We are pansies

My running club is turning 35 years old this year and one thing we have in the works is compiling a history from over the years. I’m spearheading this project and right now I’m in the process of collecting information from some of the club’s “old timers” who have been around since its early days.

Friday night I sat down with a couple of these folks and as they reminisced about the “days of old,” it confirmed what I suspected–the runners from back in the ’70s and ’80s were seriously hard core and fast in a different league than most of the runners I know today. Frankly, they make us look like a bunch of wimps!

I made this comment to one of the men there and he laughed and said, “Yes, but we didn’t know what we were doing!” They’d run a hard marathon one day and come back to run one of our club races, hard again, the very next day. Fueling or water for training? What’s that? They did it with nothing in their systems and took nothing in during their runs.

And their times? There was no fooling around with these guys. It was balls to the walls, 100 percent of the time. They kicked butt each and every time. Now, are all these guys still out there and able to keep it up? Definitely not–I think their approaches were pretty rough on their bodies. But I’m still in awe.

I sifted through some of the materials they shared with me. I stumbled upon an old Boston Marathon program from the early ’80s that revealed the qualifying standards of the time. Are you ready for this? All men had to run a 2:50 or better; women, a 3:10. Hmmmm….maybe the latest revision to the standards isn’t so bad after all? 

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  1. Terzah says

    Yeah, they were serious, weren't they? My childhood best friend's dad was one of those guys. He once ran on a treadmill, then let some physiologists cut open his leg to take a sample of his thigh muscle for tests on fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch fibers, then got back on and ran some more. He's now in his 70s and stiff as a board–I don't think he can even touch his knees. He's a cool dude, but frankly makes me happy to be a pansy. :^)

  2. Marlene says

    Oh wow, I knew it used to be tougher to get into Boston, but that is unreal!

    Very cool to learn about training methods from years gone by. My how things change!

  3. cheryl says

    Running certainly HAS changed over time…and I am not so certain for the "better"-
    better shoes, training programs, nutrition, races.
    But like you said – "we" aren't getting any faster!

    And 35 years? My running club here has been going for over 40, which is how long I have been running. (if I can still call it that)

    None of my running buddies (myself included) would have even THOUGHT about entering a race/marathon if they couldn't go sub 3 (men) and sub 4 (women). I was glad I was running then-
    and have stuck around long enough to continue now.

  4. cheryl says

    oh and take off for a Grand Canyon Double…with just some water and lemon drops…NO PROBLEM!
    (Sometimes ignorance WAS truly bliss!)

  5. Julie says

    Ya – I think we've gotten wimpy. My 65 y/o dad watches me train for the 1/2 IM like I'm crazy. He'll do 1/3 of the workouts I do, end them all with a 6-pack of beer and he's still going to whoop my butt at Pac Crest again this year ~
    tough old geezers 😀

  6. Denise says

    ha! that should stop everyone from being upset about the new standards!

    i always wonder about this. about how big of a deal we place on running attire, shoes, etc. they didn't do this back then and they were unstoppable!

  7. Jennifer says

    Funny! And an interesting insight. Of course we have to factor in that participation in running events has grown substantially over the last decade so naturally standards get lowered, but I think that same number of hard core folks is still out there!

  8. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    Holy speed?! Why did the Boston Mary ever change to slower qualifying times? I hope I can reminisce AND still run +30 years from now!!

  9. cheryl says

    SOME running events have more participants…(The ones with music and entertainment along the way and a cut-off time of 8 hours or something).

    Locally our 10ks have dropped WAY off while 5ks thrive and we no longer have a 15K in the spring 'cause people didn't want to run it! Go figure!
    I have the old club papers with every participant/finisher listed for races in the late 70s-early 80s. There were hundreds at these races.

  10. Amanda@runninghood says

    Oh my! I had no idea that the qualifying times have changed so much!! Interesting. Yes, why did it change to slower times??? I would love to run a 3:10 someday…hopefully sooner than later. :)

  11. Jim ... 50after40 says

    Great post, I've seen those times before. Sometimes I think I'm really doing something sneaking into Boston, and then I see the old standard … huh, no way!

  12. Julie D. says

    wow. that is amazing on the BQ times! We definitely have NOTHING to complain about. Although, I was somewhat disappointed with the new BQ standards, I'm definitely ready to buck up and get 'r done. :) Hopefully, sooner than later!

  13. Terry Lonergan says

    In 1983 in a local 10 mile road race in Yorkshire England 322 ran inside 60 minutes. My time of 51.41 was good enough for only 21st place. It was won in 48:46.
    My London time in the same year (2:25.33) earnt me 200th place. 2010…..38th place. It's a paradox that so many, many more people are participating but generally standards are well down except at the very top where the athletes are sponsored are virtually professionals.
    In the '80s most sub 2:10 marathon runners would be holding down full time jobs.

  14. KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) says

    I love talking to older runners. A 3:10 for woman at Boston back then? OMG! That would never happen for me. I can say that with 100% certainty.

  15. Gracie (Complicated Day) says

    oh, yeah, it was different. The stories my dad tells (he ran cross country in the late 70's) are very hard-core (the mileage alone was insane; no one knew what a rest day was!). But there were fewer runners then, too. I'll take a slower crowd but more people outside getting active.

