In this excerpt from the archives of my old Runners Digest Radio show in Boston, we go on-the-run with marathon legend Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion of the mid-to-late 1970s. During our run Bill talks about his transition from ex-college runner to resurrected marathon runner.

Runner's Digest
Runner’s Digest
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975
Bill Rodgers, 2:09:55 American Record, Boston 1975


In my previous post, THE FESTIVALIZATION OF SPORT, I suggested today’s young seem, on the whole, less rigorously competitive than previous generations. There are far more options these days, but perhaps part of it has to do with the stresses today’s youth are under as a matter of every day experience — not to mention how the expectations of yesteryear and those of today do not nearly match up with one another either.


In the aftermath of World War II many nations had to dig out of devastation, left with the psychic remains of shattered lives.  My mother was one who saw her world destroyed, but was fortunate to find refuge in America, which sat alone and free. This gave her Baby Boom children the freedom to dedicate themselves to youthful ways well into their adult years.  While the youth of today remain at home much longer , Boomers had the luxury to remain more infantile longer.

When I moved from St. Louis to Boston in August of 1973, I shared a two-bedroom, one bath apartment with three friends.  We paid $160/month, $40 each.  I had just left Washington University in St. Louis, a well-regarded liberty arts institution. In looking through some old papers in the attic of my parent’s house 40 years later I found a receipt for my final semester from the early 1970s, $1250.

Today, the same apartment that we paid $160 for in Boston is now $1525/month, while a semester at Wash. U. in St. Louis is $22,420 and rising.

Could this be why American kids in the 21st century seek less strident forms of release?



  1. Toni,

    I always love your posts but this one especially hit the nail on the head for me. I don’t really have much optimism for the future (I am 23) but I think that’s part of the reason I train. And I don’t mean to imply that we have it harder than other generations – quite the opposite in fact. We certainly didn’t live through the Great Depression or fight a World War. It just seems like we really are resigned to a future of entrenched power systems, debt, and the decline of the middle class. In the face of what sometimes seems like inevitable decline, it’s nice to know that there is something out there that I can still control, work hard it, and find results in. There is always truth and achievement to be found in those spent miles.

    Thanks for never letting me forget that. You’re the best, Toni.

    1. Thanks for the reply, Eric. “There is always truth and achievement to be found in those spent miles”. Exactly. That’s what people who don’t try hard don’t get and are missing out on. It isn’t the pace or the race, it’s the purity of the effort in excavating the truth that lies deep within each of us that only we as individuals can uncover. Running is just a particularly good tool for the job. That’s why we sing its many praises and laud its constant cause.

      People misconstrue the intent of this discussion. Ours is not to belittle the slower among us, rather to encourage the exploration for its own sake.

  2. Well said, Toni. There is more feedback recently that the “Everyone’s amazing. Everyone’s a winner. Everyone gets a medal” era is being questioned by the very generation who was raised that way. If everyone is amazing and everyone is a winner, then nobody is truly special. People strive for specialness, but most people are not fools; they know if they earned it or not. Read Bill Rodgers’ “Marathon Man” to see how driven and competitive he was (and yet was still a nice guy with good friends). Thanks for your blog, Toni. I enjoy them all.

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