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Runner’s World

October 1979

The Heat Is On For 1980

Bill Rodgers Has Reigned as Road-Racing King for Two Years.
Can He Keep His Crown?

For more than two weeks, the Boston area had been smothered in a hot, humid blanket of stagnant air. “It’s 90 by 90 again today,” one disc jockey intoned on Wednesday morning, the last Wednesday in July. One of the 90s referred to the temperature, the other to the humidity. “It gets hot and muggy in the summa,” Bostonians were saying all week, “but nevva for three weeks.”
In the little community of Melrose, a dozen miles to the north of Boston, an exhaust fan whirred in a bedroom window of the second-floor apartment in a weathered green house. It was 10:30 a.m. Birds sat outside the windows making a fuss while the big cat inside ignored them, intent in moving as little as possible in the heavy air.

Ellen Rodgers had just returned to their apartment from a run through suburban Melrose. “I took two steps and felt like turning around and coming back,” she said. “I did four miles, but it felt like 12.”
She slumped in a worn chair in the living room of the apartment she and Bill have been renting for more than four years. The day before the landlady had apologetically told Ellen that since the price of heating oil had gone up $150 during the previous winter, the rent would have to be upped $20 to $185 a month. Ellen said they planned to stay until the house they hope to build on 10 acres of land is ready.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to—a place where I can get some solitude, peace, and quiet,” Bill Rodgers had said the previous day in response to a question on how he manages to relax in an atmosphere of high-pressure business and top-level racing.

Unquestionably, Bill Rodgers is at the zenith of his running career. At 31 years old, he has two goals he hopes to achieve before he’s through—an Olympic gold medal at Moscow next summer and a world record marathon.

As road racing has become a major force on the American sporting scene, Rodgers has thrived professionally and artistically. Since bouncing back from a dismal 40th place in the 1976 Montreal Olympic marathon, Rodgers has dominated the American road-racing scene. He is a three-time winner of the storied Boston Marathon, has won the New York City Marathon the last three years in succession, and has been the American record holder for the marathon since 1875 when he blazed to a2:09:55 in his most memorable Boston triumph. He lowered the American standard by another 28 seconds this year when he ran away from the greatest marathon field ever assembled at Boston with his 2:09:27.

His consistency has been devastating. During the 1978 road-racing season, Rodgers ran in 22 straight races in distances from 10 kilometers to the marathon without tasting defeat.

But at this oppressive moment in the midst of a July heat wave, Rodgers was struggling to climb above a queen-sized bed in their apartment to fix an ancient window fan. The fan won the battle of wills as it, too, succumbed to the heat. Giving up the struggle, Rodgers wandered into the kitchen for a cup of coffee and pondered the 18-mile run ahead of him.

Most of his time when he’s not on the road traveling to some race or clinic is spent running workouts and working at his office. To get to his office at the Bill Rodgers Running Center, he frequently runs. His office is at the back of the Cleveland Circle store, but there are two other stores. Each store is operated by a different manager—Bill’s brother Charlie manages the Cleveland Circle store—and the business is a flourishing one. Rodgers spends most of his time at Cleveland Circle because it is the original and the most laid back. The Quincy Market store in downtown Boston is known as the disco Gucci store (because of its mirrored, well-lighted, modern ambiance), while the Worcester outlet is more mundane.

As Rodgers readied for his morning run, he paced around the apartment like a hypered bird hunting food. Bill tossed down a handful of vitamins and took a sip of electrolyte replacement fluid. Sufficiently nourished until the next feeding, he dashed into the bedroom and came out moments later in blue running shorts and carrying a pair of training flats.

Meanwhile, Ellen had been going through her own pre-run ritual. She filled a canvas bag with mail that had to be answered, carried three cold pizzas left over from the night before out to the car, and filled a large plastic bottle with water. Concerned about dehydrating in the overwhelming heat, Ellen would meet Bill with water at Tufts University and a dairy company along the run.
In a rush, Rodgers was out the front door, followed by the fat cat, and then by Ellen. As Ellen started their decrepit ’73 Volkswagen, Rodgers took off up a hill that began a zigzag course through Melrose with a final destination of Cleveland Circle in Boston. He started slowly but by the time he left Melrose, there was a sheen of sweat covering his bare chest.

