Bill Reilly inducted into Maine Running Hall of Fame
By Wayne E. Rivet
On a whim, Bill Reilly entered his first three-mile race wearing an old pair of dungarees and Ked’s low-cut basketball sneakers.
He ran a 24:02.
More importantly, he became hooked on running and racing competitively some 36 years ago. That moment changed Bill’s life. In November 1981, he ran his first marathon in New York City, hoping to qualify for Boston. He missed the cut, but the fire and drive had been sparked. In 1983, Bill was part of the Boston Marathon field, and a year later, set a personal best at 2:43.58.
Since then, Bill has competed in over 600 races (at a variety of distances). His love for the sport also pushed him into the coaching ranks.
Those achievements landed bill into the Maine Running Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hall this past Sunday in a ceremony held in Augusta.
Like most youngsters, Bill was willing to try a variety of sports. He played football as a third grader. In high school, he showed and raced his horse, Darby O’Gill. He also went fox hunting on horseback. As a high school senior, Bill tried his hand at wrestling and went 9-0 — all victories via the pin.
Bill arrived in Maine in 1989, selling his business and moving his family — wife, Judy, and daughters Stacy and Kelly — to Brownfield.
A year later, Fryeburg Academy approached Bill about filling in as the girls’ and boys’ cross-country coach. Twenty-seven years later — with 24 years as the track coach — Bill is still coaching cross-country. His highlight, which was read as part of his induction into the Hall, was the chance to coach both daughters and experience the thrill of the Raider girls’ cross-country team winning a state championship in 2002.
The News interviewed the longtime Raider cross-country coach and local realtor about being inducted into the Maine Running Hall of Fame, as well as his lifelong involvement as a runner, racer and coach:
BN. How were you nominated?
Bill: The Maine Running Hall of Fame by-laws define Nominees/inductees as Individuals who have made a significant contribution to the sport of running in the State of Maine are eligible for induction; this includes athletes, coaches, race directors and others who have contributed in important ways to running in Maine. Nominations should be in written form with a detailed profile of the nominee sent to the Board of Directors. Nominees do not have to be a Maine resident but eligibility is determined by: (1) either native of Maine or long-term resident in Maine; (2) accomplishments achieved in or outside of Maine; (3) significant contribution to Maine running. Anyone can nominate someone.
Inductions are made every two years. There is no firm number of inductees, but the average number of inductees has been six. (Some noteworthy members of the Hall include Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Bruce Bickford, Carlton Mendell, Michelle Hallett Wakeman, Bob Winn, Bob Payne, Andy Palmer, Gerry Clapper, Christine Snow-Reaser, and Bridgton’s 4 on the Fourth Road Race.)
BN. What was your response when you heard about the honor?
Bill: A deep sense of satisfaction and happiness much like my feelings after a really tough race that went well.
BN. What lead you to an interest in running? When did you really become serious about it?
Bill: Ordinary sports were not helping me to stay in shape. I was gaining weight and slowing down. Believe it or not, I was really fast in my younger days much like a sprinter.
(I became serious about running) as soon as I completed my first road race in March 1980.
BN. What do you enjoy about running and how has it shaped your life?
Bill: I absolutely love moving from one spot to another under my own power in a fairly quick time. It is probably the hard-wired hunter-gatherer genetic instinct for survival. Running has provided me with a constant forward direction in the tough business of living.
BN. How long have you been running competitively? Is there a race moment that you are practically proud of or is there one that remains most memorable?
Bill: 37 years. Yes. In 2008, I was racing “The Midland Run 15K” in New Jersey. It was my first year in the Master’s division, 40 and over. This race was the number one race in New Jersey drawing the best of the best. I was really primed to win the Master’s division. At the 10K mark, I was passed by the previous year’s winner. I was really hurting and the pace was faster than my normal ability. I was able to dig into that unknown well of pain and increase my pace to pass my competitor and win the division. It took me about six months to recover mentally from this effort and regain top racing form. I think every racer experiences this every now and then. Mental tenacity is everything in racing.
BN. What have been the keys to training and winning your age groups consistently over the years?
Bill: Consistency. I run every day unless I am sick or injured. It gives me an aerobic edge over my competition.
BN. What lead you to coaching X-C?
Bill: In my daughter’s senior year in 1990, the coach left Fryeburg Academy for Cape Elizabeth. The then athletic director, Gerry Durgin, asked me to fill in for a year with no guarantees that I would be rehired the next year. The boy’s team went to the State Meet for the first time ever and my daughter, Stacy, was All State. I guess that helped and here I am 27 years later.
BN. You told me years ago that it is difficult to draw kids to the sport, yet you manage to draw a number if talented runners. What is your sales pitch?
Bill: Simple. Hard work can be very rewarding and never take no for an answer. I cannot tell you how many great runners at the Academy were going in a different direction and ended having a blast in cross-country over the years. Running your heart out in a 5K race is not the most appealing thing to do but once they run that race their hearts are really into it.
BN. What do you enjoy most about coaching?
Bill: As a coach, I race hard also and I try to convey my enthusiasm and passion for this sport to my athletes. Lead by example, clean living and hard work plus have some fun. I enjoy watching young people discover their potential.
BN. What is the most difficult aspects of coaching X-C?
Bill: None. If you love doing it, there are no difficulties, just opportunities to work on. I always tell the athletes that there is nowhere, other than my immediate family, I would rather be than coaching cross-country. Over the years, I have probably watched about 3,000 plus races including track and I get excited about each and every one.
BN. Finally, what drives you to keep running, racing and coaching?
Bill: I will be 70 in July 2017. New age group. Tough at 69 to beat those youngsters in their early 60s. Here is the secret. Just like that Twilight Zone episode where the older people go out and play “Kick the Can” and their youthful spirit is revived. When I run a race, I experience that same revival of my youthful spirit that carries me on to the next race. Dr. George Sheehan, a revered runner from the 80s, said, “when adults lose the ability for play, they lose a valuable tool for emotional stability.”