If you talk to someone who was into running in Boston in the 1970s and 80s and mention the names Bill Rodgers, Randy Thomas or Alberto Salazar, you're sure to see that person's face light up, and hear comments about how they dominated distance running. They were also members of the elite Greater Boston Running Club, or GBTC.
Bill Rodgers winning the 1980 Boston Marathon
GBTC was founded in 1973 when Boston College senior Jack McDonald gathered Bill Squires, Bob Sevene, Don Ricciato, Kirk Pfrangle, Dick Mahoney and Dave Elliott together to assess interest in forming a track club for the post-collegiate runner. Later adding running legends Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar, the GBTC would go down in history as one of the greatest-ever amateur distance running clubs in the world. Accolades included Boston Marathon wins in 1978 and 1979, multiple top 10 finishes in the Boston Marathon, more than 20 New England titles at various distances from 1973-1980; six consecutive U.S. 25K road racing team titles beginning in from 1974-1979, and numerous others.
These guys were fueled by a passion for running and competition. On the GBTC website they tell a story of Randy Thomas and two of his teammates going to the 1977 Penn Relays with barely enough money to pay for fuel, hotels, food, and repairs on Randy's car. They didn't care though, there passion was running, and they were determined to race.
That passion has been passed down to the many runners that have followed them. I went out for a run with current GBTC member and friend Victoria Barnaby to learn about her experience training and competing with the GBTC:
Victoria Barnaby in center, #478 (photo by GBTC ass't coach Rod Hemmingway)
One of the themes that shined through in our conversation was the sense of community within the team. They have runners of all different distances and speeds; runners competing in national competitions and locals races; runners who train twice a day and runners who train a few times a week. But whether they're training for the Boston Marathon or a local 5k, to a person they've always encouraged community and competition.
"I'm so lucky to found GBTC when I did. The group has been like family to me," Victoria tells me. "I joined when I was 19 turning 20 and have been on the team for over 5 years now. GBTC has helped me achieve so much not only in the sport of running, but especially in my career and personal life. I've benefited from the coaching staff, support of my teammates (who are more accurately dear friends) and even financially from GBTC."
When Victoria first joined the Greater Boston Track Club, she was a college student at Boston University. Due to a past injury, BU felt it was too risky to let her join their team. Undeterred and determined to run, she found the GBTC which welcomed her into their team. In her years training with the team, she has run a 5:00 1 mile, holds the GBTC record at the Steeplechase, and competes at distances as short as 3000m and as long as 20 miles. "I personally went from a very good-to-average runner to a sponsored runner for GBTC because of their club system." The club helps to subsidize out of pocket expenses related to race fees, race travel, sports gear, and high level coaching.
Through hard work, supported by a strong community, Victoria and many GBTC members past and present have found success, whether by setting personal records or winning the Boston Marathon.
Curious to learn more about the Greater Boston Track Club? Test out a practice! Tuesday nights, 7 PM at Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.