Former Olympian Bill Rodgers looking forward to scenic Dexter-Ann Arbor Run
Former Olympic marathoner Bill Rodgers took his second-ever run in Ann Arbor Friday morning, a “light” six-mile jog through the city's’s neighborhoods, across the University of Michigan campus and along the Huron River.
Pete Cunningham | AnnArbor.com
Rodgers enjoyed the variety along the scenic route, marveling at the vastness of the campus and beauty of the riverside. It’s something the 64-year-old Rodgers, who has won the Boston and New York City marathons four times apiece, hasn’t always been able to do.
When he runs in the 10K portion of the 39th annual Dexter-Ann Arbor Run, his plans are again to enjoy himself, even if he’s not near the front.
“When you get to be an older runner, you look for that a little bit more, stop to smell the roses," Rodgers said. “It’s not like when I was 28 years old and I would be coming here to win it.”
Rodgers has won plenty of races in his life -- including marathons on five different continents during his prime in the 1970s and 80s -- and was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team. His status in Sunday’s run isn’t as one of the top contenders, though. He’s the celebrity runner.
Rodgers has run in Ann Arbor once before, five years ago as a celebrity runner in a 5K, which included a route along Nichols Arboreteum.
“It’s a great place to run,” said Rodgers, who checked out the course for Sunday’s run on Friday. “(Sunday's race) should be fun, it seemed like a really neat, scenic route.”
Rodgers’ celebrity runner duties included signing autographs at Running Fit in Ann Arbor off of Jackson Avenue on Friday. He’ll speak to children before Saturday’s “Kid’s Run” at Pioneer High School and run on Sunday with the USATF 10K Masters Championship racers.
His talk at Pioneer will be part of Saturday’s Race Expo, where several fitness organizations will have booths and give presentations. Saturday also will be the final chance for late registration as race-day sign-ups are not allowed.
Last year, Rodgers’ former racing rival Frank Shorter, who won Olympic gold in the 1972 Games in Munich, was the race’s celebrity runner. Though they competed fiercely on the track, Rodgers said he and Shorter remain good friends to this day.
It’s an aspect of the sport he loves to observe at events like the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run.
“It’s that kind of sport, where everyone seems to get along,” Rodgers said. “And everyone’s talking about obesity, diabetes and all that. Sunday you’ll see the other side, how huge this sport is and it's the ultimate fitness sport.
“It’s got something for everyone.”