On the 20th anniversary of Bill Rodgers' 1979 Boston Marathon vistory, it seems only fitting that we choose this photo for discussion. It was a race that happened at the peak of the "running boom" of the late 70's and early 80's. Boston was one of this country's running "hot spots" of this time. Along with Boulder (CO), Gainsville (FL), and Eugene (OR), Boston had developed a kind of running sub-culture. One of the by-products of this Boston running scene was the influx and development of both local and imported athletes. At that point in time, the Greater Boston Track Club (GBTC) was one of the strongest road racing and cross country teams in the country. It was an ideal situation for any young runner with talent, who wanted to train with the best. In addition to Bill Rodgers, Randy Thomas, Bob Hodge, Dan Dillon, and Dick Mahoney, there would soon be Greg Myer and Mike Roach. Kevin Ryan of New Zealand was living in Boston and was also a frequent training partner with this group. Under the coaching of Bill Squires, the group of runners blossomed.
So here we were at the Boston Marathon 1979, at the peak of the running boom, with a great field including Japan's Toshihiko Seko, Gary Bjorklund, Tom Fleming, Don Kardong, as well as Kevin Ryan and few other guys; Rodgers, Hodge, Thomas, and Mahoney, representing the GBTC.
As the race began to develop, Tom Fleming took the lead, a lead which became substantial. Behind him was a large pack; including Rodgers, Seko, Ryan, Mahoney, Kardong, Hodge, and Thomas. The lead pack contained four members of the GBTC. Bjorklund went after Fleming, and passed him. Rodgers and Seko also passed Fleming,, and caught Bjorklund. They passed him and went on to finish 1 - 2. Rodgers dropped Seko on a downhill in Newton, making a strong case for a #1 world ranking in the marathon. (see Classic Corner archives - "The Moment") The rest of the pack fought their private battles and the top 10 finished:
1. B. Rodgers (GBTC) 2:09:27 cr
2. T. Seko 2:10:12
3. R. Hodge (GBTC) 2:12:30
4. T. Fleming 2:12:56
5. G. Bjorklund 2:13:14
6. K. Ryan 2:13:57
7. B. Doyle 2:14:04
8. R. Thomas (GBTC) 2:214:12
9. H. Atkins 2:14:17
10. R. Mahoney (GBTC) 2:14:36
This was an awesome showing for a local track club. But it was really a reflection of this reqional runners excellence. Boston probably had more 30 - 35 min. 10k runners than any other place on earth. This was a time to go for it. Talent was the only limiting factor. People who did not have much talent were running 70, 80, 100 miles a week, and running 2:35 marathons. This phenomenon went all the way to the top. Dick Mahoney, formerly a good college runner and in 1979, a postman, started to run his miles; well over 100 miles a week. It paid off. Dick ran 2:14:36 for 10th place. Awesome. It was a great period of time to be a runner in Boston, and the 1979 Boston Marathon, with the GBTC taking four of the top ten places was a great example of what is possible if you go for it!