Before Amby Burfoot won the Boston Marathon and became a brilliant journalist, he was, like me, an average high school runner who received no scholarship offers, and chose Wesleyan University (CT) for academic reasons. I was a sophomore in the fall of 1964, and during the first few cross country workouts, I remember being impressed by the attitude of this new freshman. When most teammates would complain about the workout or the weather, Amby would casually mention a positive thought about running and life. We often ran together and then became roommates.
Most runners in the ‘60s were focused on running faster. During numerous philosophical discussions on runs and as roommates, both of us realized that we shared a deep love for running that was not enhanced or diminished by how we performed in races. Other runners considered it odd to not be focused totally on competition but Amby and I appreciated what running did for us: Mind, body and spirit.
I was fortunate to become an extended member of Amby’s family, spending Thanksgiving at the home in Groton Long Point, and going to classic New England road races with the Burfoots. A major event in my life was running on the Narragansett trail with Amby’s high school coach, Johnny Kelly, who had won the Boston Marathon 6 years before.
Amby was a pioneer in pushing the mileage past 100 miles a week. Even I thought this was crazy but the results speak for themselves. As a senior, I watched Amby run past me in track races even while he focused on his true running forte, road races. During his senior year, 1968, Amby won the Boston Marathon—the only college athlete to do so.
We had wonderfully honest and hopeful chats about training, vegetarian diets, war and peace, and the future of running. Best were the fantasy sessions about how we were going to be famous someday, be written up in Sports Illustrated, and make a living from running. These ended with a laugh…because this was impossible to comprehend in the late 1960's.
Amby began his career with Runner’s World Magazine in 1978 and became the editor in chief for over two decades. He has written several quality books.
Through the years I have enjoyed all of the projects we have shared. I was pleasantly shocked to see Amby’s full page picture in Sports Illustrated (2010), with the title: “The 2500 year old man". I believed this to be a major exaggeration and still feel, at that time that he did not look a day over 2400 years. Above all, I appreciate our friendship and am so pleased to have one of my oldest friends joining us for Jeff Galloway Race Weekend.
Join us in Atlanta for the Jeff Galloway Race Weekend, December 11-13, 2015. The weekend includes Barb’s 3.1, Fit Kids Run/Walk and JG 13.1 as well as a comprehensive Fitness Expo and a 3 part panel with Jeff Galloway, Amby Burfoot and Bill Rodgers. Find out more at: JeffGalloway131.com.