MR. AMERICA: Based on a True Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Lionel Walfish


Brian Forsyth is favored by fortune to find the perfect person to prepare him for his toughest test . . . including the running of five miles of killer hills
That special person is an older,wiser, and delightful former Mr. America.



A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran 


“It’s the hills, Clancy, the killer hills; why am I doing all this upper body stuff?”


It was half way through a cold, rainy October when Brian Forsyth found Clancy Ross at his Mr. America Club in Shepherd’s Creek. Brian Googled Clancy, and there he was: Clarence Ross, Mr. America, 1945. 

Brian was preparing to train very hard for the Boston Marathon in April. He was a long lanky guy who still smoked a pack of cigarettes a day—but only if he ran twenty miles before nightfall. He read in Runner’s World that if you ran one mile for each smoked cigarette, you would be just fine; no physical repercussions.

In fact, Brian called the ‘Running Doctor,’ Doctor Ralph Meerschaum in Red Bank, New Jersey, to ask the running health guru if he really had to quit. Doctor Ralph gave him good advice. “If you would become tenser and create higher blood pressure along with a litany of other physical setbacks by not smoking, then smoke.” The doctor ran every weekend with a group of guys who topped off  their twelve-mile run with a large stogie. After a thorough rumination of the guru’s advice, Brian took close care to align his mileage with his smokes; or vice versa. Three days after his thirty-first birthday, during his annual physical, he told his personal doctor, Doctor Neil Weston of his talk with Doctor Ralph. Doctor Weston told him flatly that smoking was a very, very bad idea; especially for a runner; and extra-especially for someone about to run a marathon.

“But,” asked Brian with a slight tremor in his voice, “never again doctor; how can I do that?” Calmly, with barely a pause in his scoping, “think about it—you’ll never be twelve again.”

Brian slumped for a moment. The stethoscope disappeared in his stomach as he uttered a moan that could be interpreted as: ‘you’re absolutely right doctor’ or ‘screw that.’

After leaving Dr. Weston’s office, Brian rooted around in his thoughts for anything he could do to juice up his preparations for the upcoming race. His first decision was to double his mileage for each cigarette. Next, he decided to reread that unusual article in the Globe, where the main topic was: building strength through weight training. The subject of the article was about some odd duck named Mike, who jumped off cliffs, bridges, and such—as some feat of strength and toughness. Mike was training at Clancy’s place.

Brian thought even though marathoning was not quite as bizarre as jumping off high places, he knew his legs needed to be stronger. He correctly concluded that if anyone had strong legs, it would be body builders and weight lifters. Other than this obvious conclusion, he had no idea what to do at a weight-lifting place; a regular gym, yes, a weight-lifting gym, no. 

Clancy was in his late sixties but remained as vibrant as a teenager. He retained all his hair and most of his muscle. A hip bothered him, forcing him to limp slightly. Surprisingly, the twinkle never left his eyes. Brian never saw him so much as scowl; a person of zest.

Clancy gave Brian a sidelong glance when Brian told him why he wanted to join. Clancy followed up with a deep merry laugh while he surveyed the very tall skinny dude who wanted to run over twenty-six miles . . . for fun ! “And,” added Brian, “around mile sixteen, there are hills, Clancy; miles of them, with five miles of the worst ending with the biggest one, called Heartbreak Hill.”

The more Brian told Clancy about the race, the more Clancy smiled and chuckled. It was a great smile; a smile of understanding and encouragement. His chuckle was one of warmth and kindness. From that first day and every day thereafter, Clancy broke out that smile, followed by a warm chortle—and a group of strengthening sets he thought would help Brian; and told him to ‘get to work’. Brian did.

When Clancy introduced Brian to a number of sets concentrating on upper body strength, Brian was so enthralled with his progress to date—as well as still trying to believe he was training under the wing of a real Mr. America—he instantly adopted Clancy’s program without question. Of course, Brian didn’t say anything when Clancy started him on the upper body training. He unquestioningly added the new sets to all the sets for his quads, calves and ankles. Brian inhaled deeply and set to work. ‘ I don’t see the logic of it, but what the hell do I know?’

