RunBlogRun comments: There was a time, in 1978-1980, when Bill Rodgers ruled road racing. His wins in NYC, Boston and others showed that his weekly running of 140 miles a week, his weekly long speed days with his fellow GBTC team mates made them all stronger. But it was Bill’s racing regimin that captured the sport, and his series of wins, as well as his relaxed personality made hims a super star.
Jeff Benjamin is doing a yearly series on the New Balance Falmouth Road race, to be held August 20, 2017. Here is Bill Rodger’s heartfelt thoughts on the Falmouth Road Race, a race he loves and treasures.
“In my 1974 running log I wrote that I thought Falmouth was 7.3 miles, that it was pretty cool out at 75 degrees, and I believe we had a 10:30 am start. What was significant about the ’74 Falmouth was that it was the 1st year an Olympian – Marty Liquori – competed in the race. When I beat Marty, no one knew my name although my buddies in the greater Boston Track Club called me Will. It was the 1st time I defeated a professional runner! My winning prize was a blender, a trip for 2 to Martha’a Vineyard and dinner for 2 at a restaurant that Tommy Leonard knew.
Of course there was a slew of Greater Boston Track Club runners there. Tommy Leonard had invited us, and had lured us there saying women wearing bikinis would be passing out water along the way! I loved the cross-country nature of the course and running by the ocean. I felt it was Summer at its best when I was at the Falmouth road race in all the years ahead!
After I won Falmouth, Tommy Leonard asked me if i knew Frank Shorter, the ’72 Olympic Gold Medalist in the marathon in Munich. Frank also placed 5th in the Olympic 10,000m Final in the 72 too-he was no plodder! Tommy asked if I’d write Frank and invite him to Falmouth for the ’75 race. As Tommy was a good friend and member of the Greater Boston track club, I did write Frank, who said he’d race at Falmouth, but he wanted to be paid $600, as that’s what he got for a track 10k in Europe. Tommy agreed, Frank beat me into 2nd, 33:24 to 33:39. I wrote, “It was a good day to run, and that I ran a hard race.” I actually ran 117 miles that week!
It was big news that our men’s Olympic Marathon Champion raced Falmouth. It also began a string of duels at Falmouth between us that would last 5 years, where one of us won. In ’76 Frank ran a strong race at the Montreal Olympic marathon and defended his Olympic title honestly, without the use of drugs. But he was pushed into 2nd place by the East German runner whose record as a drug cheat became clear years later. I had a tough day at the Montreal Olympic marathon, mainly due to changing my running to include no hard training or speedwork for nearly 2 months before the Games, due to a sort of metatarsal pain in the bottom of my foot when I ran hard. I finished the Olympic Marathon feeling very beat down and 2 weeks later Frank’s better condition meant he would defeat me again at Falmouth, 33:13 to 33:36. I ran easy the day before the Race with a young greater Boston Track Club runner named Alberto Salazar, and did 8 miles.
Also at that ’76 Race was the NYC Marathon race director Fred Lebow. He asked Frank and I if we’d like to run the “New” NYC Marathon that was being run through the city’s streets for the first time! Frank wondered if it could be done! Most road races were hidden from the public and were in parks. Boston was the exception to that, though even Boston only had a small section of the race within it’s city boundaries.
In the NYC Marathon, I finished easily ahead of Frank at the first Five Borough Marathon in October, and felt I had run my “Olympic Marathon” there in 2:10:10.
I then felt motivated by that comeback effort and focused on racing Frank at Falmouth where he already got me twice. In 1977 I felt strong on a coolish day at Falmouth and raced to a new course record in 32:23, after a strong challenge from Olympian Mike Roche and Alberto Salazar. 1978 would be my last Falmouth win.
All through those years and after, other top Americans like Craig Virgin, Herb Lindsay, Bobby Hodge, Randy Thomas, Mike Roche, Rod Dixon, Greg Meyer and Alberto Salazar were racing at Falmouth as well. The top women, Kim Merritt and Joan Benoit Samuelson appeared in the middle 70’s, with Greta Waitz soon afterwards. The International side of the race began to grow, as did race numbers (over the years).
The “Feeling of the Falmouth Road Race has stayed the same. It is still a high intensity race, a seaside holiday, and a running extravaganza in every way, shape, and form!
To me, the Falmouth Road Race will always be the Rolling Stones and the Road Race of Memories! I will race Falmouth this August as I have maybe 25 times before. Next year I’ll try to win the over 70 division! I’m proud to have won my age group over 5 decades!
Thank you, Tommy Leonard, for giving all us runners a chance to celebrate the best of life together at the Falmouth Road race!”