Alberto Salazar was my idol. Still considered one of the greatest American marathoners of all time, Salazar was on top of his game when I was a kid and first got into running in the early eighties. He was young and brash and was a threat to win every time he toed the line.
A standout track and cross country star at the University of Oregon, Alberto Salazar burst onto the marathon scene at the New York City Marathon in 1980 with a 2:09:41, which was then the fastest debut ever run by an American and a scant fourteen seconds shy of the American record held by Bill Rodgers. Salazar returned to New York the following year and broke the world record in a time of 2:08:13. He was about as big a star as the sport had, so you can probably imagine how I felt when an autographed post card from the Alberto Salazar arrived just before my fifteenth birthday.
It turned out my ten-year-old brother had secretly written Salazar and asked if he could send me an autograph for my birthday, as revealed by the inscription on the back:
Your brother asked me to send you this. Happy B-Day.
— Alberto Salazar
I’m admittedly a pack-rat so I hung onto that card even when my interest in running waned and I got involved in other sports. Twenty years later when I embarked on training for my first marathon, I dug the postcard out of the shoebox and stuck it in my running log where it served as a daily reminder about how I felt when I first wanted to be a marathoner.