One morning each week, Tom Fleming and I go for a long run, 20 miles. About 5 p.m. the same day, we'll do another five to seven miles. Good marathon training.
But why I am training for the marathon? Sometimes I forget there is no Olympics to aim for anymore. The 100-140 miles a week are second nature to me. But there is a very different feeling as the start of the Olympic Games draws closer.
I always will remember 1980 as a unique year. Not because of a job promotion or a wedding, and certainly not because it's an election year. This is the year of the U.S. boycott of the Olympics.
I suppose I should have realized how few people would fight the boycott proposal when it, initially was announced. The mood of the country is isolationist. It's an election year. And most of our sportswriters could care less about the Olympics when they have real sports to cover like the Astrodome Thrill Show Demolition Derby.
Still, I was shocked, and I am still by the speed at which the withdrawal (boycott) proposal was accepted and the unanimity of that acceptance in our country.
Naturally, not very many people can relate to someone striving for a goal as abstract as making the Olympic team. And certainly to sacrifice going to the Olympics is a small price to pay for national security. So it was easy to ask this of our potential Olympians. America's amateur athletes are used to sacrifice, just as this government is used to giving them no support.
Where were our supporters?
It was hard reading all the prowithdrawal articles in running magazines, save Running Times and Track and Field News. And then there was the majority support for the "boycott" by my own club, the Greater Boston Track Club. Talk about the loneliness of the long distance runner!
For a while, my anger was red-hot. I was determined to take the Boston Marathon and skip the pseudo-Olympic trials a month later in Buffalo. And for a month or so after Boston, I felt lifeless and uncommitted toward my training, and I stopped complaining.
Now, as the world's finest sportsmen and sportswomen embark on their individual odysseys in Moscow, my feelings are similar to a statement made recently by one of our most emminent athletes, hurdler Edwin Moses. He said something to the effect that if the sacrifice made by our athletes will help make the planet Earth more peaceful, he can reconcile himself to not going to the 1980 Olympic Games. I am also willing to hope for something positive to come out of this unfortunate political decision.
The Olympic torch, which will be lit shortly in Moscow, is not a symbol of such slogans as "swifter, faster, higher." It is a symbol of hope.
I won't let one political swipe knock me out; I plan to keep running. The 1984 Olympics are not so far away.
My feelings have always been very old-fashioned. The Olympics should not be governed by politics, or politicians. And I don't think they have been all that much, regardless of what the New York Times' Red Smith says. They are a unifying force. They should be preserved, not attacked.
Anything can be made into a political statement; a little guy in a raccoon suit with an American flag in his hand at Lake Placid, the swastikas in Berlin in 1936.
You can either try to eliminate the politics, or say we'll never be able to, so why even try?
I believe we should try to eliminate the politics -- some of the European countries are going to play the Olympic theme instead of their national anthems -- and try to remember who the Games were really for: the youth of the world.