He didn’t finish his first Boston Marathon in 1949, but over the next two decades Connecticut’s John J. Kelley would become the face of American marathoning at a time, like our own, when international athletes dominated the Boston winner’s circle. What’s more, this two-time Olympian remains the only member of the Boston Athletic Association to win the club’s most famous race, though he would finish second five times, only two less than his namesake, but not relative, John A. Kelley, the man known as “Old Kel” to differentiate him from “Young John”.
But racing wasn’t John’s sole legacy to the sport. When his competitive days were over the man many believe to be the father of modern American distance running became a mentor to dozens if not hundreds of dedicated acolytes. Thus, since John’s death three years ago at age 80, friends and admirers have worked tirelessly to commemorate the life and legacy of this special man.
This Sunday September 21st, a bronze statue of Young John (and his dog Brutus) will be unveiled at 56 West Main Street, Mystic, Connecticut, right next to Mystic Pizza.
Six former winners of the Boston Marathon are expected to join in the unveiling and dedication, including 1968 Boston Marathon champion Amby Burfoot, who was coached and taught by Kelley; Bill Rodgers, Amby’s college roommate at Wesleyan who won Boston four times between 1975 and 1980; Geoff Smith, 1984 & `85 Boston champion; and Jack Fultz, the 1976 winner. On the women’s side, three-time winner Sara Mae Berman (1969-71) and Nina Kuscsik the 1972 winner will attend. Local TV station WTNH had the story.