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Bill Rodgers and Pre Race Napa

I would be remiss if I didn’t share my Napa Valley Marathon excitement about another celebrity attendee: Bill Rodgers. Boston Billy is one of the greatest American marathoners of all time and a distance running ICON. Few people anywhere can match Bill Rodgers’ magnetic personality as well as the ferocity with which he used to race.
While I’ve never met Joan Benoit Samuelson (see ) I have met Bill Rodgers although I am completely sure he would have absolutely no recollection of our encounter. 
It was 1993, two days before the New York City marathon and I was doing a nice little loosening up kind of run in Central Park. As I approached the intersection of two park roads, lo and behold, there is Bill Rodgers. I pick up the pace a little and say “Hi Bill” (impressive, right?). Bill says, “How’s it goin’?” That was all the encouragement I needed and thus began a conversation that lasts a couple of miles while I do everything in my power to keep up and chat with Boston Billy. My log says it best, 11/12/93 Central Park – NY 5 miles. good pace. Ran with Bill Rodgers for a while. Might have been too fast.  
The next day (Saturday) I ran 9 miles. Yes, I said 9 on the day BEFORE a marathon (and I wasn’t even a marathon rookie, although it was my first time in New York). I can’t blame the nine on Bill, I have to blame it on a woman named Patty McCloskey, who at the time was a Marketing Director for Nike. We chatted and chatted. She was very good company and we even saw Alberto Salazar on that run (no way we caught him). My log says: 9 miles. Central Park. Ran way too fast. Too make a long story short, I did not run very well the next day (3:43:42 – my worst up till that point).

Interestingly, 18 years later, it is not the race I remember. It’s the fun I had prior to the race. Maybe if you’re in the running for the big prize or going after an important PR (personal record), the race is all that counts. The beauty of something like a marathon is that it’s more than a race, it’s an event. Thirty to forty years ago I’d have told you that was a crock. Since then I guess I have mellowed (of course it’s easier to mellow once you’ve slowed down considerably).

My plan this weekend is to run at home on Friday before my flight (where I will see no celebrities) and alone on Saturday. You see, I learned my lesson from 1993. Of course this all goes out the door if I run into Bill Rodgers and he says something I can’t resist, like “How’s it goin’?”