At 5’ 8 1/2” and 128 pounds, Rodgers is as lean as any world-class distance runner. His running style is so unique it would be impossible to duplicate, although many have tried. Seemingly, he spends most of his run airborne as he lands only briefly on the front outside of each foot and is ready immediately to push off again. Randy Thomas has said that he has never seen a photograph of Bill in a race where he wasn’t pictured in mid-air.

The 18-mile run was coming on the heels of two quality workouts the day before. After going 12 miles the previous morning, Rodgers joined two Greater Boston Track Club teammates—Dickie Mahoney and Vinnie Fleming—for an interval workout at the Boston College track. Despite the unbearable heat, the trio had covered one of the five one-mile intervals in 4:20. For Mahoney, it was the fastest mile he had ever run in a workout. While Rodgers was able to complete the workout with only a ¼-mile recovery jog between each mile repeat, his teammates had to drop out.

After the workout Rodgers said, “If Greg Meyer [a Rodgers employee who holds the American road record for 10 and 25 kilometers] had been there, he’d have really smoked me. Greg would have unleashed a 4:08 just to see if he could put me in my place. Greg is really going to be something if he’d quit trying to do everything—track, steeple-chasing, road racing, cross-country—in a year. He’s going to be incredible. But right now, Greg’s got a summer cold. I guess the heat must have gotten to him.”

The heat has always been Rodgers’ nemesis. Only rare has he run well in the heat. But with the Falmouth Road Race only a couple of weeks away and with the World Cup Marathon in Montreal a week after that, Bill was doing everything possible to prime himself for those two races, which he expected to be hot ones.

However, for the upcoming weekend Rodgers would be racing a 10-miler in Milwaukee in the Schlitz Light road-racing series that was being hyped by the Wisconsin press as being one of the big races of the year because Frank Shorter would be there.
For Rodgers, the race was developing into one big headache. Two weeks before in Denver’s mile-high altitude, Shorter (who lives and trains at altitude) had beaten Bill in a 10-kilometer race. Half of the phone calls Rodgers had received since the race had been inquiries into Shorter’s condition, his recovery from injuries and foot surgery, or the callers wanted to know Rodgers’ opinion if Shorter would make the Olympic team for the third time. The Milwaukee press also wanted to play up the resumption of the classic duel between America’s two greatest marathoners.

“If they want to know about Frank, why don’t they call Frank?” Rodgers asked. “They don’t call Frank because Frank won’t talk to them. So they call me to talk about Frank. They all think I’ve been king of the roads the last two years because the real king’s been taking care of his injuries, just waiting to come back and take another medal in the Olympics. I’ve been working hard and running well the last two years, and anyone who checks the times I’ve been turning in can see that they’ve been better than Frank’s. I’ve run four marathons faster than Frank’s best [2:10:30], but because he wasn’t up to par in the races we’ve both entered over the past two years, everyone acts as though my wins have been hollow.

“I respect Frank and what he’s accomplished. As far as the Olympics go, he’s been hot on those two races, and he deserves respect for that ability. But as far as consistency goes, no one’s even come close to me over the past two years. And when I enter a race, I don’t ask first if Frank Shorter is going to be there. There’s no duel between Frank and I, except the duel that the fans and the press make up. When I got to a race I go to race the course and other runners. I don’t key on Frank Shorter. Some people think Frank invented running. I was running and racing for seven years before I ever heard of Frank Shorter.

“It’s really starting to annoy me this year. I ran 35 races last year and this year I’ll have run about 25. I take it easy during the summer, except for a few key races. I aim for the fall. That’s my serious racing time—September, October, November. I can’t believe some people, though. After a few races that I’ve lost, people come up to me and act as though I’ve personally offended them by losing. One guy after one race that I lost came up and said to me, ‘I brought my kid all the way here to see you race and you lost. You disappointed my kid.’ I mean, what’s that all about, ya know? I disappointed his kid?
“Just wait until the fall. The summer is just for a workout. The fall’s when I get serious.”

Rodgers was acting very serious about Falmouth—and about Frank Shorter. He was striding along Memorial Drive, next to the Charles River, which flowed as sluggishly as the air moved. There were hundreds of lunch-time runners doing their workouts along the asphalt and concrete walkway. Rodgers flew by them as though they were struggling to run underwater, while he glided by on waterskis. Occasionally someone Rodgers was approaching would see him rushing at them, do a quick double-take and recover in time to raise a salute and shout a quick, “Hey, Billy Rodgers,” to which Rodgers would respond with a wave, never breaking stride.

