Wesleyan alumni Bill Rodgers ’70 (third from left) and Amby Burfoot ’68 (second from right), pictured in this 1967 men’s cross country team photo, will reunite April 6 for a half marathon. The team’s former coach, Elmer Swanson, is pictured looking over Burfoot’s shoulder. Jeff Galloway ’67 also will run the race.
When Jeff Galloway ’67, Amby Burfoot ’68 and Bill Rodgers ’70 ready for the start of the Harvard Pilgrim Middletown Half Marathon Sunday, April 6 near Main Street, it will be a reunion of titanic proportions. The three haven’t been seen together since running as Cardinals 47 years ago.
“This might be the first time the three of us have been together since Wesleyan,” Rodgers said.
The trio of Galloway, Burfoot and Rodgers has given Wesleyan tremendous presence in the running world. Burfoot, as a Wesleyan senior, became the first collegian in the then 72-year history of the Boston Marathon, to win the event on April 19, 1968. He skipped a Wesleyan-UConn meet that day to make history in Beantown. Consistently active in road races throughout his career, Burfoot has left quite a footprint in the field through his editorial involvement with Runner’s World magazine.
Rodgers, who roomed with Burfoot during the 1967-68 year and helped him train for Boston, went on to become the world’s top ranked marathoner for much of the mid- to late-1970s, winning both the Boston and New York marathons four times over the span. Over his career as a competitive road racer, Rodgers competed in 59 marathons, winning 22. He runs the Bill Rodgers Running Center in Boston.
Galloway has gone on to great fame as a writer and clinician in the world of running and was a member of the U.S. Olympic squad in 1972 alongside Frank Shorter in the 10k event. Both he and Rodgers identify Shorter as a major influence in their early post-Wesleyan running days. Rodgers qualifies him as a prime rival in the road racing circuit throughout the heydey of his career. Galloway had the chance to train at Yale during the winter as an undergraduate and was paired with Shorter. The two were charter members of the Florida Track Club in 1970.
All three are quick to praise Wesleyan and their former head track and cross-country coach Elmer Swanson for helping shape their illustrious careers.
“What I remember most vividly about Wesleyan,” said Burfoot via email, “is the university’s incredibly tolerant, accepting ethos – that all manner of diversity was encouraged and endorsed.” He qualified some of his characteristics both as a runner and student as weird, but “astonishingly, I didn’t feel that weird as there we plenty of other wonderful weirdos at Wesleyan. I felt very lucky to be a member of such a community.”
“Wesleyan in the 1960s offered a laid-back environment that inspired the pursuit of excellence for those who wanted this,” Galloway said. “During my four years I adjusted my expectations in academics, running and life. Elmer Swanson let us set our own training programs. We didn’t feel the pressure that many of our friends experienced.”
“Coach Swanson was a unique kind of coach,” Rodgers echoed. “He didn’t have that win-at-all-costs attitude. He just wanted us to do our best. He helped us avoid injuries while following our own path. It allowed us to have the careers we have today. And most of all, it was fun!”
On April 6, the three will be looking for another fun time together in Middletown.