Warsaw Community Schools was honored to host four-time Boston and New York City marathon winner Bill Rodgers on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Warsaw Community High School Performing Arts Center. Rodgers shared his incredible journey to become a world-renowned marathon runner with approximately 535 WCS fifth grade students, inspiring them to run towards dreams of their own while enriching the lives of others.
An American runner and former American record holder in the marathon, Rodgers is best known for his victories in the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the late 1970s. He won both races four times each between 1975 and 1980, twice breaking the American record at Boston with a time of 2:09:55 in 1975 and a 2:09:27 in 1979. In 1977, Rodgers won the Fukuoka Marathon, making him the only runner ever to hold the championship of all three major marathons at the same time. He made the 1976 U.S. Olympic team and raced the marathon at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, finishing 40th.
Rodgers opened up to students about his early career and many of his failures along the road to victory. He reminded students success does not often come on the first try and encouraged them to persevere as they pursued their dreams. Rodgers also stressed to students that humans are built to be physically active, encouraging them to continue to pursue physical health throughout their lives through exercise.
In addition to hearing Rodger’s story, students were able to submit questions to the former American record holder. These questions paired with prior in-class discussions, reading and activities that explored the history of marathon running and the science behind it.
Students were also able to hear from guest speaker Barb Martz, special education teacher with Warsaw Community High School and president of the myTEAM TRIUMPH Northern Indiana Chapter. Martz shared with students myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races. The organization allows those with disabilities, called captains, to be pushed or pulled by athletes, called angels, through these events. Martz encouraged students interested in giving back and enriching the lives of others to become involved in the program. Those interested in becoming involved can visit the MTT website at https://www.mtt-northernindiana.org/.
Following the day’s special presentation, students were invited to run a mile alongside Rodgers, Martz and fellow Boston Marathon runner WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert to the newly constructed Tiger Recreation and Activity Center. There, students were excited for the opportunity to personally greet Rodgers and pose for photos with him.
Rodgers also met with student athletes with the Warsaw Community High School cross-country team. Prior to his presentation to fifth grade students, Rodgers ate lunch with a group of 18 student runners, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and hear his story. The cross-country team was also able to hear Rodgers presentation in the WCHS PAC and enjoy a running clinic and photos with Rodgers.
Rodgers was incredibly excited to meet with students and for the opportunity to inspire them toward their dreams during the day. He noted in his presentation to students how incredibly meaningful his time with them was, likening its importance to him to that of his accomplishments running. Warsaw Community Schools would like to extend a thank you to Rodgers for his time and encouragement to students he met during the day.
Dr. David Hoffert shared, “It was an honor and privilege to have Bill Rodgers as part of our speaker series with the fifth graders. Mr. Rodgers was able to share his goals, dreams and ways to enrich the lives of others. Watching our students then have the opportunity to run alongside one of the greatest American runners of all time will be a highlight the students will always remember. Physical activity is a critical component of holistic adolescent health. For many students, today’s speech and run with Bill Rodgers reinforces the numerous positive benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.”