With two miles left in the run, Rodgers passed Ellen as she waited for him before he crossed the Charles River. “See if you can get them to turn up the heat,” he quipped. “I need more heat.”

At Boston in 1977, the heat had done him in and he’d wandered off the course after leading in the early part. Canadian Jerome Drayton had gone on to win while Rodgers had gone on to the Eliot Lounge. Bill knew Falmouth would be hot. (“It’s only been cool one year as far as I can remember,” he said, “and then it was only in the 60s.”)

Now, he wanted more heat as he readied for Milwaukee. As he’s managed to overcome some of his anxieties going into major races during the last few years, now he wanted to overcome his weakness to heat. The Boston weather was providing the perfect training for beating the heat. With each call from a Milwaukee paper or television station wanting an interview, Rodgers got an update on their weather. All week the report had been: “It’s hot and muggy here.” With each report, Rodgers would shake his head knowingly.

For the final two miles of the run, Rodgers opened it up as he dodged heave noon traffic. He sprinted across an intersection to beat the light and then slowed in the final block as he cooled down before descending the stairs into the running store.

The Cleveland Circle store is a small one. There are the usual racks of running clothes and books, the walls are covered with posters of store employees (such as Patti Lyons, Greg Meyer, and, of course, Bill), there is a corner for race announcements, and there is a dressing room and a small shower in the back. The store is usually teeming with local runners meeting for a training run, employees discussing their latest injury, trip, or triumph and the omnipresent tourist/gawker looking for a glimpse or a word of wisdom from Bill.

As Bill entered the store after his hard 18-miler, several customers eyed him. One man, dressed in Rodgers raingear despite the heat, pulled his four-year-old son after him as he made his way toward where Bill was talking with several runners. The man approached as though stalking a rare bird and Rodgers, noticing him out of the corner of his eye, responded as he has done numerous times before when exposed to crowds. His response to intrusion is usually a bird-like retreat, his head snapping back. Bill smiled quickly as the man wen through the ritual of introducing his son, urging his son to perform for Mr. Rodgers by telling him that they’d stood out in the rain and cold in April to watch Bill whiz by on his way to victory. Bill’s head moved like a bird’s, paying half-attention to what the man was saying, the other half of his mind seemingly checking out the surroundings, looking for a safe branch to leap to if things went badly. “Mmmmm,” Bill Rodgers said, his delicate hand coming up to stroke his chin, a frown creasing his forehead. He smiled slightly, his hand still on his chin. “Are you gonna be a runner when you grow up?” he asked the boy. “He sure is,” the boy’s father answered.

Bill nodded his head seriously, stepped back one pace and turned back to his brother before walking up several steps into the warehouse section of the store. The entire sequence of events had been repeated hundreds, even thousands of times at weekend races across the country: The bird-like movements, the attempt to be attentive to people he does not know, the quip to have something to say, the impression to a detached observer that he is looking for an escape route. “I just have a tendency to space out in crowds,” he said. “Sometimes I’m so spaced out the day before a race that I’ll walk right past someone I’ve known for 10 years and not even see them. Ellen tells me what I’ve doe afterwards, and I can’t believe it. She makes herself responsible for saying hello for me to people I don’t see.”

The warehouse section of the store contains racks of Bill Rodgers running clothing. Two employees spend all day taking rainsuits in bright colors featuring a “BR” logo (with a silhouette of Rodger in full stride between the “B” and the “R”) from the racks and stuffing them into shipping boxes. There are also boxes of running shorts, T-shirts, singlets, and Bill’s white gloves (painters’ gloves that Rodgers wears on cold days at the races) to ship out.

Rodgers’ clothing line is a year-old enterprise. Bill and Ellen own 52 percent of it, while Charlie Rodgers, Rob Yahn (who handled Shorter’s line of running gear before Frank fired him), Russ McCarter (the business manager) own the remaining 48 percent of the company. Rodgers has plans to expand his mail order clothing business and add more items to his line.
Beyond the clothing warehouse in the store are the corporate offices. Ellen and Bill share one of the offices. After sequestering himself in his office, Rodgers stretched for a few minutes while Ellen turned down a race promoter in the Midwest.
“You want something to eat?” she asked Bill.

“Not right now,” he said. “I don’t have much of an appetite.” He grabbed a dry T-shirt on the way down the hall to a shower. A few minutes later he was back in the office, his hair wet and unkempt, his glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. He sat down on the outside of an L-shaped desk and began answering his mail in longhand. He is good at answering letters, believing it is courtesy he owes his admirers.

