UTICA - Legendary runner Bill Rodgers is in town, and on Friday morning he made a stop where the Boilermaker Road Race all began.
Rodgers toured the company now called ECR International, which was originally called Utica Radiator Corp. Earle Reed, whose family owned Utica Radiator, founded the Boilermaker Road Race in 1978.
Rodgers, who won the Boilermaker back in 1983, is one of the best known runners in the world. Friday's tour of ECR International was the first time he had ever done so.
NEWSChannel 2 joined Rodgers for the tour around ECR on Friday. He says the race here in Utica is one of the classes races across the country, and he says the city of Utica is a big part of the history of running, and a big reason why the National Distance Running Hall of Fame is located here.
“I call a small number of these great American races … I call them American classics,” Rodgers said. “The Boilermaker is definitely one of them. But a lot of hard work goes into it, it’s like building these boilers.”
We also learned a little bit more about the history behind the Boilermaker Road Race's name.
“We manufacture boilers in Utica, New York,” said Joe Langlois, marketing manager for ECR International. “And boilers are used to heat a home that has a hot water baseboard system, versus some homes use a furnace with forced air. But the other part of the race was F.X. Matt’s, and from your history you’ll know a drink is called a boilermaker. So, how more appropriate to have both the company that manufactures boilers and the company that sells a drink called the boilermaker. And that’s really where the name Boilermaker came from.”
Rodgers says he remains competitive and he will be running the full 15K race on Sunday, competing against people his own age. He says last year he came in fifth place for his age group, and he hopes to do better this year.