Bill Owens doesn’t really need an introduction to anyone who has been a member of the Springfield Road Runners Club at any time in the last 30 years. You may have run with him, listened to him sing the national anthem before a race, talked to him after a race, watched him go up to receive a trophy, read his name in the newsletter or read an article he wrote for the newsletter, been coached by him or partied with him at an SRRC event. If you have been a member of the Club, you know who Bill Owens is.
Bill began his competitive running career at Griffin High School where he ran everything from the 400 to the two mile. His best two mile time was 9:38. He ran collegiately at Lincoln Land Community College and Eastern Illinois. His Lincoln Land cross-country team was the top team in the state and qualified for junior college nationals.
After graduating from Eastern Illinois, Bill returned to Springfield and quickly established himself as one of the top road runners in the area. He has won almost every race in town at one time or another, and he has been the SRRC Points Series champion many times.
Bill’s best marathon time came in 1985 when he ran a 2:35 at the Chicago Marathon. He has also run well at other distances. He has run the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon in 1:11, Abe’s Amble in 31:55, Peoria Steamboat four mile run in 19:41 and the State Fair Parade run in 9:29.
Bill has achieved almost mythical status in Havana where he has won the Polka Pace race twelve times. This also happens to be where Bill ran his personal best 5K of 14:56. Bill has his own personalized box on the starting line for the race and his silhouette has been featured on the art work for the race tee shirt.
There are two really impressive things about Bill’s running career. First, he did it all while raising five kids. Family obligations never allowed him to run a lot of miles, but he always found time to maintain a high level of fitness. The second really impressive thing about Bill’s running career is the level of excellence that he has maintained over the years. I went back and looked at race results from the eighties for the LincolnFest 5K, Abe’s Amble and the Lincoln Half Marathon, and Bill Owens’ name is the only name that appears in the list of top finishers from those races and today’s races. We have had a number of fast runners come and go through the Club over the years, but Bill has come and stayed at or near the top.
Bill has also contributed to the sport of running by coaching, first at Sacred Heart – Griffin, and more recently as the head cross-country coach and assistant track coach at Rochester. He also coaches the Tuesday noon track workouts at the Springfield High track. The work out can’t start until Bill gets there and tells us what to do.
Running is part of who Bill is. It’s not just the training and the racing, but the other runners who are some of his closest and life-long friends, friends made and kept through running.
Running is his passion. If he is not running, he loves talking about running and passing on his knowledge gained through experience to runners of all ages and abilities. If he is not winning races, then he is encouraging others to run their best. Bill is an integral part of the SRRC and a role model for all SRRC members.
by Jim Cinotto