When I returned to Chicago after three years in the Marine Corps, I moved back to Marquette Park. I lived at 3006 W. 64th Street for six years before I moved to Bridgeport. I loved living so close to the park because then I could go running everyday. While in the Marines, I began running seriously after I ran a marathon in California. I thought that if I trained well enough, I could become a good runner. I joined the Marquette Park Track Club after running the Roy Bricker Memorial 5 Mile Race where I placed third in my age group. Roy Bricker was the best runner that the club ever produced. All thanks to Coach Jack Bolton whom all his runners adored. The club would meet every weeknight at 5:30 p.m. rain or shine, snow or sleet. Jack never missed a practice.
Jack Bolton came from Ireland many years before, but he never lost his Irish brogue. We all loved it. Some of the runners imitated him lovingly. He was a world-class miler back in Ireland and when he came to the U.S. he coached high school teams in Chicago. He always had great runners running for him.
When I first joined the club in 1981, all the practices began with six laps (one mile) on the cinder track at Marquette Park. Jack would lead the pack and everyone had to stay behind him. This was a group warmup. Jack’s philosophy for this warmup was twofold. 1. Runners learned to run in a pack and 2. Runners learned to run at someone else’s pace, as sometimes happens in a race. In later years, Jack’s ankles gave out on him and he didn’t run the warmup with the club anymore.
Jack especially loved working with younger runners. He was known for the female runners that came out of his club system. In fact, some high school girls would join Jack’s club in order to develop as runners and qualify for running scholarships at the universiiesy of their choice. Most girls achieved their goal. Of course, many boys also received running scholarships, too.
What everyone loved about Jack was his eternal optimism. He always believed that one of his runners would win the race outright, no matter how overwhelming the odds. I once entered a race and learned at the starting line that Jack had predicted that I would win. I wanted to live up to his expectations, but I had a bad day and faded halfway through the race. But Jack was always touting some up-and-coming runner from his club. He was usually right, too.
Click here to read an article that I wrote about Jack Bolton for the CARA Finsh Line the January/February edition of 1985: