The VIP Lounge: Bill Rodgers

Bill Rodgers and his girlfriend, Karen Gillespie, at the Melanoma Foundation 5K in Waltham in September.
bill robertson
Bill Rodgers and his girlfriend, Karen Gillespie, at the Melanoma Foundation 5K in Waltham in September.

An Olympian who has won 22 marathons — and competed in 60 — on five continents, Bill Rodgers is still going strong at 67. “I don’t run so fast or so far anymore, but I still run races. I’m actually going to Atlanta tomorrow for a half marathon,” said Rodgers, a Hartford native and father of two adult daughters who lives in Boxborough with his girlfriend, fellow runner Karen Gillespie. Rodgers’s accomplishments include four New York City Marathon wins and four in Boston, running his best time, 2:09:27, to win the 1979 Boston Marathon. We caught up with Rodgers, who not only has written about running but also, with his brother, Charlie, runs, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation spot? One place I really enjoyed traveling to and exploring is Hawaii. One of the reasons is the stunning beauty of the land and water, and another is because I was able to travel there with my two daughters, Elise and Erika. I won the Kona Half Marathon on that particular trip as a youngster of 55. It was the last race I ever won.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing? I enjoy sampling local cuisine when I travel. I think Japan is the country whose food I most enjoy, as there are so many different styles of cooking — and I love seafood. I’m not so much a fan of sake, but Kirin beer is very good.


Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I have never been to Ireland, but my mom’s last name was Molloy, and my girlfriend, Karen, has some Irish ancestry as well, so we hope to visit Ireland next year. I seem to have traveled for 40 years around the world and I am happy to have represented the United Sates in my quest to win marathons, but never made it to Eire.

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One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? When I travel, I read a book. Or, if I’m lucky and am on JetBlue, I can put on my headphones and watch some favorite shows.

Aisle or window? I am a confirmed window flier. It’s more relaxing and I like to see Mother Nature go by outside.

Favorite childhood travel memory? Going to the Connecticut beaches with my family and friends, using a rowboat, catching crabs, and being in that unique place by the sea.

Guilty pleasure when traveling? When I travel, I like to see what makes a country unique — its history, art, people — but I also like to relax and enjoy not necessarily healthy diet foods. I like nachos with cheese, pecan pie, and a variety of mixed drinks.


Best travel tip? Look for the beauty around you.