We once lived underneath a guy who worked out on a mini-trampoline at midnight almost every night. At least I assume that’s what the noise was. Apparently he had two, because various females would make groaning noises constantly, from the strain of the workout, I suppose. Then eventually the blessed sound of the shower starting up, and we could go to sleep. This is why I took up running rather than mini-trampolining. Too many memories. And too much noise. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to discuss Hunter S. Thompson.
Thompson, of course, was the father of Gonzo Journalism. Gonzo, of course, being the weird muppet. Weird muppet, of course, being a relative term since muppets are all a little on the weird side. But not many people know he (Thompson, not Gonzo) also was a promising national-class runner back in the day. What might have been a more memorable running career ended heartbreakingly when he narrowly missed a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic marathon team — finishing a few ticks of the clock (yes, clocks ticked back then) behind Tony Sandoval, the beloved Benji Durden and forner olympic miler Quenton Cassidy. President Carter’s subsequent boycott of that year’s Olympics because of a feud with Russia led Thompson into a career of subversive rant-filled political journalism instead.
He never ran much after that — I guess his spirit was crushed. He lived out his later years in his compound in Colorado, occasionally running for fun in the surrounding woods, but he never competed again. Sad.
I haven’t thought about the good doctor in a long time, but I was sifting through running quotes recently and came across his sage advice for running the marathon in an interview before the 1980 trials: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” We tend to forget that Thompson brought the term LSD into running, the theory being that if you were setting out for 20 miles (the exact distance of the marathon), you might as well do mind-altering drugs and spend the time hallucinating. Which, of course, led to the term “runner’s high.” Drug testing was a lot more lax in those days. “Some may never live,” he said, “but the crazy never die.” And then Johnny Depp shot him out of a cannon. An odd guy. But a terrific runner. We can learn from him.
I couldn’t find any hallucinogens in the running bag before today’s outing (do expired tums count?), so I ingested a handful of cinnamon Life cereal, two gummy bears and a diet coke and hoped for the best. Which wasn’t much. I got in 3 miles at 12:00 pace before croaking and trotting through a fourth. Still way too hot. But it felt OK in a death sort of way. At least now I have a plan. Drugs, alcohol, violence and insanity. This is much better training advice than I’m getting from Uncle Hal. We’ll see.
1980 trials photo. Sandoval is 3, The Beloved Benji Durden is 13, Cassidy is up front in the blue singlet and Thompson is 19, on Sandoval’s shoulder. One of the rare races in which he was serious enough not to run with the cigarette holder. (remember when runner’s world covers used to feature runners?)