A charity wanted to know if he could send them some used shoes for a fund-raising drive. He went into the closet in the office and dug through various size-nine running shoes that were piled there: Spalding, New Balance, Puma, and Adidas. Although he is under contract to Tiger to wear their shoes in competition, he does try other brands of shoes to stay current on their development. Etonic is currently trying to establish an association with him. Etonic would develop, with his input, a Bill Rodgers shoe that would contain all the features he feels are important to a well-made training flat. (Charlie Rodgers said that the Etonic Street Fighter has been the best-selling shoe in the store for the past 18 months and that Etonic is highly capable of making another first-rate training shoe.)

Rodgers selected a pair of Spalding and Puma training flats, autographed them, and looked for boxes to package them and send them off to the charity.

Ellen answered the phone intercom and said, “A reporter from Milwaukee.”

“Okay,” he said, “give it to me. As long as he isn’t going to ask me about Shorter.” He shook his head, taking the phone. He listened intently for a moment then rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Well, I really can’t answer that,” he said. “Have you tried calling Frank Shorter to see how he feels?” The conversation went on a few more minutes and, a moment after he hung the phone back in its cradle, he asked about the weather. When he heard the reply he grinned as he hung up, rubbing his hands together. “Hey, can somebody turn up the heat?” he called to no one in particular.

“Now I’m ready to eat,” he said, getting up to go to the refrigerator. Most definitely, the infamous Rodgers’ diet is not a key to his success. He came back to the office lugging a loaf of bread, a bar of cream cheese, a jar of olives, a jar of pickled herring, and a pitcher of some electrolyte fluid that The Runnery, another Boston-area store, had invented.

He took a sip and smiled. “Tastes like liquid Jello,” he said, downing a bit more. A moment later he took the lid off the jar of olives, drinking the liquid out of it as though it were fine wine. “Love it,” he said. “Love pickle juice, too.” He popped an olive into his mouth and pulled a jar of peanut butter from his desk drawer, trying to decide if he wanted to put cream cheese or peanut butter on the bread. He opted for the cream cheese, topping it with olives he broke in half, all the while pulling pieces of herring from the jar, picking out the onions and throwing them into the trash can. He washed it down with the Jello-like electrolyte replacement. Then he began working on the olive and cream cheese sandwich.

To top off his “meal,” he went back to the refrigerator and came back with a slice of cold pizza from the night before; it had extra cheese and anchovies. “Salty little devils,” he said.

The night before he had gotten together with several couples to watch television and eat pizza. One of the shows on the educational television station concerned the wandering of a monarch butterfly following its emergence into a seemingly hostile world. Rodgers is a butterfly collector, and while he sat, entranced, his brother glibly rattled off the Latin names of the various insects that were attempting to turn the monarch into a meal. Bill characteristically ate his pizza with mayonnaise. The butterfly never got eaten.

While he was munching on the cold pizza, Ellen mentioned that he had an appointment with a reporter and photographer from Cape Cod who wanted to interview him about Falmouth. They wanted to go for a short run with him before the interview. Bill shoved down the last of the pizza and went back to the bathroom to change into shorts and shoes. Ellen arranged to have the reporter and photographer outfitted in Rodgers running gear; they seemed slightly awkward about the whole thing and were a good deal overweight for runners. Bill exchanged greetings with a few friends who were trying to get together a group to go for an afternoon run in the heat and humidity, and then headed in the direction of Boston College, a half-mile away.

While Ellen returned phone calls, Charlie Rodgers stopped by to drop into a director’s chair. “Whew,” he said, “some heat, huh?” Charlie, or Chuck, or Chuck-Wagon, is a year older than Bill. “Our mother was a practicing Catholic,” Charlie said. “She didn’t leave too much time elapse between having kids. I came along in December of 1946, Billy in December of 1947, and Martha came along 13 months after Billy. Then she stopped until ’56 when Linda came along.

Bill and Charlie were born in Hartford and grew up in Newington, Conn. Both Charlie and Bill ran in high school. Their track was a rutted dirt one around a football field. Training in high school was very rigid. There were extensive calisthenics that were followed by interval workouts every afternoon, where the distance men were expected to run just as quickly as the sprinters. There was no overdistance work; any additional training had to come from within the runner himself.