By January, Brian could feel the amazing increase in his leg strength, but he had to ask Clancy, at least once, why he was doing the upper body reps. Clancy expected this question from that first day in December when he gave Brian the upper body sets.

“Well, Brian, movement is more than simply plowing ahead with your legs; you have to exercise all those muscles that don’t stop at the top of your legs, but go all the way up your body—especially your back,” pausing to break out a wide smile, “and you’ll feel stronger too, and that will help you mentally.”

Brian trained with Clancy right up to three days before the marathon when he and his wife flew to Boston on Sunday.

Race day in Hopkinton was thirty-eight degrees and drizzling. Brian talked to himself all the way to the mid-point at Wellesley, where fair maidens furnished water and rousing cries of challenge. He felt good. The hills were ahead. The young women yelled encouragement, along with rallying cries to attack the last half of the course. After Wellesley, Brian could feel the anticipation of the hills beginning to invade his body. He had followed all the rules of running a good marathon and now—the hills. After that, downhill and flat all the way to the finish at Copley Square.

When Brian reached the sixteen-mile mark, he made a right turn into the thick of hundreds of thousands of people who come out every year to cheer on the runners.Then came the hills.The crowds were deepening; their roars of cheering deafening. At the beginning of the five miles of killer hills, the ‘road’ became a mere ten to fifteen foot-wide channel. Layers of people shouted encouragement to every single one of the thousands of runners.

Brian was wearing his Clancy Ross Mr. America Club singlet and as the cheering swelled, cries of “go Clancy!”  and “hit those hills Mr. America!” thundered all around him. Suddenly, Brian felt the almost hysterical scene of the thousands of waving, cheering, roaring mob of well-wishers—disappear. He entered a placid zone; merely a point on the road; in the state; in the country—in the world. He felt as though he was slightly above and to one side of himself, watching his movement, his stride, his posture. His back straight and strong; his arms moving in perfect rhythm with his strides; his entire body leaning into the hill while he pumped his legs with a shorter stride; all those areas of muscles and tendons Clancy promised—guaranteed—would power him through the hills.

His inner peace was so complete that despite being in the middle of vocal chaos, he heard only his breathing. He sensed his body propelling him forward. He felt comfortably alone. At that point, Brian understood he was in some aberrant reality. He was not truly all alone, because before him, facing him, dancing in his vision through the drizzle, was Clancy. “Okay, Brian, now’s your time. Here’s where I come in. Here’s where all those hours; all that sweat makes a difference.”  He smiled and vanished.

Brian drew in a large amount of air before saying aloud: “Okay Clancy, do your stuff!” He smiled, and slipped into overdrive.


Brian later told his wife and others he thought he was running alone on a narrow trail through the park. He could feel every part of his body making the fine recalibrations and adjustments for applying maximum drive up the hills.

And did Clancy ever do ‘his stuff’! Clancy combined all his experience, his knowledge, and his kindness into his mojo. Despite the drizzle, the chill, the temperature, and those hills, Brian ran his best marathon time. More amazingly, he ran the fastest five miles of any race—of any length—of his entire running career, in those five miles of killer hills.


Several years later, at Clancy’s funeral, anyone among the hundreds of mourners was encouraged to share any special moments they enjoyed with Mr. America. Brian spoke of his times with Clancy; Clancy’s wit and smile and merry laughter, as well as his endless willingness to share his knowledge and experience.

Brian concluded: “What a guy. An unforgettable man of great wisdom, kindness, and understanding. I am so proud to have known him: I consider myself immensely better for the time I spent with Clancy Ross, my great friend; my personal special Mr. America.”



Submitted: August 03, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Lionel Walfish

So wonderfully descriptive, I could feel every muscle pull..
Beautifully done, Nicholas

Wed, August 3rd, 2016 6:45pm


Hey,man: again, many thanks for the encouraging remarks.
Hope to see your latest very soon.

Sat, August 6th, 2016 9:56pm

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