Rodgers' marathon career hits last stride

April 09, 1993|By Frank Dell'Apa | Frank Dell'Apa,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Bill Rodgers reckons that his daily jogs of the past three decades have been the equivalent of "running around the world three or four times." Give or take 25,000 miles or so.

With that, Rodgers announced yesterday that he has retired from marathoning, though he will compete in shorter distance races.

"I feel the 58 hard marathons I have done," Rodgers said. "I'm tired from that. There are only a certain number of marathons that anyone can do. I've done 28 sub-2:15 marathons, and that takes a lot out of you."

Rodgers, 45, made the announcement during a news conference at the John Hancock Tower Observatory. He was presented with a plaque that included a chunk of pavement, which Hancock chairman and chief executive officer Stephen L. Brown said had been taken near the Boylston Street finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Rodgers said he made the decision after struggling in two races -- a marathon in Vietnam and the 30-kilometer Around the Bay in Canada.

"I remember running 2:20 and finishing fifth in the masters in 1990," Rodgers said. "John Campbell won it in 2:11:04. I had trained 100 miles a week and it was kind of disappointing.

"Then in Vietnam, I delayed and walked the last 3 miles. In the Around the Bay, I could feel it in my hamstrings. It certainly started looking like a dead end street.

"But I have no chronic, severe injuries, nothing like Larry Bird, who retired because he had a bad back. For me, it was either slow down or retire. I've decided to focus on shorter races and go for age-group records in those."

Rodgers noted that he would be disadvantaged in masters division marathons because his career had begun much sooner than those of some of the top masters competitors.

His career spanned a generation of modern marathoners. And, though he might have become a modern Johnny Kelley, he long ago abandoned a desire to duplicate Kelley's competitive longevity.

"I used to run four marathons a year and there was no money in it," Rodgers said. "I had that desire. I had a hyper-competitive side, while Frank Shorter was more of a peaker.

"I always have that fighting spirit and I'll be competitive in road races. But you have got to get on the starting line at 100 percent.

"Johnny Kelley is an isolated phenomenon, a rarity, and that is why they are putting up a statue to him. Others can stay fit and compete in shorter races, but no one else can do it like he did."

Rodgers said when he was winning four Boston Marathons, he had hoped to improve the conditions for distance runners especially, and track athletes in general.

"I pushed that athletes should be treated with respect," he said. "All the hypocrisy of under-the-table pay

ments that the public couldn't know about, that didn't make the runners feel right."

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