The increasingly parochial observations of a casual runner in his fifties. Was "serious" about "the sport" until personal and sociocultural inevitabilities prevailed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

If these are your generals, don't expect a revolution

In 2011, one of my friends did a podcast on the topic of eating disorders with a professional runner. The audio portion of the podcast itself been lost, but some of the professional runner's impressions of the discussion, and of eating disorders among runners as a whole, remain online.

Lize was on the show mainly because she'd written a memoir about her own experiences as a top runner whose entire career was affected by bulimia and anorexia. In it, she describes the role of her coaches and other mentors -- fewer in those days, and apart from her peers and idols behind the starting line, all men -- in her successes and her disease in as nonjudgmental a way as anyone could, given the scope of the events she describes.

The pro runner proved to be something of a foil to the notion that eating disorders are really as much of a problem as is popularly believed. After the podcast was posted,  she characterized EDs as "a subject that is shaped everyday by millions of women doing the best they can to stay fit in a food-overloaded country." While allowing that she was aware of holding a perhaps unpopular opinion about such matters, she suggested that the "female athlete triad" (low bone mineral density, amenorrhea and negative energy balance) is, if not a nothingburger, flung around carelessly, and expressed annoyance at her own various doctors' asking about her eating habits when she was visiting for an unrelated complaint. She opined that "Someone just needs to write a tiny little book titled 'How to adjust your weight as a female distance runner without getting an eating disorder.'” She described her frustration in dealing with eating-disordered teammates, mainly because they refused to get the message abut what was healthy and what wasn't, and she found their fundamental incorrectness exhausting. She said that only by withdrawing emotionally from people with EDs could she foster any real empathy for their struggles.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Video (yes) of the 1972 New England High-School Cross-Country Championships

Every once in a while, something I post on the Internet for no better reason then to justify an emotionally satisfying exploration of history happens to add a few verses to the online distance-running canon. This in turn sometimes results in a mutually pleasing interaction between previously unacquainted running junkies who hail from different generations and places but have enjoyed overlapping experiences.

This has happened on a number of occasions as a result of this write-up stemming from my experiences coaching high-school track and cross-country in my hometown at the dawn of the century. Although I took charge of the BBHS teams sixteen years after John Savoie died, a number of members of the faculty remembered him, in some cases both as a student in the early seventies and as a young adult thereafter. Partly for this reason and also because I'd heard about J.P.'s nonpareil exploits over the years, I decided to give out a J.P. Savoie Award in addition to some other gimcrack in my second season there, when the boys went to the N.H. Meet of Champions for the first time. To quote myself:

As a junior he finished third in the 1971 New England Championship, having led his mates to the New Hampshire Class I state championship the week before. After again leading the Green Giants to the state crown in 1972, he returned to the New Englands and, coming from 50 yards behind in the final half-mile, crossed the line a winner by a full ten seconds, setting a record of 12:11 for the 2.5-mile course. In the spring, he set a Class I State record by grinding out a 4:19 mile. All told, Savoie at one time held over 30 cross-country records throughout New Hampshire. J.P. Savoie, who spent fewer than three decades running and roving among us, was a winner of the first magnitude. Sports were only a part of that.

Screen capture of J.P. Savoie about 30 meters from the finish line in Portland, Maine. 


































In an unlikely bit of kismet, a gentleman who ran in the New Englands race that Savoie won got his hands on a video of it, or of a decent chunk of it. He tells the story well, so I will pass along his words in their native form.

Good evening,

I just stumbled on the piece you wrote about John Savoie. Heartbreaking really. 

It’s a bit of a story how I know his name and why I searched and found your essay today. 

I was in the New England Championship race in ‘72 that he won. I was not vaguely a contender to win but I was there, Riverside Golf Course in Portland Maine, Nov 11, 1972. My team Mt Desert Island from Maine won the Class B state title on the same course the week prior and ultimately we were 8th in that NE meet. 

It was the first of I think 16 state championships won by my coach, Howard Richard. We lost him in 1994 in his late 50s, too young, of a massive heart attack. 

Through the wonders of social media I’ve stayed in touch with my teammates, the larger Mt Desert island HS running community and perhaps most importantly (in this story) to my coaches widow.  

About 4 yrs ago she told me that she had unearthed a box of my coaches old home movies. I remembered him carrying his super 8 camera to most of our big races and at the end of the season at a pizza party we’d see his movies. I remembered such a thing at the end of the ‘72 season.  It made me wonder whether the ‘72 film somehow had magically survived. I didn’t quite dare believe it was even possible. 