Charlie tells the story of how he and the rest of the cross-country team used to go to a girlfriend’s to talk and drink Coke and relax while they were supposed to be out on road workouts. Bill was the only one conscientious enough to do the entire workout with stopping off for a rest or a snack. In his senior year in high school, Bill astonished the rest of his team by doing roadwork one day and, seeing a sign for the next town that indicated it was six miles away, headed off to visit that town, where he turned around and came back.

Bill put in extra mileage simply because he liked to run, not because he was intelligent enough about running to know that overdistance was needed. He became state champion in cross-country, frequently competing against and beating Amby Burfoot’s brother.

Burfoot, who would eventually win the 1968 Boston Marathon, was going to college at the time at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. “I used to go to high school cross-country meets to cheer my brother on against that hotshot Rodgers,” Burfoot said.

Rodgers’ cross-country accomplishments brought scholarship offers. Among the colleges he checked out was Wesleyan. While visiting the school, he met Amby, who explained the running program. Burfoot was a sophomore at the time, while future Olympian Jeff Galloway was a junior. Rodgers liked the fact that the runners he talked to enjoyed running, instead of seeing it as a chore.

“When Billy came to Wesleyan, he was pretty uptight about his training,” Burfoot said. “He’d had a tight, regimented background in high school. His coach was very strict. Billy couldn’t conceive of doing a workout without checking with the coach first. For Billy, the coach was the fountain to whom every runner went for inspiration.”

That attitude didn’t last forever. “Amby taught me to relax more and enjoy running. Jeff went so far as to offer to help me with homework, if I got behind, and I took him up on it several times,” Rodgers said.

While Rodgers and Burfoot roomed together, they concentrated o achieving goals in running that pretty much represented their divergent styles.

For Rodgers, the goal was a sub-9:00 two-mile. In his senior year he accomplished his goal. For Burfoot, the goal was to win Boston, which he did in 1968.

“It seemed to me that after he’d reached that goal, he just gave up running,” Amby recalled. Rodgers claims that he gave up running because there were more important things to worry about. It was the year of the national college strikes against Vietnam and Rodgers didn’t bother showing up for spring track practice.

Both Billy and Charlie received conscientious-objector deferments. Charlie speaks of his alternate service at an alcoholic detox hospital with fondness. Bill’s was a less positive experience. He was working as an orderly wheeling dead and dying patients around Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, living in Jamaica Plains, and would eventually be fired fro the job for trying to organize the workers into a union.

By this time, Ellen and Bill had met in a bar. Both were working drudge jobs in hospitals and each was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Bill was only running sporadically at a small indoor track at the local YMCA. Although he had given up serious running, there was apparently still a flickering of interest remaining.

Ellen’s reaction to Bill’s first trip to the YMCA to go running was not exactly a positive one. “I though, ‘What is this? He wants to go running more than he wants to see me?’ I eventually changed my perspective on his priorities,” she said.

It was also during that period that Bill and Ellen Rodgers loaded all their worldly belongings into their battered Dodge van and headed for the West Coast. Once they were there, however, they began to feel displaced and homesick, and returned to Boston.

“I’m not exactly sure why we came back,” Bill said. “I guess it was a combination of things. We weren’t doing very well in Boston. We were pretty close to broke and I guess we believed all the press California had gotten as the state of opportunity. When we got there, though, we checked out Marin County and saw how expensive everything was. I’d hoped to find the ideal place to run in California, but we soon saw that we couldn’t afford to stay there. We began driving south, counting the $200 we had left. We turned east at San Jose.”

“I remember one day at a race in Wesleyan,” Amby Burfoot recalled. “As I topped a hill at the three mile mark, I saw this pale-looking guy with blonde hair down to his shoulders in a fatigue jacket standing along the side of the road. I did about 16 double-takes as I went by. It was Billy. He apparently was still interested in running, but was watching it from the sidelines.”

Burfoot recalled an incident of a few years later. It was February of 1973 and there was a 30-kilometer race from Hopkinton, along the Boston Marathon course, as a warm-up for Boston. “I saw Bill jogging around Hopkinton I a pair of grungy, torn sweatpants and a torn sweatshirt,” Burfoot said. “I embraced him warmly. I hadn’t seen him in several years. I thought to myself, ‘Gee, this is great that Billy is at least getting back into jogging a bit. Running used to mean so much to him.’ Jogging, huh? When I reached the 10-mile mark in 49:49 and he was still on my shoulder, I knew that he wasn’t merely out jogging, but was making a comeback. He eventually fell back a little and took third place. I won that one, but it was one of the last times I’d ever beat Billy. He was serious about coming back. He’d been training seriously for nine months. He’d once again gotten his life under control.”
March of 1975 was a turning point in Rodgers’ life. He made the American team going to the World Cross-Country Championships in Morocco. He took third place and, although that gave him no status in American racing, it gave him a niche among international runners.

