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Former Boston Champ, Johnny Kelley, Passes Away

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Aug. 22, 2011
  • Updated Aug. 23, 2011 at 9:38 AM UTC
Johnny Kelley passed away after battling melanoma that had spread to his lungs. Photo: Hartford Courant

The former Boston champ was 80 years old.

Johnny Kelley passed away after battling melanoma that had spread to his lungs. Photo: Hartford Courant

Legendary runner John J. Kelley has passed away. He was 80 years old. Kelley was a two-time Olympian and had won the 1957 Boston Marathon. He died of complications related to melanoma that had spread to his lungs. Kelley had been the first American to win the famous Boston race since 1945. He ended up finishing second five times.

A prolific marathoner, Kelley had completed the 26.2-mile distance 35 times in his career, Kelley last ran a marathon in 1992.

Kelley was a coach and English teacher at Fitch High School in Groton, Connecticut. He convinced the 1968 Boston champ, Amby Burfoot, that he had potential.

“My first race was mediocre,” recalls Burfoot. “He [Kelley] took me aside and wrapped his arm around me and said, ‘Amby, you really ran great. You’ve got real potential in this sport.’ I was like, ‘What?’ But he was sincere. We were vaguely aware he was the best runner in the country, so it kept me going for the next few weeks.”

At Wesleyan, Burfoot ended up rooming with Bill Rodgers. After Burfoot won at Boston, Rodgers went on to win the race four times.

For More: Hartford Courant

FILED UNDER: Boston Marathon / News TAGS: / / / / / / / /

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at Competitor.com and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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