History with the Boston Marathon
I have been Boston area runner for most of my life. You learn 2 things quickly talking with New England runners, firstly we love our Marathon and secondly it’s privilege to run it. For all my life it’s been that way, yes it used to be a lot easier to get in, but running, at least to me, has always been an honor.
The New Englanders that have won are still rightly celebrated, like Bill Rodgers who has won 4 times, and the ever running Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won it 3. They have also been a huge staple of a lot of area races for decades and Samuelson is a delight to bump into. Last year, while at the Boston Marathon, I saw her fly by, definitely setting a steady pace well under three hours. I have had the privilege of running in races with both of them over the years though, Samuelson is only one I’ve had a chance to bump into. She might not be as speedy as she was when she was winning the Olympic Marathon, but she’s still highly impressive.
Up until two years ago, when I got to cheer on a friend running the race, I had never actually been to Boston, I had only followed it on TV. The TV coverage is usually great and the coverage usually gets up close and personal as the elite runners, go at speeds I’ve only dreamed about for 26.2 miles. It is exciting to watch the elites battle it out on TV because honestly you don’t that kind of opportunity along the course because they’re just that quick and it is just a straight shot race, no looping. (I saw Meb zoom by two years ago when he was on his way to winning it and he was there and then gone in what felt like seconds). I honestly don’t think it’s the fault of the TV coverage, but until I went to course, I never really had a clear sense of how many people were there running the course. It is really inspiring because it is an activity for everyone, from the seasoned professional to the average person and the truly inspirational Team Hoyt.
I have talked a lot with people who have trained for Boston and done a qualifying race and from what they’ve told me, Boston is rarely anyone’s personal record (PR) for 26.2 miles. It is simply a challenging course despite what the altitude map might tell you. It isn’t simply the downhill it’s where the hills come in the course of the race and how much you’re asking of your body
I also can’t seem to escape talking to anyone who has done the Marathon without hearing some reference to ‘Hopkinton,’ the starting town of the race. It then goes though 8 city and towns with a gradual elevation drop for most of the course until you get to the ‘little bump’ in elevation in Newton, which is the hill most often referred to as Heartbreak, it is about the time in the race when you feel like you are running on empty. The race finally ends near Boston’s Copley Square. I have cheered on races for years and it is still something that thrills me about any race, but I have never seen anything like the Marathon crowds and enthusiasm. I suppose with 30,000 runners it is bound to bring out a few spectators? For me it does not explain the many thousands who line the route every year, I think people are just excited about it. People simply enjoy encouraging one another and for Boston 2016, I’m hoping to be among them.