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 his piercing wit this wry purveyor of truth was an uncompromising contrarian who lived his life his way, the whole way.
The following was among his favorite elements of a life given to running.
MBTA Green Line in Cleveland Circle
With the great herd of college students having long since migrated, and many native Bostonians 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 “C” branch trains pulling vacantly into their yard with the screech of forged wheels over curved rails, there to await their next run east down Beacon Street into town.
At the small running shop along Chestnut Hill Ave. another workweek was nearing its end.
“It’s brutal being polite to people all day,” remarked the assistant manager as he sat folded on the stairs between the store’s two levels. “In fact,” he concluded sardonically, “it’s not healthy. You’re not being honest.”
With elbows propped on knees, and palms cupping a long bearded face, the assistant manager wore his alienation as naturally as his mane of lank, sandy hair. Yet 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 closing hour came and went, 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.
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir formed a natural barrier between the city’s hard surface and the leafy Boston College campus. Situated as it was just west of Cleveland Circle, the Rez had long been one of the area’s most popular running destinations with its two grand waterworks’ buildings posing like museums along the rim of its southern shore.
Many of the Saturday afternoon regulars would loop the one and three-quarter miles around the Rez as part of their daily routine. But on these late Saturday afternoon runs 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 Street 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