With the Boston Marathon a week away, let’s all raise a glass of Irish whiskey to the running great known as Boston Billy.
In his memoir, Bill Rodgers talks about chasing butterflies as a kid, just for the love of running. He kicked off the running boom of the ’70s, in flowing long hair, gardening gloves, and glam ’70s running shorts. He famously stopped to tie his shoes in his first winning Boston Marathon in 1975.
Rodgers is a cool figure, both as a running great and as a symbol for the world of fitness people. He helped to distill the vague consciousness-raising era of the ’60s into the running boom of the ’70s, with things that everyone did to make their lives better.
He brushed elbows with many greats while becoming one of the greats himself.
Billy ran in one of the first pairs of Nikes, sent to him by Prefontaine. Here’s what he says on his website:
Bill won the Boston Marathon 40 years ago (in 1975) he broke the Boston record, the American record and it was the first sub two hour and ten minute time 2: 09:55 run at Boston. It was a race that when you look back at how he ran, nobody was going to beat him he stopped for water and to tie his shoes, which were Nike racing shoes that he got in the mail a week before the race from Steve Prefontaine. The shoes were a bit large and he would have to stop and tie them up for better support. — http://www.billrodgersrunningcenter.com
On his own terms
Billy was very DIY. He didn’t really have the focus to train seriously in college. His Wesleyan roommate, Amby Burfoot, won Boston in 1968, while still a senior.
But Billy went on to become a successful pro runner when he was working full time as a special ed teacher in Boston. He would run twice a day, which meant sneaking out for lunch runs in the dead of Boston winter.
Today, sneaking out for a lunch run is obsessive. Then, it was tinfoil-hat, stick-a-chicken-bone-in-yer-beard crazy (and still obsessive.)
We’re just mid-pack runners here at the Gmaps blogging team, but we nonetheless feel kinship with Billy. He didn’t have a team (his brother helped, though), he wasn’t pro, he just went the hell out there and ran a lot, and look where it got him.
Nowadays, people accept and respect runners. But there’s still a bit of that crazy.
We like Billy for being the representative of that.
Here, because we love you, is a collection of some of our favorite Bill Rodgers quotes.