For runners of a certain age, Bill Rodgers, the winner of four Boston Marathons and four-straight New York City Marathons, was once the face of long distance running.
If you're, say, a 47-and-a-half-year-old who was growing up as an eager young runner in the mid-late 1970s, "Boston Billy" was synonymous with the sport itself.
In his prime, Rodgers twice set American records in the marathon, running 2:09:55 at Boston in 1975 and 2:09:27 there in 1979. He was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team and the runner of his era.
If, back then, you had convinced your mom to buy you a subscription to Runner's World during the fall of eighth-grade, the first issue to arrive in the mail might well have been the red-bordered one with Rodgers, wearing his red-and-white Greater Boston kit, on the cover racing to his first NYC win.
As your high school career rolled on, Rodgers would only rack up more big wins and more cover photos --including some on Sports Illustrated -- and as an impressionable young runner you might have tacked one or two of these up in your school locker for inspiration, and to define yourself to the world that passed by in the hallways.
I am a runner ... just like Bill Rodgers.
By the time Rodgers' age, his penchant for running in lots of races, and Alberto Salazar had moved him off the magazine covers, you might have moved on too. Trading Rodgers' pure, happy inspiration for the edgier role-modeling provided by Steve Ovett -- the scruffy embodiment of everything Sebastian Coe and your preppier high school classmates were not.
But, no matter, Rodgers would still be your first -- and a lasting -- hero.
Still a Motivator ... Middle-aged men and their old idols notwithstanding, Rodgers is still motivating young runners, even if he's a 62-years-old these days.
The face of the sport in the late-1970s will be in Duluth tomorrow as the featured speaker at this week’s Duluth Children’s Fit-n-Fun Middle School Assemblies, . Rodgers will give presentations to students at
’s Woodland Middle School at 8 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.Grandma’s Marathon and its Young Athletes Foundation has partnered with Duluth Public School Systems and Duluth Children’s, an affiliate of SMDC Health System, to create the Duluth Children’s Fit-n-Fun Middle School Assemblies and Fit-n-Fun Run. These two initiatives are aimed at motivating children to lead healthier lifestyles.
And, there's no better person to do that than Bill Rodgers.