If you drove past Bix Plaza at the corner of River Drive and 4th Street in Davenport over the weekend, you may have noticed that the statues of Bill Rodgers and Joan Samuelson were wearing COVID-19 masks.
Quad-City Times Bix 7 race director Michelle Juehring and a few of her committee members put them there as part of a nationwide grassroots effort to support the idea of wearing masks during the current pandemic.
The primary force behind the movement was Amby Burfoot, who won the 1968 Boston Marathon, was Rodgers’ college roommate and served as the editor of Runner’s World magazine for many years.
“The idea is simple: We're runners. We appreciate our health. We want everyone to be healthy,’’ Burfoot wrote in an email to Juehring. “We want everyone to follow national guidelines.’’
Burfoot came up with the idea as he and his brother, Gary, and wife, Christina, were taking a 3-mile run in Mystic, Connecticut, and passed by a statue of 1957 Boston Marathon champion John J. Kelley.
Gary said something about how cool it would be to put a COVID-19 mask on the statue and Amby decided to run with the idea. Christina did all the sewing to make the mask and the movement took off.
Rodgers contacted Juehring and voiced his support for the idea, and she quickly arranged to put masks on the local statues.
Other masks were placed on statues of Fred Lebow in New York's Central Park; Frank Shorter in Boulder, Colorado; Old John Kelley in Newton, Massachusetts; Samuelson in Cape Elizabeth, Maine; and a pair of statues near the starting line of the Boston Marathon course in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.
In both Maine and New York, law enforcement officials started to intervene until they were told about the motivation behind the idea. Then, they stepped in to assist in putting the masks in place.
Juehring admitted her biggest problem was getting the masks to stay up on the Bix 7 statues.
“No ears,’’ she said.
Rodgers said he was delighted with the outpouring of support.
“I’m so glad to be wearing a mask next to Joan Samuelson in Davenport,” he was quoted as saying in Burfoot’s blog at podiumrunner,com. “If others see us, and then they wear a mask also, we’re going to beat this disease in America.”