Rodgers still chasing glory in Boston

Four-time winner seeks veterans' class record

April 19, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BOSTON -- Bill Rodgers always loved running a marathon. He did not mind the routine aches. He dismissed the late-race pain that wracked his glucose-starved body. But in 1992, tired of a new injury every other day, he ran (he said then) his last marathon.

Not quite. When the 103rd annual Boston Marathon is held today, the hometown icon known as Boston Billy, now 51 years old, will run again. He is not the all-conquering hero who won four Boston and four New York City marathons between 1975 and 1980. Still, when he talks about his return, he sounds as impassioned as ever.

"You do a lot of marathons and it's tough," he said. "I've done 57, including 16 in Boston, and I'm not beat up for all that. They can tear you down. Nothing major happened to me, but I was having trouble getting to the starting line injury-free. That's one reason I quit marathons, and by quitting them, I'm still able to run now."

Instead of marathons, he has been running shorter road races. Last year, he ran 29 races from 5,000 meters to a half-marathon and never lost in the veterans' class for men 50 and older.

Actually, he ran one marathon in the last seven years -- the centennial Boston Marathon in 1996. But he made that a fun race, and his time of 2 hours, 53 minutes, 23 seconds was far from his career best of 2: 09: 27 here in 1979.

His goal today is 2: 31, which would make him the fastest American veteran in Boston history (50-year-old Norm Green set the record of 2: 31: 34 in 1983).

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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