Just before his crushing of Napolean at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington is said to have remarked that the final test of a succesful army depended entirely upon the condition of the army's feet and legs. Napolean himself may have originated the saying, but this Duke concurred.
Sec of the Navy Joesephus Daniels, standing upon an improvised platform in the gymnasium of the B.A.A. yesterday, referred to the ancient adage, as he glanced about him and beheld the physically-perfect men of the Army and the Navy who had just competed in the first service Marathon race held in America. He must have felt that America's forces may be depended upon, even though the age of couriers has passed.
Those sun and wind-bronzed young soldiers and sailors, those deep-chested patriot-athletes had each run two and a half miles at their topmost speed over some part of the historic Marathon course from Ashland to Boston, and they did not even breath deeply.
The khaki-clad soldiers from Camp Devens, led by the really wonderfully fit Divisional team and the 10 young men from the 302d Infantry of the same cantonment, had outstripped all the others. The rigid training to which they have been subjected backed them to win.
Even the crack Navy Yard aggregation had to bow to the superior strength, the unlimited endurance and indomitable courage of our erstwhile citizen soldiery--the draftees. The Navy team, favorites before the race, managed to finish third.
It was the annual Patriot's Day race of the B.A.A., and it was a departure from the 21 Marathon races in previous years. This year the club, true to its purpose of doing something athletically for our lads in service, abondoned the idea of the time-honored Marathon race. The young men of our Army and Navy would find it difficult to secure the time from their daily routine to properly condition themselves for a full race of 25 miles.
It is doubtful, too, if there could have been secured enough full-fledged Marathon runners to make a respectable field, and above all else there was the omnipresent horror that a "slacker" might emerge the victor of the historic classic.
That the famous athletic date--Patriot's Day--and the famous course might be spared to posterity, the B.A.A. decided to hold a relay race for teams of 10 men each, with each man running 2-1/2 miles. The result was that at 8 o'clock yesterday morning 140 young fighters, representing both arms of the service, gathered at the clubhouse and they were transported in motor cars to the 10 relay stations.
Every mother's sons wore the uniform of his service. The boys of the four teams from Camp Devens wore their khaki suits and leggings, the lads from the Navy Yard were immaculate in the spick and span white suits of the Navy, while the students at the Naval Cadet School in Cambridge and the seamen from Bumkin Island wore the blue blouses and trousers, with leggings, that they ordinarily wear. All wore the shoes which the Goverment furnishes, but as they prepared to "do their bit" they had their coats and hats and caps.
How different from other years when the specially trained runners appeared in scanty running suits and light running shoes. Yesterday the 140 fighters for democracy were clothed as they will be clothed today. There was no difference in apparel, no unusual equipment for the race.
Private Charley Lewis of New Bedford took up the running for the Divisional team against Hughey Murphy of the Navy Yard, and Lewis practically won the race for his team. His great running, steady and even, carried him away from the slow going but careful Murphy, and soon the soldier with long black stockings drawn over his service trousers was away out in front.
Capt Richard Nelligan, athletic coach at Camp Devens and military officers were beside themselves with joy when the Army runner went into the lead, and when Simpson of the Field Signal Battalion ran into second place, their enthusiasm was unbounded. Lewis, the Naval cadet, also passed Murphy, and then came Benson of the 302d and Vikiob of the 304th. Radio School, Fort Greble, Commonwealth Pier, Fort Warren, Camp Plunkett, Bumkin Island, Fort Constitution and First Naval District were trailing.
The next three relays clinched the race for the Camp Devens soldiers, their camp training standing them in good stead as they negotiated the hills, while the sailormen found hill-climbing difficult.
There ensued the thrilling rush to the finish with Paulson and Sergt Sullivan running for Divisional. Seward of the 301st Signal was passed by Carroll of the 302d, and Weeks overhauled Cohen of the 304th and Naval Cadet Reynolds. The rest of the race has been told.