In 1976 energy boosters like GU didn't exists. Top flight marathoners often drank defizzed coke to give them sugar and caffeine to carry them through the race. And water tables were every six miles. No one thought to carry water bottles with them.
So I lined up for the 1976 Kansas Relays with 150 other souls in even worse shape than the previous year's attempt. There was no Kirk Duncan to hang onto and I was left to my own devices. Worse still, the weather was terrible. It was a wet, windy day which featured a howling wind directly out of the north.
I could feel the windy helping me along as I headed south toward Vinland. I was running almost the exact same pace as I did the year before but the effort wasn't as easy. My mind began to drift back to the stadium. The marathon had started at 7:30 a.m. I knew that 11 a.m. Olympic marathon champion would be taking the track in the 5,000 meters against Colorado's Ted Castenada. I knew it would be an entertaining race and I knew that I wouldn't be hitting the stadium in three hours.
I then started thinking about what the run back into Lawrence would be like. It would be doubly brutal back through the hills that figured prominently from mile 13 to mile 20. And that would back to the stadium would be into a steady 15 to 20 mile per hour gale.
I had hedged my bets the morning of the race asking my mother to go to the halfway point in Vinland. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I was elated to see her sitting there in her red Ford at the turnaround and I walked over to the car. She was in shock. I had run the half in 1:31 and she remarked at how good and easy I looked. I told her there was no way I would survive the nasty winds back into town.
I never regretted the ride home, the shower and the trip to the stadium to watch Shorter bury Castenada. I have quit only a couple of races on purpose in my life and this is the only time I was actually happy about doing it. It remains the only marathon that I did not finish.