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Unknown Fultz was hot stuff

When others wilted in '76, he kept his cool

Jack Fultz, who made his name without a number on that steamy afternoon 30 years ago, calls it ''that fateful day that changed my life forever." It was the hottest Boston Marathon in history, a 100-degree broiler that became known as ''The Run For The Hoses." More than 40 percent of the nearly 2,000 starters walked off the course. Fultz, a 27-year-old Georgetown senior, outlasted everybody, outrunning his identity along the way.

Fultz had been cruising comfortably, passing the dehydrated wobblers who'd misgauged the mercury. By Wellesley, midway through, he was in the top 10. ''I was feeling so good, so within myself," he recalls. By the time the fading leaders hit the Newton hills, Fultz found himself second. When he passed Richard Mabuza of Swaziland with 8 miles to go, there was nothing but open road ahead of him.

By then, Fultz's number (14, for the record) had washed off and the writers and photographers in the truck were clueless about the mystery man in the white Georgetown jersey. ''Who are you?" they kept shouting to him. ''This is going to be fun," Fultz told himself.

It was, he would say, the first time in his life when he knew something that the rest of the world wanted to, but didn't. ''It was a surprisingly empowering feeling," says Fultz, who's a sports psychology instructor at Tufts and a coach for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

Fultz came home alone, beating Mexico's Mario Cuevas by 54 seconds in a prudent, if reasonably leisurely, 2:20:19. Two years later, Fultz ran nine minutes faster and finished fourth. The real fun came the next April, when he returned as defending champion to find his starting number had been misplaced. Fultz again was the mystery man.

''I ran the whole race unidentified," he remembers. ''The officials wanted to kick me off the course. 'Get him out of here,' they were saying. 'He's a fraud.' I ended up finishing ninth. 'What's your number?', they asked me. 'No. 1,' I told them. 'Get him out of here,' they said."

Tomorrow, Fultz returns as the race's grand marshal, entitled to ride the course in an open car. No introduction necessary. ''I've been practicing my waving," he says.

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