Orono author Ed Rice is a veteran of 27 marathons — including eight Boston Marathons — so it seems only natural that he would write a novel about a native Mainer who ran to a pair of runner-up finishes in the Boston Marathon’s early days.
Rice, 61, has authored a book entitled “Native Trailblazer,” which chronicles the running career of Penobscot Indian Andrew Sockalexis, who finished second in the 1912 and 1913 Boston Marathons. He also finished fourth in the marathon at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm.
Andrew was the second cousin of Louis Sockalexis, who went on to play professional baseball for the Cleveland Indians. Both were natives of Indian Island.
When Rice started his work on the book about Louis, his friends in the running community gave him some good-natured criticism.
“When I started on Louis, my running pals were all over my case: ‘you’ve got the wrong Sockalexis, you should be writing about the marathon runner,’” Rice said.
So, the English and Communication Studies teacher at Bangor’s Eastern Maine Community College, University College at Bangor and New England School of Communications in Bangor started his research on the runner who was elected to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
And it took quite a bit of research at that. Rice used old Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bangor Daily News, Bangor Commercial and Boston Post articles on Sockalexis to dig up things such as times and places in races.
“All I could use were newspaper clippings and whatever articles I found that could be published,” Rice said.
“They weren’t old newspaper pages, they were microfilm.”
It was a long road, as Rice had to go page by page in the stories to find information on the Boston Marathons in which Andrew Sockalexis competed.
“I had to see what I could find. It was a long process,” he said.
He nearly hit a roadblock as to why Sockalexis didn’t attend the 1914 Boston Marathon, but he found the answer fairly quickly.
“Andrew went through a dilemma that drove him nuts as only a 20- 21-year-old young man to stay an amateur or to become pro,” Rice said.
As it turned out, Sockalexis turned pro in the summer of 1913, thus making him ineligible for any more Boston Marathons.
He ran a few pro races in 1913 but declining health forced him to slow down, and Sockalexis eventually died of tuberculosis in 1919 at a young age of 27.
Rice started his work on Andrew’s story while he was finishing up the novel on Louis. The story took five to seven years to write.
“I thank all my running friends for teasing me so much, periodically,” he joked.
The book should be a good read for today’s generation of runners.
“We need to remember that was a different day and age of footwear,” Rice said of Sockalexis’ time on the trails and roads.
He added that Sockalexis’ marathon race pace was between five and six minutes per mile.
“Andrew deserves amazing respect for what he accomplished in [a] short [period of] time,” Rice said.
Now, Rice is hoping the man dubbed as “Maine’s most forgotten athlete” gets more recognition.
“He went in [to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame] in 1984. It’s absurd to me that it would take that long,” he said.
A celebration of the book’s publication will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Anderson Community Building on the Bennoch Road in Orono. Rice will talk about he book and sign copies at the event, which is hosted by the Orono Public Library.
Copies of the book will be available through Book-Surge.com, an online division of amazon.com, at $15 per copy.