever," copped first place in the masters for men with a 34-minute time.
"It's the first time I ever won anything!" beamed Goldstein. "There are advantages to turning 40. I was 40 last (week)."
The other top three winners were: Hannu Buori (3rd), men's open; Patricia Sykes (1st), Barbara Najar (2nd), Brenda Frank (3rd), women's open; Roger Burhart (2nd), Ernest Hurst (3rd), men's masters; May Grossnickel (1st), Cathie Hodge (2nd), and Betty Boone (3rd), women's masters.
There were no losers in this meet, but some of the also-rans gave interesting, if not credible, explanations of their races.
"If Mr. (Joseph) Califano would give me more time off to run I could do better," insisted number 207, Donald Kennedy, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Kennedy came in 46th with a timing of 37 minutes.
"I thought I was dying," gasped Ronnie Krantz, explaining her timing. "I wouldn't have made it except (friends) Sandy Burns and Lynda Shepherd were cheering me on at the four-mile point."
Krantz, 32, said she also had a coach nudging her along, a 1968 Olympian who ran for Czechoslovakia.
"He kept saying this old lady was going to beat me. She did, by 24 seconds."
Cramps and a bad knee got number 9, Linda Rivera.
"I had a little bit of trouble," she said. "My stomach got upset and my legs started cramping."
Organizers of the race, Jim Rivera, a marathoner, and Raymond Gagnon, a jogger, also competed. Two years ago Gagnon began an exercise room in the complex and devised the race. This year Rivera became involved.
"I think the important thing is every body enjoyed themselves," said Rivera.
But for the last runner in, psychiatrist Betty Boone, the race was more than a good time.
Boone, 54, trotted within view of the finish line more than an hour after the race began. A crew of six runners were bringing her in with the finishers cheering her on.
Number 162, Lewis Long, explained that Boone had had polio as a teenager. Two years ago she started running.
"I didn't bother to run (earlier) because I didn't think I could," Boone explained later. "But I can!"
Until a few months ago, she had never run five miles. Her best time up until a week before the race was 75 minutes. Today she wanted to best that time.
As the petite figure neared the finish, she was smiling. Her body moved loosely in a bright yellow track suit, and her Buster Brown hair-cut bounced with each measured step. She finally fell across the finish line into a waiting runner's arms in 69 minutes.
The next scene was Rocky revisted in Rockville.