Original Bill Rodgers Running Center -
In loving memory of our dear friend, Jim “Jason” Kehoe, assistant manager of the Bill Rodgers Running Center, who passed away at his home in Hull, Massachusetts Sunday June 3, 2012 of natural causes at age 64. Jason worked at the store since it first opened in Cleveland Circle in the fall of 1977. Before that he had grown up with Bill & Charlie Rodgers in Newington, Connecticut where Jason was the miler on the Newington High School track team when Bill was the star two miler. With a piercing wit this wry purveyor of truth was an uncompromising contrarian who lived his life his way, the whole way.
MBTA Green Line in Cleveland Circle
With the great herd of college students having long since migrated, and the remainder of native Boston either down on the Cape, or up hugging some warm New Hampshire shore line, it was on weekends that the city sank deepest into its long summer torpor. Out in Cleveland Circle only the MBTA Green Line trolley cut through the sludge of the afternoon hours, its trains pulling vacantly into their yard with the screech of forged wheels over curved rails, there to await their next run east down Beacon into town.
Across the way at the small running shop on Chestnut Hill Avenue another week of retail neared its end as the clock over the cash register tugged toward five o’clock. Sitting on the stairs between the store’s two levels with his elbows propped on knees and palms cupping a long bearded face framed by a mane of lank, sandy hair was the assistant manager. He peered out at a lone customer meandering the sales floor picking through oddly placed cardboard boxes and cluttered display racks.
“It’s brutal being polite to people all day,” sighed the assistant. ”In fact, it’s not healthy. You’re not being honest.”
Though the assistant manager carried his alienation like a badge of honor, with each turn of the clock his psyche continued to sag, until like descent into Dante’s imagination he had transformed from a public servant into a private avenger in need of a cleansing purge. This was the price of retail, the slow captured grind.
At long last the closing hour came and went, the final customers ushered out. With heads low, but spirits rising, the crew filed out back behind the stockroom into their small, two-stall shower room. There they changed into their running gear before meeting out front to stretch anxious muscles in preparation for their weekly run to oblivion and back.
Sitting just west of Cleveland Circle the Chestnut Hill Reservoir formed a natural break between the city’s hard surface and the leafy Boston College campus. Situated as it was, it had long been one of the area’s most popular running destinations with its two grand waterworks’ buildings posing like art museums along the rim of its southern shore.
Many of the Saturday afternoon regulars would loop the one and three-quarter miles of the Rez as part of their daily routine. But on these late Saturday afternoons it was no more than a link in a much longer span, as this was more than just another training run. For most it took on the importance once reserved for religious observation, a service-at-speed to reawaken a deeply felt connection to a more visceral set of truths than could be found between the covers of a hymnal or hard upon the pew fronting any altar.
The first few miles out Beacon were for bringing systems to speed, monitoring past stresses, and initiating a rhythm. Minor key exchanges accompanied those minutes, nothing serious or threatening, certainly nothing to point to the coming savagery. That it would come was enough. To speak of it was to corrupt it, like ballplayers discussing an impending no-hitter. And so in the beginning, in the pregnancy of effort, with many miles before them shimmering in the distance, the pack remained little more than a moving meritocracy, poignant potentials of past strengths and weaknesses, each man a willing celebrant to the ritual’s paced liturgy ahead. Continue reading