Though he turned 50 last December, Bill Rodgers still looks
strikingly like the man who was the preeminent marathoner in the
world two decades ago. His hair is blond and thick; his frame
remains slender and fit, a testament to his principles. "Being a
runner is very ordinary, really," Rodgers says. "I believe in
living an active life--using your body and your muscles. We're
all meant to move. We're all meant to be athletes."
Rodgers became an icon of the running boom when he won his
hometown marathon four times from 1975 to '80--thus earning the
nickname Boston Billy--as well as four consecutive New York
titles from '76 to '79. Rodgers hasn't competed in a marathon
since 1993, but he faithfully runs 70 miles a week and still
races about 25 times a year. In '97 he set six U.S. records for
49-year-olds at distances ranging from five kilometers to the
half marathon. Along with friend and rival Frank Shorter, he was
inducted last month into the National Distance Running Hall of
Fame in Utica, N.Y.
Outside his sport, Rodgers has traveled a rockier road. His first
marriage ended in 1981; seven years later his once-successful
running-wear business collapsed. He had to sell his house in
Dover, Mass., to pay his debts and found himself racing to make
ends meet. "It was like the 23rd-mile mark of the marathon," he
says of his financial woes. "It was a bad patch."
Rodgers now earns his living as a representative of Etonic and
by making promotional appearances at races across the country.
He is also a contributing editor for Running Times magazine and
in the past two years has written two books: Bill Rodgers'
Lifetime Running Plan and The Complete Idiots' Guide to Jogging
and Running. He lives in Sherborn, Mass., near Boston, with his
second wife, Gail, and their two daughters, Elise, 13, and
Erika, 8. "People always ask me if the girls run," Rodgers says.
"I say, 'Well, they run around a lot.'"
As for his own running, he remains interested in victories and
records, but more than ever he puts in miles to stay healthy. "I
don't run as fast or as far," he says. "There aren't many easy
runs anymore. But I could always rely on my running. It's the
closest thing to the fountain of youth, really."
COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER [Cover of October 29, 1979 issue of Sports Illustrated featuring Bill Rodgers]
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER [Bill Rodgers]
"I rely on my running. It's the closest thing to the fountain of