The RW Takeaway: It’s Marathon Monday and Tracksmith has launched a special collection in honor of race day and Boston-running legend Bill Rodgers.
- The collection includes a lightweight singlet with open mesh material
- The 3-inch inseam shorts have a waistband drawstring and three internal pockets
- Other pieces include the Boston Billy Jacket, Eliot Lounge Rugby, and BR Gloves and Cap, BR Cap, and BR Gloves
Price: 79 Singlet, $70; 79 Shorts, $70; Boston Billy Jacket, Eliot Lounge Rugby, and BR Gloves and Cap, $188; Eliot Lounge Rugby, $128; BR Cap, $38; BR Gloves, $38
Tracksmith, a boutique running apparel company, has only been around since 2014, yet the brand, located steps from the Boston Marathon finish line, brings an air of “the good ol’ running days” with it. The days of Amby Burfoot, Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and of course, “Boston Billy” Rodgers.
Step into the Trackhouse, the company’s headquarters and shop, and you’re immediately transported to the mid to late 1970s, when Bill Rodgers ruled the streets of Boston. Rodgers broke the tape in Boston and New York four times between 1975 and 1980. He was also an Olympian, running in the marathon in 1976.
The Trackhouse pays homage to the Eliot Lounge—a mecca for Boston runners—where runners could grab a drink from bartender Tommy Leonard and talk shop. So it makes sense that Tracksmith CEO, Matt Taylor, decided to collaborate with Bill Rodgers on the brand’s new Bill Rodgers line, which was released on Marathon Monday.
“I heard of Tracksmith about three years ago,” Rodgers told Runner’s World. “I did my book signing [Marathon Man] there with my brother, Charlie, and Tracksmith felt a lot like our old running store [Bill Rodgers & Company].”
Rodgers likes the low-key, laid-back feeling of the Trackhouse. (He even swiped a book from the lounge area—For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr.)
“Matt [Taylor] recognizes the history in our sport,” Rodgers said.
OG Apparel Reinvented
There’s no question that running gear has come a long way since the 70s, when cotton T-shirts were en vogue. (Tracksmith does have a signature “Grayboy” shirt as a nod to the better-with-age cotton running gear.)
“[The Tracksmith brand] was a brilliant move,” Rodgers said. “Matt identified something special in our sport—the history—and he understood the gear wasn’t always so good. It was terrible.”
Taylor and his team have preserved the history of distance running and reimagined it with high-quality clothing and accessories.
A Part of Hearst Digital Media shorts, Boston Billy Jacket, Eliot Lounge Rugby, and BR Gloves and Cap, Eliot Lounge Rugby, and BR Gloves and Cap.
And each piece, in true Tracksmith form, has a backstory.
The race kit, Taylor said, is the iconic must-have in the collection.
“The image of Bill winning the 1979 Boston Marathon has been hanging in our office since we opened the Trackhouse,” he said. “We wanted to start by paying homage to that race.”
The lightweight singlet is designed for racing fast, thanks to its breathability (and signature stripe).
I just hit the wall, Rodgers told.
Rodgers is known for his trademark painters gloves, the ones his brother bought at a hardware store in Hopkinton just before the 1975 Boston Marathon because the runner was cold. Rodgers won his first Boston that year, and set the course and American marathon records (2:09:55).
“Even if his hands heated up, Bill never ditched the gloves,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know until later that he was superstitious about them. He felt he needed those gloves to race well on a cool day.”
shirt as a nod to the better-with-age cotton running gear Sports Illustrated: “No gloves, no good race.”
The late 70s and 80s screamed track jackets, even among the non-running crowd. Taylor, in his research, came across Bill Rodgers & Company matching tracksuits, and he knew he wanted to create a jacket for the collection. Rodgers said his own company was one of the first sportswear brands to include reflectivity—a feature included in the Tracksmith piece.
The Boston Billy Jacket, Eliot Lounge Rugby, and BR Gloves and Cap also has a water-repellent shell, mesh lining, and a detachable hood.
Perhaps a favorite in the collection is the striped rugby shirt, designed for post-run. Its inspiration, however, doesn’t come from a victory in Boston—completely the opposite. In 1977, Rodgers dropped out on the Newton Hills. He found his way to the Eliot Lounge where Leonard gave Rodgers a green-and-yellow-striped rugby shirt to warm up.
“I just hit the wall,” Rodgers told Runner’s World. “I dropped out at Heartbreak Hill and said, ‘Get me to the Eliot Lounge.’ I knew Tommy would be there.”
Rodgers and Taylor hope the new collection inspires a new generation of runners, regardless of whether they’re of Boston Billy-caliber.
“Running is a sport where you make yourself,” Rodgers said. “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The Tracksmith Bill Rodgers Collection is available on Tracksmith’s website now.