  16. Caratunk Girl says

    I totally agree, we are pansies!! Those BQ times are crazy!! HA!! BUT I do think that given what happened this fall with sign-up, they had to do something. I have a friend who is still old school, when she was able to run (note, able) she was runnign every day no rest at all. Hard core, huge mileage. Her PR was like 3:12 I think at Boston. But now she can hardly run 5 miles, her legs are just beat.

  17. Molly says

    My Dad is 65, with marathons and triathlons under his belt. I gave him a GU at Thanksgiving, and he said "Oh. I've heard of this."

  18. 2 Slow 4 Boston says

    The old guys in my running club are the same way. I know one ran a 2:35 PR, but he can't run much now. Sure is fun to hear their stories.

  19. Fran says

    That must have been so cool to talk to these guys and learn about how they did it in the "old days".

    I remember a 10K I ran 1.5 years ago. While I was sitting on the train on my way there, I got into a conversation with a married couple who were going to run that 10K too. They were both over 60 and still running. I remember that I thought at that moment that it would be so great if I still would be running at that age.

  20. Fran says

    Oh and about being a wimp: one of my managers is a runner too. Last Sunday the weather was very bad where he lives: lots of rain and lots of hard wind. He runs in the dunes so very hilly too.

    He told me normally on a Sunday morning there are 40% woman and 60% men out there running. However this Sunday there were about 90% woman who were running in this weather and only 10% of them were men. Now who are the wimps here :)

  21. Katie says

    I agree with the guy who said "we didn't know what we were doing." I ran cross-country in high school and college, which means not so much when it comes to running marathons. The first time I went for a 20 mile training run it was 80 degrees and I didn't bring any water or energy gels (b/c that stuff is for wimps). I was averaging sub 8:00 minute pace. Around mile 18, I had to stop. I started to have heart palpitations. I was just stupid, not tough.

  22. Adrienne says

    Hmmm…I am beginning to believe more and more that the zietgiest is making a simple sport perhaps too complicated.

    I enjoy hearing my coach's stories of drinking gatorade from a glass bottle and getting by wearing just cotton in Texas summers!

  23. Pat says

    Guilty as charged of running too many miles "back in the day", but the vast majority of those miles were 2 min. per mi. slower than my marathon pace. And, I never raced anywhere near that much, but I knew lots of folks who did. We still know a few runners who do crazy mileage and/or race multiple time a weekend, don't we? There are lots of changes, for sure. I, for one, am quite thankful for techinal apparel and that those short shorts have gone the way of the dinosaur. My shoes, however, have seem to come full circle. The "minimalist" shoes I now wear are very close to the first pair of Nike Lady Road Runners I had in 1977. All-in-all, I feel quite blessed to still be out there running and racing, albeit at a much slower pace.

  24. Kenley says

    It is very neat to compare the way runners were even 10 years ago verses today. Do you think too much technology is hindering us or aiding us. I know that it aids, but what I mean, is do we get too bogged down with this or that instead of just hammering it and giving it all. I don't think we are in essence pansies, but if you compare, maybe you are right. Thanks for sharing. Lots to think on and to know that this is a world wide thing too.

  25. Petraruns says

    Do you know – I keep hearing that from people – the Marathon Talk podcast keeps interviewing older runners and they all grouse about how everyone now has it so much easier, how they all did this on top of full-time jobs, had cotton shirts. I totally respect what they did, their immense achievement and their dedication. I would not want to take anything away from their achievement.

    But they were a small group. Races were small, runners were few. There's lots of us now – so there's going to be slower ones in there – and the world is a materialistic one – people consume in every aspect of their life, much more than the old-timers did – and they will do so in running as well. I understand and to some extent sympathise about all the "stuff" that runners wear and feel they need – I'm sure a lot of it is unnecessary as is so much in our lives. But at the same time, the fact that there are so many runners out there – and plenty of fast ones too, enough to sell Boston out in 8 hours – is surely a good thing?

  26. AM-GoalsfortheWeek! says

    Interesting about Boston times…

    also, had to share…so far I've been going barefoot and sans my orthotics, and after the first ~few hrs, they seem fine.

    HUh? go figure!

  27. Amanda - RunToTheFinish says

    first can i jsut say I saw your add in Women's Running and was like OMG I KNOW HER..ok sort of know her :)

    love this story! i have wondered before about this because running simply wasn't something that everyone did back then

  28. Amanda@runninghood says

    Hey Amanda. I'm back to pick your brain about shoes. And stride. I know you might not know the answers but you seems to know an awful lot and you don't feed me a lot of BS so I'm back. :) So, everything has just been weird lately with my running. My feet actually feel like they are turning out like a duck. I'm in the process of trying to find a shoe that just feels right to me. wondering…Do the Nike Frees take time to work into? Are they like the Saucony Kinvaras where I need to gradually work into them? I feel like I'm at such a starting point here with shoes when you'd think I'd know what works by now. Ha! I'm thinking that tearing my hamstring changed my stride…this is possible right? Okay, sorry for the looooong comment….in a rush this morning,..kids woke up earlier than expected and I can't find your e-mail. :)