I just met and interviewed Bill Rodgers, one of the legends of the marathon and a man partially responsible for the running boom of the 1970s. Just take a look at his bio, which includes eight victories in the Boston and New York Marathons.
He is also a beer runner.
“Runners are the ultimate celebration people,” he told me. “Running is just so intense, you’re really experiencing life to the fullest. And after you do that, you reward yourself.”
Specifically, he’s talking about a beer reward.
I remember Dr. George Sheehan used to say, ‘Have a beer at the end of the race,'” he said, citing running’s most respected sage. “You’re dehydrated, but you’re also celebrating.”
He’s even had the occasional beer during his race. One such occasion came during his first international road race in Puerto Rico in 1974, which happened to coincide with a local holiday that brought out celebrating locals.
“Sometimes you’ll get a glass of rum or beer handed to you during the race,” he said. “That happens at the Boston Marathon too, with all the college students along the course.”
I had the opportunity to talk with Rodgers in Roanoke, Virginia, where he is in town like me for the Blue Ridge Marathon. This race is labeled the world’s toughest road marathon, and the monster hills convinced me to limit myself to the half marathon.
Rodgers said he sees unique races like this that challenge running in new ways — much like trail races, ultra runs, mud races and others — are fueling a new running boom.
“More and more cities are putting on a big race, and every one has something they’re known for,” he said. “This race is going to stand for the challenge of the hills and the beauty of this area.”
Rodgers said he continues to see the sport of running evolve. When he was racing at an elite level, he said some races did not look favorably on serving alcohol. Rodgers said he never agreed with that stance, and is glad to see so many races today host post-run celebrations witha cold adult beverage.
Nowhere was that more apparent this year than at the Boston Marathon, which served the specially brewed 26.2 Brew from Samuel Adams. Rodgers said he enjoyed that beer before the race.
“It’s good,” he said. “I like Sam Adams.”
It’s easy to see Rodgers as someone who can let loose and enjoy a beer, even as someone who raced at an elite level and held American records. He’s gregarious, extremely friendly, and doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.
When asked about his most important piece of advice for runners, he didn’t hesitate. And it didn’t have to do with gear, training or some secret mileage formula.
“Have fun with your running,” he said. “I always tell people, if you have fun with your running, you’re going to stay with it.”