The Mother of All Marathons
And it's right in our backyard.
Everyone knows of the Boston Marathon: it's the most elite, the most historic, and one of the most local marathons in the area. Whether you've never made the journey from Hopkinton to Boston as a runner or a spectator, there's something magical about that Patriots Day run.
Many people wonder why Boston is the mother of all marathons. There are numerous reasons, of course, but it's certainly one of the toughest in the world. It all has to do with the hills. Starting in Hopkinton (their high school team is called the "Hillers" for a reason) - the race is pretty much all down hill until mile 14. Runners risk starting out way too fast on the downhills and having nothing left for energy at the halfway mark. At miles 14 and 16 runners encounter hills, and at mile 20-21, it's the grandaddy of all hills: Heartbreak Hill.
Some runners run Heartbreak Hill on a regular basis and claim it isn't that bad. But perhaps that is because they didn't run 20 miles before hitting Heartbreak Hill. It's all about perspective.
Another reason why Boston is so tough is because it's the only marathon that requires its participants qualify unless they're running for a charity. And those qualifying times are pretty tough, and are decided by the Boston Athletic Association according to age.
Still another reason why Boston is the most epic of marathons has to do with the Wellesley girls: they'll give kisses to just about any runner passing through. Talk about motivation.
In all seriousness though, why do so many aspire to the Boston Marathon? It's about pushing your body past its breaking point; running farther than you ever thought you could. It's about kicking Heartbreak Hill where it hurts; conquering one of the world's toughest marathons. It's a feat most people can't say they've ever done.
While qualifying for Boston is certainly something to be proud of, don't forget about the charity runners. They run for more than personal gratification: they're running 26.2 miles for a purpose. They're running with names of cancer survivors written on the shirts or with photos of loved ones they've lost. They're running with not just their feet, but also with their heart. They're not finishing in two hours and two minutes like the elites; they're finishing in five hours, six hours or maybe even seven hours. That not only takes endurance, but an unwaivering passion and determination to succeed. Those are the true heroes on April 18.
So next time when you're on that sacred route from Hopkinton to Boston on Marathon Monday, watch in awe at how fast elites like Ryan Hall, Dire Tune, and Robert Cheruiyot run past you. Then, wait a few hours and watch as regular people like you and me overcome Heartbreak Hill and run, walk, waddle or crawl to the finish line. That is true victory.