Bill Rodgers, 4 time champion of BAA Boston, to run this year, release, Note by Larry Eder

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Bill Rodgers winning Boston in 1975, photo courtesy of Boston Athletic Association.

I remember the first time I read Bill Rodger's name in the paper. It was in March 1975, when he took third in the World Cross Country to Great Britain's Ian Stewart. Rodgers was a very good regional runner, or so we thought. He beat the who's who in global distance runners in Morroco, including John Walker, Frank Shorter, Rod Dixon, Brendan Foster, among others.

About a month later, Bill Rodgers cruised into the lead, and slowly, slowly pulled away from Jerome Drayton, the Canadian superstar. Rodgers stopped three times, if I remember, to tie his shoes. He wore a headband and on his t shirt was written, in marker, GBTC-the Greater Boston Track Club. By the end of that day, Bill Rodgers, or Will Rodgers, as the newspapers wrote, had won Boston and set a new American record of 2:09:55, breaking the AR of one Frank Shorter, Olympic gold medalist. Remember that sub 2:10s were quite unusual at that time ( there was Derek Clayton, Ian Thompson, and that was about it at the time). Running was pretty innocent. I remember reading a piece by Bill Rodgers talking, afterwards, about his 140 mile weeks, repeats of four to six times 1 1/2 miles and FCRs-Fast continuous runs of 4-10 miles at racing pace to get one racing fit. Running, in 1975, was still pretty innocent.

Four years later, when Bill Rodgers took on Toshihiko Seko and the best America had to offer, his 2:09:27 lead 80 plus guys under 2:20. Randy Thomas, Bobby Hodge, members of the Greater Boston Track Club, owned the day! Coach Bill Squires, the number one wacko of our sport, sure knew how to get guys in shape. One of my great buddies, Gary Goettlemann ran 2:22 that year and placed in the nineties! And there was this woman, Joan Benoit, who was running amazingly fast times! But, by this time, running was a big business, and Rodgers himself was a big business. Shorter and Rodgers had clothing lines. Runners World, the Runner and Running Times were duking it out on the newstand. Perrier for everyone! Running was a big business.

Somewhere in there we forgot running was to be fun, and we lost that innocence. Former friends and training partners got mad at each other. Coaches would not coach athletes because of the shoes they wore. In the middle of the boom, the pied piper of the citizen runners, Jim Fixx, who wrote two books on running, was found dead of a heart attack on the side of the road. He was fifty-two, his dad had died at forty-two. Running was getting its butt kicked.

Now, we are in 2009. There is a great chance that two Americans can place quite well, if not win, both the men's and women's races on Monday. American distance runners, men and women, are racing well again and young runners are getting better and better. In this economic nightmare we call 2009, running is booming! The sport has come full circle. It seems that you can race hard, race for fun or jog around the track and cheer your neighbor on as she runs Boston-it is all okay!

And through it all, Bill Rodgers has turned sixty-one. Bill hopes to break four hours on Monday. But to me, he still looks like he did in 1975, that happy guy who showed his GBTC teammates that they could do it.

Bill Rodgers, to me, is the Jack Nicklaus of running. He still has the patience to sign autographs, and talk to young runners for hours. He can still make a nice living from the sport, as one of the few runners that all runners know.

I wish Bill Rodgers the best of luck on Monday and congratulations on his 30th anniversary of his win in 1979. Remember, he won Boston in 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1980. He also won New York in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979. In 1978-79, he was the runner who all aimed for-and few could beat. He looks like he could do it again.

Frank Shorter paid Bill Rodgers a complement in a panel discussion where he noted that Bill was a freak of nature, because Rodgers thrived on 140 mile weeks and racing-and this would break others, including Shorter down.

Rodgers was, and is unique. That is why his races are relived three decades later, and for many more years to come.....


4-time Boston Marathon Champion Bill Rodgers to run again on Patriots' Day

Boston, Mass. - Bill Rodgers, whose four Boston Marathon victories between 1975 and 1980 helped popularize the sport of marathon running in the United States, plans to be on the starting line in Hopkinton once again on April 20th, the Boston Athletic Association announced today.

His bib will read "Rodgers," and his official number will be 79 to honor the 30th anniversary of his 1979 Boston Marathon win. Rodgers, 61, last completed the race in 1996, when he celebrated the 100th Boston Marathon. Then 48, Rodgers ran 2:53:23.

"We couldn't be happier that Bill has chosen to run again this year," said Guy Morse, Executive Director of the Boston Athletic Association. "Just the name "Bill Rodgers" brings to mind the true spirit and joy of running the Boston Marathon, from the race champions to the age-group athletes to those running to raise funds for charity. The man is known as "Boston Billy" for a reason."

The 113th Boston Marathon will be the 17th for Rodgers, who last year underwent treatment for prostate cancer. His victories came in 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1980. In his first victory here, running for the Greater Boston Track Club, he broke both the course and American records with his time of 2:09:55, despite stopping four times for a drink of water and once to tie his shoelace. He broke the course and American record again in 1979 with his 2:09:27 win.

This year, he hopes to complete the race in just under four hours, saying he is not seeking any age group records but just wants to run "for the fun of it."

Boston Athletic Association
Established in 1887, the Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit organization with a mission of managing athletic events and promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running. The B.A.A.'s Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon, and the organization manages other local events, including the B.A.A. Half Marathon presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, and supports comprehensive charity, youth, and year-round running programs. Since 1986, the principal sponsor of the Boston Marathon has been John Hancock Financial.

For more on the sport, and special coverage of the BAA Boston marathon, please check http://www.runningnetwork.com

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