A month later, inspired by Amby Burfoot, Bill entered the Boston Marathon for the third time. “I was finding my distances,” he said, “and the road races were the kind of running I was really feeling comfortable with. Amby had tried to talk me into doing some road racing in college but I resisted. As it turns out, he was right. I was wasting my time at the two-mile and other shorter distances.” He proceeded to set the American marathon record at Boston with a blistering 2:09:55, during a race where he took three drink stops and stopped once to tie his shoe.

The rest is history.

He was now back from his “run” with the overweight reporter and photographer. They were changing into their civvies while he cooled down in his office. “I dunno,” he said. “It gets harder all the time. I’m not enjoying the running as much as I used to. Some of the workouts are becoming too much like work. I’ll be glad when the Olympics are over. So much rides on the Olympics. If I can take a medal, our business will be pretty much set. If…”

Ellen interjected. “Fred called again today.” Fred is Fred Lebow, president of the New York Road Runners Club and race director of the New York City Marathon. A battle has been developing between Rodgers and Lebow. Lebow wants to award “expense money” to top runners on the basis of how they finish the marathon. Rodgers, a three-time champion in the race, feels his expense should be negotiated, and should have nothing to do with how he finishes this year’s marathon. “What does he think, that I’m going to run it at half-throttle if I get my expenses going in?”

Rodgers feels Lebow is screwing the athletes. “They’re playing around over there [in New York] with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He tried to screw Randy Thomas last year, and Randy Thomas would have been my toughest competition. You saw what happened. Randy didn’t go to New York. I’m still not decided what I’ll do this year. New York isn’t really an important marathon for me, but I would like to win it again.

“All this amateur stuff is so hypocritical. The AAU acts as though no one is going to respect us just because we may earn a decent living by what we do if people know we get paid for it. Maybe they think that money corrupts. It seems to me that you can run a lot more relaxed if you don’t have to be worried about how you’re going to pay your bills. It’s absurd. They won’t even allow me to be pictured in ads.

“The AAU won’t allow a runner to have an agent, either, other than a literary agent. Instead, if he’s married his wife ends up working as his agent. Or he works it himself. Ellen has the job of having to say no for me, of lining up appointments and making travel arrangements. It’s a strain on her. Everybody sees her as a bitch when all she’s trying to do is give me time in my schedule to run, and to protect me from being screwed by some race promoter.
“Now the AAU wants to be our agent. They want to be the agent for all their athletes. Set up the deals and all. Now, for $25,000 in their pocket, the athletes are no longer going to have to worry with a major company. It’s like buying amateurism. I have two no-money-to-me contracts sitting here now they couldn’t get anyone else to take. Nothing’s happened on them yet, and I won’t be broken-hearted if nothing happens.

“Someday the Olympics are going to be open competition. It’s up to the AAU to define our role in international competition. They’re making some progress over the past few years, but there’s a long way to go yet to put us on an equal footing with the Eastern countries. And if we want to make the kind of showing we can in things like the Olympics, we’re going to have to come up with some way that athletes can make a living from their sport.” He laughed. “We’re not like football and baseball players. We’re throw-away athletes. We’re on top for a few years and they we’re gone. We’re not a baseball player who can have a multi-million dollar contract that covers five or 10 years even if they’re sitting on the bench. If we don’t set things up to make a living running while we’re running well, we’re going to be on the sidelines watching it go by. Nobody wants yesterday’s runner.”
Outside the office there was a stirring and Charlie stuck his head in. “You ready to talk to those two guys from Cape Cod?”

“Yeah, sure,” Bill Rodgers said. “They probably want to talk about Frank Shorter.” He laughed, pulled himself out of his chair to go usher the reporter and photographer into the office. He turned just before he disappeared around the doorframe, and said to Ellen: “See if you can have the heat turned up at the apartment, okay?”

[The following weekend, when Rodgers met Frank Shorter in the 10-mile race in Milwaukee, Shorter again won. The Olympic year will undoubtedly be a hot one for Bill Rodgers.]