Former Boston Champ, Johnny Kelley, Passes Away

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

Get our best running content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE Competitor Running weekly newsletter

Top Stories

Videos

Photos