It took me 4 yrs to get his widow to send the box of movies to me in New York City, where I live retired from my career at the Museum of Modern Art. None of the films I received were labeled. I still could only hope there might be familiar treasures among the reels but had no way to even see.

My son in law works in network TV in NYC and helped me arrange for the films to be sent to LA for careful cleaning, restoration  and to be digitized.  It took 6 weeks to get the work done...and yes, dreams do come true.  I literally put them up on YouTube yesterday. 

Of course the one you will be interested in features the New England Championship race that John Savoie won. The first segment on the film is that New England Championship race. The 2nd race from the reel is the Maine State Championship from the week prior. 

Naturally posting the races on social media has created a flood of warm nostalgia amongst my old teammates and friendly rivals from back in the day. I found myself thinking about that race again and became curious about the winner of the race. I found a website in Maine that listed the top 10 finishers for many of the races including 1972. It wasn’t hard from there to find information about Mr. Savoie and ultimately your essay. 

I will attach a link to the video here. 



I hope this completes the circle for you in the same way your essay did for me. 

Sincere thanks for what you wrote. 

Larry Allen 

I got this on May 31, so I haven't exactly done a quick turn-around with this. But with the passing of Coach Bill Luti, the era in which he operated -- a time for all intents and purposes preceded my own blundering upon the runningscape -- has suddenly become more interesting and urgent. Savoie ran for a crosstown rival of Luti's Concord boys, one that was actually better than the Crimson Tide in '71 and '72. Savoie's coach, Harvey Smith, was in some ways a protege' of Coach Luti, but Harvey, who went on to coach some historically dominant tennis teams at CHS after winning seven straight Division 2 cross-country titles at Brady, is now legendary in his own right. I hope I can direct him to the video, because I'm sure he knows nothing about it and it would be truly moved by it. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The state of the running media, and an eponym


Since I'm distracted by being absorbed in long-ago years' worth of memories about Bill Luti and the roles he directly and indirectly played in my running and greater life, and because most of those memories illustrate why I'm a running lifer despite my relentless bitching, I'm hesitant to jump back into the mode of critic. But Mario Fraioli's curiosity about people's general take on the state of the running media is too enticing to ignore, and would be even if not for the flood of recent events illustrating the deeper reason I think Mario, who now qualifies as a long-timer in the industry, was even asking the question of his guest, Jeanne Mack, in the first place. The portion of interest starts at 51:40.

I will strike a bastard compromise here and lodge a few complaints without bothering to defend them at any length, because both the people who agree with them and the people who disagree have access to the same information I do, and I am certain that anyone with the motivation to even form a meaningful opinion is aware of this information.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bill Luti, 1921-2019

Even if I were to spend the rest of the day writing stream-of-consciousness ideas about the direct and indirect influence William V. "Bill" Luti had on my running, I wouldn't finish by the end of the day, so I will save most of that for a later time. But for now, based on what I know about this blog's readership, you'll either recognize Bill Luti as the most significant name in Concord's distance-running history or not recognize the name at all. (Actually, a few of you have probably run the Bill Luti 5-Miler without learning much or anything about him, especially if you're not from the Capital Area.)

September 1985. Coach Luti is not in the photo, but the fashion...
The basics are captured here. The founder of Granite State Race Services, Bob Teschek, was one of Coach Luti's runners himself at Concord High School and a contemporary of my mom, who also went to CHS and had Coach Luti for gym class. (If it's not yet clear, Coach Luti was one of those men you called Coach Luti or Mr. Luti no matter who you were or what sort of authority you might have believed you possessed.)

A deeper dive, which I didn't even know existed until yesterday when I got the news about Coach Luti's passing, is here. I seem to remember the author, Bob Estabrook, being present for all four versions of the CHS Alumni Race I ran as a student, and he probably ran two I returned for as a nominal adult. He's also my mom's age. Bill Luti (I can get away with that now) turned a lot of people into lifetime runners and running influencers.

Coach Luti was coaching the CHS girls in 1986, my junior year, and although I was never on one of his own teams, I paid very close attention to the many things he told me, even if I sometimes didn't like them. If nothing else, he was able to remind me I didn't know much about much at my age no matter how much I was reading about running and should probably just shut up and do 10 x 440 at White Park in 67-68 least once a week instead.

Of course this is sad news, and even this brief excursion into my own memories has been an emotional one. But it's hard to feel distressed, for the lack of a better word, about the passing of someone got 98 years and compiled both the resume' and the respect that Bill Luti did.