Sports

John Doe: «I love running. I'm not into marathons, but I am into avoiding problems at an accelerated rate.»

By JOHN DOE MAR. 11, 2016

In a short-billed running cap and yellow windbreaker, Bob Glover stood on the steps of Public School 6 on East 81st Street, faced more than 100 adults on the sidewalk in front of him and asked for a show of hands.

"How many of you are running the New York City Marathon?" he said.

More than three-quarters of those assembled complied.

"Remember, you're going to go hit rough patches in the marathon," said Glover, the coach of New York Road Runners. "That's when your training and your preparation come in. Just stay focused and you'll come through O.K."

He paused in the midst of this seemingly earnest motivational talk and grinned devilishly.

"I'm lying," he said. "You're going to be in a lot of pain."

Then, above a chorus of groans and nervous laughter, he added, "You'll still come through O.K."

Nearby, the assistant coach George Weiner shook his head and smiled. "That's Bob," he said. "He's got the quirky sense of humor. But he's speaking as a competitor. He's not going to sugarcoat it."

Glover has been dispensing unsweetened but impeccable advice to runners who want to get faster for more than 37 years. He has run the organization's classes since their inception in 1978, a time when the concept of a coach for competitors below the elite level was unheard of.

"People told me he's tough, he yells a lot," said Tiina Ylonen, 51, from the Bronx, who was taking the class in preparation for her 10th New York marathon. "I like him. He's not boring, and he knows his stuff."

Glover, 68, is stepping down from the organization at the end of the year. He has been one of the longest-running acts in the sport, and one of the few people still involved with the New York City Marathon who have a direct link to the race's origins.

Glover grew up in Dansville in upstate Livingston County, where he was a runner on his high school track team. He later ran cross-country at the State University at Oswego. After graduating in 1968, he was drafted into the Army and served a year in Vietnam, where among other things he organized a sports competition in the city of Hue the year after the Tet offensive. (Glover competed, and says he won the quarter-mile wearing combat boots.)

Back stateside, he worked for Y.M.C.A.s near Fort Rucker in Alabama and in Rome, N.Y., where he helped start running-based adult fitness classes. In 1975, he was hired as fitness director for the West Side Y.M.C.A. He soon met a fellow running enthusiast named Fred Lebow who was organizing local races for a small group known as New York Road Runners Club.

Glover helped Lebow stage the first five-borough edition of the marathon in 1976 (which Glover completed in 2 hours 56 minutes). Two years later, he approached Lebow with the idea of starting a running class with Road Runners.

"Fred liked the idea," Glover said. "But then I said, 'What if nobody shows up?' He said, 'Even if nobody comes but you and me, we'll do it.' "

Twenty-three people did show up for the initial class. The program eventually grew to about 3,500 a year in five 10-week sessions. The August-to-October session culminates with the New York City Marathon. As the numbers grew, Glover added coaches, including his wife, Shelly Florence, now 54, who holds a degree in exercise physiology from Columbia, and Weiner, 33, a high school runner from Brooklyn whom Glover took under his wing and who eventually ran for Penn, in large part, Weiner said, "because Bob called the coach there."