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Boston Marathon runner Bill Iffrig passes away at age 89

Saichand Katta
A pedestration passes by the Boston Marathon finish line at Boylston Street. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff.

Bill Iffrig, a runner in the ill-fated Boston Marathon of 2013 passed away at the age of 89 in a memory care facility Jan. 8, in Marysville, Wash. Before battling dementia, Iffrig was an accomplished athlete.

According to a New York Times article, Iffrig hadn’t always been a running champion. Before his foray into the sport, he was “an accomplished mountaineer and chairman of a local climbing club.” [1] 

It was only in his fourties that Iffrig began running. After being invited by friends for a training run, Iffrig went on to participate in dozens of races.

The Everett Herald reports, “At one point Iffrig owned Northwest Runner Magazine’s fastest times for runners in their [seventies] in all four distances the publication tracked: 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers, half marathon and marathon.” [2]

Iffrig’s determination and grit allowed him to succeed in racing, even in his seventies. This tenacity was demonstrated in 2013, when the nation was shocked by what happened at the Boston Marathon.

It was at that marathon where two bombs went off near the end of the race, killing three and injuring hundreds more, according to a CBS News article from the time. The same article also reports on the death of a police officer, who was killed by the bombers on the run from the scene of the crime. [3]

Iffrig’s role in this tragedy was an inspiring one. WCVB reports, despite suffering “significant hearing loss in his left ear, the side nearest the explosion, and minor muscle damage in his right thigh as a result of the fall,” Iffrig got up to finish the race. [4]

John Tlumacki, a photographer for The Boston Globe, managed to capture this moment when Iffrig was knocked to the ground. [5]

As more news articles and publications came in reporting on the event, Iffrig and his orange shirt became ingrained in the minds of those learning about the Boston Marathon Bombing. Iffrig was even mentioned by name in President Barack Obama’s speech addressing the Marathon Bombing, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. [6]

For his part, Iffrig never let the national attention overwhelm him. His family and friends recall him as a humble man. He returned in 2015 to run another Boston Marathon at the age of 80, finishing second in his age group, according to the San Juan Daily Star. [7]

Iffrig’s story has inspired not only news articles and publications, as he was featured in a 2014 short titled “The Finish Line.” Directed by Jason Reid, this short film is available to watch for free on the video sharing website Vimeo. [8] 

The 89-year-old joins his late wife Donna, who passed away last year in November. Donna, like Bill, was an active woman, having participated in camping, hiking, canoeing and cross-country skiing. They are survived by their daughter Susan and son Mark, their four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. [9]

According to Iffrig’s obituary, a memorial service will be held for him on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church. [10]


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/20/us/bill-iffrig-dead.htm

[2] https://www.heraldnet.com/sports/running-champion-and-national-symbol-bill-iffrig-dies-at-89/

[3] https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/boston-marathon-bombing-victims/20/

[4] https://www.wcvb.com/article/runner-knocked-down-by-2013-boston-marathon-bombs-dies-bill-iffrig/46471243#

[5] https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/april-22-2013-sports-illustrated-via-getty-images-cover-news-photo/166749342

[6] https://youtu.be/93o_btmIQeA?feature=shared&t=935

[7] https://www.sanjuandailystar.com/post/bill-iffrig-runner-in-iconic-boston-marathon-bombing-photo-dies-at-89

[8] https://vimeo.com/99476043

[9] https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/heraldnet/name/donna-iffrig-obituary?id=53857426

[10] https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/everett-wa/william-iffrig-11620300

About the Contributor
Saichand Katta, Photographer