It was the running boom of the 1970s and Bill Donnelly had joined a number of fellow Buffalonians at Delaware Park, doing laps on ring road.
That’s where he met Jack Meegan.
“Jack started running pretty late. He did his first Boston Marathon when he was 43 years old,” Donnelly said. “He loved to run. He did other sports growing up. He played hockey, softball and ran track, but when he got into marathoning, it took off for him. I think no one in the area has run around ring road more times than Jack.”
Meegan, who ran in 30 Boston Marathons and coached Mount Mercy Academy to several Catholic League championships, will be inducted into the Western New York Running Hall of Fame posthumously, along with Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett, a member of the Seneca tribe from the Cattaraugus Reservation who was arguably the world’s fastest distance runner in the 1850s and 1860s. Also being inducted is Fred Gordon, who ran 13 Boston Marathons and was one of the best high school runners in Buffalo in the late 1960s.
Gordon will be on hand, along with family members and representatives of Meegan and Bennett at the induction ceremonies scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30 on Bidwell Parkway.
It will be an important day for the friends and family of Meegan.
“He always became friends with anyone out running,” Donnelly said. “He had a really loyal group of friends who nicknamed themselves the Meeganites. In fact, a lot of them are pretty excited he’s going in the hall of fame. They had special T-shirts made up to wear at the hall of fame induction.
“Jack would run with anyone and encourage their running, and he was so loved by all these runners. He just ran and ran and ran.”
Meegan was an accomplished marathoner, but his friends remember the colorful stories more than his accomplishments.
“Jack had his favorite shoes for running marathons. It was a Nike and they stopped making them,” Donnelly said. “He had his one pair so every marathon he wore the same pair of shoes. They weren’t holding up well, so he would duct tape them. He learned which were the best brands of duct tape to use because some wouldn’t last as long as others and would wear out around 18 miles. One of the last Boston’s he did, a whole group of people around him were just amazed by his shoes and all the duct tape.
“He was a funny guy – South Buffalo Irish. Our motto was ‘run hard, party harder,’ but Jack could nurse a beer for two hours and wouldn’t have another one. He was not a drinker at all. The night before Boston, we’d go out looking for pasta, but he had to be sure the place we ate at had potatoes. He had baked potatoes the night before the marathon, not pasta. He joked that was Irish coming out in him.”
Donnelly ran marathons with Meegan, but also has a history with Gordon. Both ran high school track in the City of Buffalo and graduated in 1966 – Donnelly for Riverside and Gordon for Bennett.
“He was No. 2 in the city in cross country and I was the third guy on the Riverside team,” Donnelly said. “I knew who Fred Gordon was, everyone did, but I didn’t figure he knew who I was. After we graduated, it was 1973 when I started running again. I hadn’t done a road race yet and I was running toward the park one day and said, ‘Wow, that’s Fred Gordon.’
“He stopped and said, ‘Hey, you came in 21st at the All-High meet, ran a 4:53 mile, and came in fourth in swimming in the backstroke. I was amazed. There was no reason for him to know my times, but he had an amazing memory and probably knew every runner in the city.”
Gordon’s amazing memory continues today. Chat with him and he can recount the times he ran at races decades ago.
“The first time I went to the Boston Marathon was in 1973,” Gordon said. “It was real hot. I did 2:57 for the marathon and I learned how to run and build up a base after that.”
Running was something Gordon always loved, being content to even run to the race. Lore has it that while a student at Bennett, he was taking a physics exam that ran late and caused him to miss the team’s ride to a cross country meet. So, Gordon ran 2.5 miles to the event site at Delaware Park and then won the race.
Gordon went on to run at Howard University, making a name for himself in the 2-mile race, taking silver in the conference championship in 1967 and 1969 and bronze in 1968.
Gordon ran his personal-best time for the Boston Marathon in 1978, finishing in 76th place with a time of 2:25.
The induction ceremony is part of the Tom Donnelly Hall of Fame 5K, which will serve as the host for the 2019 USATF Niagara Association Open and Masters 5K championship. The Open and Masters 5-kilometer championships will be run concurrently at the Hall of Fame race.
