Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
Boston Marathon Course section

Fultz recalls 'Run for Hoses'

Abera hopes to end Kenyan 'stronghold'

By Barbara Huebner, Globe Staff, 4/14/01

When Georgetown undergrad Jack Fultz was getting ready for the 1976 Boston Marathon, he was hoping for ideal conditions, because anything under 2 hours 20 minutes would earn him a free trip to the Olympic Trials. What he got was temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees, making it the hottest day in the history of the race.

"What heat?" said Fultz yesterday, recalling his victory in the infamous "Run for the Hoses."

"I didn't feel it."

The 52-year-old Fultz, who lives in Lincoln, will be honored this morning at the annual Champions' Breakfast on the 25th anniversary of his win. An arthritic hip has ended his distance running, but Fultz will be involved in Monday's race as coach of about 400 athletes on the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge Team.

If Fultz didn't feel the heat in '76, a lot of other athletes did. More than 40 percent of the 1,942 starters dropped out. Starting conservatively and keeping himself wet by visiting fire hydrants and hoses -- and at one point almost pulling his arm out of its socket trying to lift a whole bucket of water over his head -- the unheralded Fultz found himself in the lead coming out of Wellesley after passing Richard Mabuza of Swaziland.

Then began the guessing game: Because the constant dousing had washed away his bib number, reporters on the press truck didn't have a clue who he was. The new leader enjoyed the distraction, and wasn't about to give them too much help.

"I'm doing my job," he remembers thinking. "You guys are going to have to do yours."

While qualifying him to run in the Olympic Trials, Fultz's winning time of 2:20:19 was 19 seconds shy of the standard required to get his expenses paid. When the USOC wouldn't make an exception based on the extraordinary conditions, Georgetown alumni donated enough to fund his trip to Eugene, Ore.

But the Trials were only five weeks after Boston and Fultz was fried. He finished far back.

The next year, he came back to Boston and ran 2:20:44 to finish eighth; in 1978, he blasted a 2:11:17 to silence the detractors who said he couldn't run a fast marathon. He found almost as much satisfaction in that as he did in winning.

"I made eye contact with a lot of people that night," he said.

He had to make some eye contact with himself, as well, over the years. As he entered Boston during the '76 race, he wondered: "How will this change my life?"

The major change, he says now, was in how he was perceived by others. "People tend to respond to other peoples' titles rather than the individual," he said. "If anything, it forces you to get in touch with who you really are."

Roba: A fast race

At 96 pounds, Fatuma Roba is about 5 pounds lighter than last year. "I think I'll be doing a fast race," predicted Roba, sporting a headful of stylish braids. Last year, the Ethiopian finished third after three consecutive victories.

You don't have to wait until Monday to see some action on Boylston Street. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, 600 youths from 19 clubs throughout eastern Massachusetts will partake in the BAA Relay Challenge, squaring off in races just beyond the Marathon finish line. A highlight will be the adidas All-Star Relay, in which two members of each club race on teams with elite athletes, including Olympians Todd Williams, Melissa Morrison , and Lawrence Johnson.

Since 1994, when the Boston Marathon Charity Program began, $21 million has been raised. This year, 1,000 runners are expected to add $5 million to the coffers of 15 charities.

Monday's weather was a big topic at yesterday's athlete press conference. Rain is OK, said defending champion Elijah Lagat, "so long as it's warm." The current forecast calls for scattered showers and a high of 56 degrees.

Late addition Scott Larson thought he was all set to run the flat-and-fast Rotterdam Marathon next week until things fell through at the last minute. "I was scrambling to try to get into a race," said Larson, 31, who lives in Boulder and finished fourth in last year's Olympic Trials. "[Boston] was nice enough to let me in."

In case of protest over a close finish, a photo will be available this year as a backup to the human judges. Last year, when all three judges ruled that Roba was nipped for second place by hard-charging Irina Bogacheva of Kyrgyzstan, she seemed unsure of the location of the finish line. This year, the finish line will be boldly painted at the front edge of the computer-chip mat to eliminate any confusion.

This story ran on page 07 of the Boston Globe on 4/14/2001. Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

Race Day Coverage
Stuck at work? Check out out stride-by-stride webcast for up-to-the-minute Boston Marathon updates.