Saturday, July 23, 2011

I have to share this

Lori, I hope you don't mind. I was touched, and I expect others will be also...

Mr. Niro,

I've just come across your blog and have been reduced to tears reading about my grandfather, Stan Tiernan.

You may know that Grandfather died in 1993 shortly after his 70th birthday--a sudden and freak heart attack. You might be glad to hear that he did enjoy running until the end, even on the day he died.

When he died, I was 24 and training for my first race-- a 5 miler in Hopedale, which we had planned to run together. I ran it without him, but came in last! Really.

I kept up the running, however, and have completed two half marathons and this Sunday in Providence, I'll run my first (and surely, only) marathon--just 3 days shy of my 40th birthday.

My family will be there (including my daughter, Tiernan) but I am acutely aware of Grandfather's absence right now. He would have gotten a kick out of this, and maybe even run it with me--kicking my butt, I'm sure!

Thank you so much for writing about him. Various family members have read this post and it's brought back wonderful memories.

I hope you are well, and still running!

Best regards,

Lori Batista McEwen

Click twice to enlarge the news photo and the related article --->

Here's the text of my original post (excerpt from my memoir):

"My goal in 1966 was to run the entire 26 miles and 385 miles without walking. Most of my family, friends and coaches tried to discourage me. They pointed out that I was too young to enter the race as an official runner and that I would have plenty of opportunities to run in future years. Four people, however, gave me all the encouragement I needed: Richard Ramaskwich, Tom Derederian, Bob Pagnini and, most importantly, Stanley C. Tiernan.

Everyone in the area knew Stan Tiernan. He was in his early forties and lived in Bellingham. For many years he lived in neighboring Hopedale. He ran thousands of miles on the streets of Milford, Hopedale, Mendon, Medway and Bellingham. He was a local legend and a fixture on the roads as he relentlessly pounded the pavement, always in training for his next Boston Marathon. He was a daily sight for the local residents as common as the dairy truck delivering milk bottles to each home. One sure way of determining if someone was an out-of-towner was to ask if they knew who Stanley Tiernan was.

Stan Tiernan set a Hopedale High School cross county record in 1942. We still used the same course through the woods twenty years later. Nobody challenged the record over all those years. It was a benchmark that high school runners in the area measured their performances against. “I ran the Hopedale course and only finished 49 seconds behind Tiernan’s record,” I can recall saying.

His running style was distinctive. He held his hands in front of his chest like a puppy dog extending each paw to shake hands. His legs churned away while his upper torso remained perfectly still. He didn’t sway from side to side like I usually did. His style was a model of running efficiency. It was a style that I wanted to emulate.

Stan Tiernan first entered the Boston Marathon in 1950. After that, he ran every year except one. Four times he placed high enough to earn one of the coveted B.A.A. medals awarded to the top 35 finishers. He first broke three hours in 1958 when he finished 31st in 2 hours, 50 minutes and 52 seconds. His best result was 2:43:15 in 1960 when he finished 18th, ahead of both Johnny Kelleys. His best time was 2:42:39 (24th) in 1963. Until Tom Derderian and I started logging 50 miles per week on the Milford roads, only Stan Tiernan had done so. Among the locals, only Stan Tiernan had broken three hours in the Boston Marathon. I wanted to do it too. I wanted to be like Stan Tiernan.

In 1966, he held the North Medford Club record for distance covered in one hour on the track: 11 miles, 189 yards. It was a record he set nearly 10 years earlier. As a junior in high school I ran an hour on the track as fast as I could. I barely made 9 miles, two miles less than Stan’s record.

Tom and I entered an unusual competition during the summer of 1966. We ran in a two-man 10-mile relay on the track at Bowditch Field in Framingham. The relay was intervals of 440 yards. We each ran a quarter mile and passed the baton; twenty laps each with an average of eighty seconds rest while the other ran his lap. We finished in 4th place in 53 minutes and 28 seconds and were proud of the accomplishment…until we realized that if we ran another six minutes and 32 seconds we would probably not be further than 11 miles and 189 yards. With two of us splitting the distance, resting half the time, and racing each lap as fast as we could, we still couldn’t beat Stan Tiernan’s club record for an hour run. Man he was fast in his prime, we thought. His record was broken by Jim Daley, Jr., on 10/22/67.

One day in the fall of 1965, I went running where I expected Stan Tiernan to be. When he came past me I asked if he would help prepare for the Boston Marathon. “Sure, if you are serious about it,” he said. “You need to run as much as you can; you need to train every day. Your pace isn’t as important as the miles you log. If you can’t find the time to run eight to ten miles every day, then don’t bother trying the marathon. Make sure you eat well and get plenty of rest. That’s all there is to it. And keep up your schoolwork. Don’t let running interfere with more important things or your mind won’t let your body do its best. I’ll see you at the starting line.”

I followed his advice completely. I treated it like it was the Gospel handed down by the Lord Himself. To me, it was the 11th Commandment: ‘Thou Shalt not Skip a day of Training’."