“We’re proud to be selected as the host race for this prestigious event,” said Donnelly, the president of the WNY Running Hall of Fame’s board of directors. “Our race attracts an outstanding field each year, and we hope that all runners in the Niagara Region will come to take part in what should be a great night of running.”
Sunday, Aug. 4
- Run 716, 15K, 7:16 a.m., Flying Bison Brewing, 840 Seneca St.
- Stephen's Cross-Country Run, 5K, 9 a.m., Long Point State Park, 4459 NY-430, Bemus Point.
Monday, Aug. 5
- Mud Run 6.5K trail, 6;30 p.m., Erie County Reforestation Refuge, S. Feddick Road, Boston.
Tuesday, Aug. 6
- Jackhammer Trail Series No. 2, 3.2 miles trail, 6:30 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
Thursday, Aug. 8
- Checker's Athletic Club Mueller Mile, 1 mile, 6:30 p.m., 11 Main St., Tonawanda.
Friday, Aug. 9
- Raby Family Memorial 5K, 6;30 p.m., Lewiston Porter Senior High, 4061 Creek Road, Youngstown.
Saturday, Aug. 10
- Erie County Fair 5K, 8:30 a.m., Gate 6 Erie County Fairgrounds, Hamburg.
- Beast of Burden 100 Mile, 50 Mile, 25 Mile, 10 a.m., Widewaters Marina, 718 Market St., Lockport.
Sunday, Aug. 11
- Kidney Walk & Run, 5K, 9 a.m., Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd.
Monday, Aug. 12
- Bond Lake RUT Run, 3.4 miles, cross country, 7 p.m., Bond Lake Park, 2571 Lower Mountain Road.
Tuesday, Aug. 13
- Jackhammer Trail Series No. 3, 3.2 miles trail, 6:30 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
Wednesday, Aug. 14
- 33rd Annual Moonlight Run, 5K, 8 p.m., Island Park Pavilion, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.
Friday, Aug. 16
- 41st Annual Bob Ivory 5K, 6:30 p.m., St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, 845 Kenmore Ave.
Saturday, Aug. 17
- Sunset Bay Experience Reach the Beach 5K, 9:30 a.m., Sunset Bay Beach Club, Iola Drive, Irving.
- Buffalo Sabres 5K, 9:30 a.m., Key Bank Center.
- Cross Country Crusade, 5K, 10 a.m., Knox Farm State Park, 437 Buffalo Road, East Aurora.
- KIA Memorial Road March, 10K, 11 a.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
Sunday, Aug. 18
- Embracing Hope, 5K, 8:30 a.m., Delaware Park at Parkside.
- Runway 5K, 10 a.m., Niagara Falls Airport, 8800 Porter Ave.
Tuesday, Aug. 20
- Eden 5K, 6:30 p.m., On the track at Eden Jr/Sr High School, 3150 Schoolview Road, Eden.
- Jackhammer Trail Series No. 4, 3.2 miles trail, 6:30 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
Thursday, Aug. 22
- Lancaster Striders Mile, 6:30 p.m., Como Lake County Park, 2220 Como Park Blvd., Lancaster.
Friday, Aug. 23
- Seneca Hickory Stick 5K Summer Sizzler No. 3, 5K, 7 p.m., Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Club, 4560 Creek Road, Lewiston.
Saturday, Aug. 24
- Muddy Buffalo Obstacle Course Run, 5 miles, 9 a.m., Buffalo Ski Club, 7414 State Road Rt. 240, Colden.
Sunday, Aug. 25
- Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish 5K, 11 a.m. 57 Center Ave., North Tonawanda.
Tuesday, Aug. 27
- Jackhammer Trail Series No. 5, 3.2 miles trail, 6:30 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park, Orchard Park.
Friday, Aug. 30
- WNY Running Hall of Fame Presents Tom Donnelly's Hall of Fame 5K, 6:30 p.m., Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway.