Weather to dictate Rodgers' Boston return
Fri Apr 10, 2009 By Dave Ungrady / Universal Sports
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Bill Rodgers did not compete in the 2008 Boston Marathon, but he did attend a press conference during race week, shown above.
A suggestion for those who hope to see running legend Bill Rodgers take part in the Boston Marathon on April 20 for the first time in 10 years: pray for cool weather. Rodgers said this week that he will run the 113th running of the race if temperatures stay around under 70 degrees. If not, he’ll likely be an impassioned spectator. “My plan now is to run it,” Rodgers said by phone from Boston, where he still operates his running store. “The last I heard we’re expecting some cool weather. But if it’s hot, I might have to wait until next year. After all, it’s been around for 113 years. I think it will be around next year.”
Runner often don't know how they're body will react to conquering Heartbreak Hill on the Boston Marathon course at about mile 20. Due to the course's proximity to the waters of the eastern Massachusetts coast, weather on Boston Marathon day can be as strong a variant. Races have been run in chilly, rainy conditions as well as in sun drenched heat as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunny skies and temperatures that rose to the high 60s greeted runners at the 2008 race.
Rodgers has completed 15 Boston Marathons, winning four times from 1975 to 1980. He last ran the race in 1999 but did not finish. At age 48, Rodgers last completed the Boston Marathon at its 100th anniversary in 1996 in 2:53. He had planned to run the race in 2008 but recovery from prostate cancer surgery in January 2008 forced him to drop out. The cancer is still a concern for Rodgers, 61, who may face radiation treatment in May. Still, he’s been able to train well for this year’s Boston race, running as much as 70 miles per week. He’s also logged runs of 16, 20, 21 and 23 miles, the latter on the Boston marathon course. “It beat the living daylights out of me,” he says. “I haven’t done such a long run in 10 years. I didn’t drink enough. But training’s going okay.”Rodgers completed the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in Washington, D.C. last weekend, running a 7:10 per mile pace to finish in 1:12.02, 9th in his age group and in 798th place overall.Rodgers has not completed three Boston Marathons three times, a fate he hopes to avoid this year. In addition to the 1999 race, he did not reach the 26.2 mile mark in his Boston Marathon debut in 1973, dropping out at mile 21. He was a victim of a too-fast start on the slight decline in the first few miles and a general naiveté about running marathons on such a demanding course. Oppressive heat stifled Rodgers in the 1977 race, forcing him to drop out a couple of miles from the finish. Rodgers chose to seek cool refuge nearby in the renowned Eliot Lounge, a pub frequented by runners in Boston that closed in 1996. He said with a laugh Thursday that since he will not be near the lead runners he might have to seek out a television in a pub during the race this year to find out who’s winning what will likely be an intriguing race with top U.S. marathoners Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher expected to content for victories. The only time Rodgers remembers walking in a marathon occurred at the Vietnam International Marathon in 1992. He led up to about mile 23 but walked some from there to the finish due to the heat and ended up 19th. Rodgers welcomes walking part of the Boston race on April 20 if required and hopes to break four hours. “I’m not racing on the course,” he says. “I’m retired as a competitive marathoner. I’ve got too many miles in my body. After cancer, it means a lot more to me. If I finish it will feel like a victory. When I ran the 100th Boston, I didn’t race that one. It was pure celebration. That’s what I want this to be.”