There are two great American sporting events that take place on Mondays in April. First is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game (go Butler!). The second is the annual Patriot’s Day run in Beantown — the Boston Marathon (which will be contested on April 19).
Now, if people were to learn that the 1973 winner was a former Heps athlete, many would say, “I didn’t know that Frank Shorter won the Boston Marathon.”
Well, he didn’t. He was the Olympic gold medalist in the marathon at the Munich Olympics, but he didn’t compete in Boston until the late 1970s.
The answer is… former Cornell All-American Jon Anderson.
The 1970 Heps Cross Country champion didn’t plan to run until three weeks before the famed race and once he got going, he pulled away from defending champion Olavi Suomalainen around the 20-mile mark. Just the third American winner since World War II, Anderson, sporting a little-known swoosh on his shoes, beat New Jersey’s Tom Fleming by more than a half-minute.
Amazingly, the Oregon native didn’t start running until his senior year of high school. After earning an economics degree from Cornell in 1971, Anderson shocked the track world by qualifying for the 1972 Olympics at the U.S. Trials in his hometown of Eugene, Ore., where his father was the mayor.
Anderson still lives in Eugene, where he has long been president and publisher of Random Lengths Publications, a supplier of forest products news. He also serves on the University of Oregon Foundation Board of Trustees.
UPDATE: Jon Anderson has sent us his memories of the day…
This was my fourth marathon. I had a previous best of 2:23+, and, even though I had been on the Olympic team the prior year (in the 10K), I was hardly noticed in the press.
This was a very warm day and I followed my friend and Olympic teammate Jeff Galloway for about 10-13 miles as he was a master at pace and hanging back. A photographer has a photo of me passing Suomalainen. He claimed it was remarkably close to the 20-mile mark in the hills. Once one crests Heartbreak, it’s all downhill or flat. I remember my thighs ‘screaming’ on the downhill, but I also remember telling myself to run as hard as I possibly could and to not look back. It worked out.
This was Patriots Day, of course, and the Red Sox played. The crowd in the city was huge … I was told that the baseball game had gotten over just prior to my entering the city proper. Given the heat that day, a number of the top American runners gathered in an apartment that Amby Burfoot and I think a couple others had that was very close to the starting line. There was no need to warm up really, so I recall sitting in a room with 10 or more other guys going through that painful experience of waiting for the gun to go off.
I drank beer and partied the night after the race with the Finns at the Lenox.
It was a different era. The next morning I woke up and walked myself to the subway station to catch the train to Logan and my flight home. The winner in those days received a trophy, a medal, and an invitation to the annual Fukuoka Marathon in Japan the following December. Of course, with ‘Boston Marathon winner’ in my resume’ I got additional invitations as time passed.
A great memory for sure.