William Henry "Bill" Rodgers (born December 23, 1947) is an American runner and former American record holder in the marathon who is best known for his four victories in the Boston Marathon, including three straight 1978-1980 and the New York City Marathon between 1976 and 1980.
Rodgers won both races four times each between 1975 and 1980, twice breaking the American record at Boston with a time of 2:09:55 in 1975 and 2:09:27 in 1979. In 1977, he won the Fukuoka Marathon, making him the only runner ever to hold the championship of all three major marathons at the same time. He made the 1976 U.S. Olympic team and raced the marathon at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, finishing 40th. He did not participate in the Olympics in 1980 due to the U.S. boycott over the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR.
In 1975, Rodgers won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, equaling Tracy Smith's 1966 bronze in the International Cross Country Championships as the highest an American had ever finished in international cross country competition. Rodgers' most remarkable year on the road racing circuit came in 1978 when he won 27 of the 30 races he entered, including the Pepsi 10 km nationals (with a new world road 10 km best time of 28:36.3), the Falmouth Road Race, and the Boston & New York marathons. Rodgers is also the former world record holder for 25 kilometers as he broke Pekka Päivärinta's world record with a time of 1:14.11.8 on a track at West Valley College in Saratoga, California in 1979.
Track & Field News ranked Rodgers #1 in the world in the marathon in 1975, 1977 and 1979. Of the 59 marathons Rodgers ran, 28 were run under 2:15. In all he won 22 marathons in his career. He came to be referred to by sportswriters and others as "Boston Billy".
Rodgers received his B.A. in sociology from Wesleyan University. One of his teammates, Amby Burfoot, won the Boston Marathon while still a student and went on to edit Runner's World magazine. Rodgers also has an MS in special education from Boston College.
Rodgers was inducted on December 3, 1999, in Los Angeles, California to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame located in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1998, Rodgers was inducted in the first round to the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, New York.
Bill Rodgers Running Center in Faneuil Hall Market Place in Boston, Massachusetts was owned and operated by Bill and his brother Charlie. The family-run business operated from 1977 to 2013. He currently lives in the small town of Boxborough, Massachusetts and still participates in running-themed events.
Bill Rodgers' Phoenix Connection
In the Fall of 1978, a customer happened into the fledgling Phoenix running store, Runner's Den, and mentioned he had met Bill Rodgers. Bill said he had once passed through Phoenix and had always wanted to return to get to know the city, look for arrowheads and perhaps run a race.
At the time, Bill was the best known runner in the world, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, Runner's World, Runner, Running Times and other sports periodicals while Runner's Den had recently opened in the Valley and was just getting its footing.
Bill was in the midst of winning Boston and New York 4 times each, and just about every other major road race in the U.S. Runner's Den was trying to determine how much Shoe Goo to stock. Seemed like a logical partnership.
Discussions ensued and Bill, who was looking for a winter place to race and train for the 1979 Boston Marathon, committed to run what would become the inaugural Runner's Den 10,000 Meter Run scheduled for February 4, 1979. (Bill went on to win Boston in '79 setting the American record at 2:09:27. He didn't win at Runner's Den)
From that first successful year, Bill's relationship with Phoenix and the stature of the race grew. Shortly after that first race, Bill did an interview from Phoenix which was featured on the cover of Runner's World magazine. As a result, the following year's race exploded competitively, attracting elite athletes from around the country and later, the world.
Bill became a fixture on the winter Valley running scene. He bought a second home to escape the brutal Boston winters and he became a regular participant in the Runner's Den Classic Road Race plus several other area races. He participated in 11 of the first 13 editions plus numbers 15, 20, 25 and 40. Runner's Den, as the race became known during the 80's, evolved into a world class event producing an American record of 28:11 and the deepest field of sub-30 minute 10K performances ever recorded in one race (52 in 1985).
It might be noted that although Bill has never won the race, he did finish second place in years #1 and #2 and third in #20, at the age of 51. This, perhaps is his most impressive feat in all his years at Runner's Den!
After his successful return last year for our 40th anniversary, Bill will be joining us again at our 2019 edition.
Our Race and the City of Phoenix couldn't be happier.