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ISBN: 9781457501395
214 pages

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ISBN: 9781457504136
214 pages

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Excerpt from the Book

Chapter 1: Boston...Why the Allure?

"The Boston Marathon produces what I feel is the best in American sports. Both small town America and big city America come together in this race as in no other."

- Bill Rodgers, four-Time Boston Marathon Winner (Tom Derderian)

Photo 1.1 History in the making at Boston.

Photo 1.1 History in the making at Boston.

It is a common occurrence for a runner to compete in a half or full marathon and hear the word Boston mentioned or see someone wearing the coveted shirt or jacket indicating their year of duty. From the pre-race conversations among strangers in the staging corral to the post finish area you can count on hearing at least a few personal stories or goals of running at Boston. These runners join the multitude of others worldwide for whom Boston looms in their thoughts, but when the running shoes are laced up, these thoughts give purpose to each stride.

To those who aren’t impassioned by running, Boston may be most well known for its many historic events or landmarks, many of which can be viewed if you walk the Freedom Trail. To others, Boston’s famous “chowda," baked beans, world champion teams ( Red Sox and Celtics), and even a bar named Cheers may be their first association with this impressive city and its people. But to a marathon runner, Boston means the Boston Marathon, and on the third Monday in April, Boston becomes their personal Mecca.

The Marathon

The origin of the marathon dates back to the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. when a Greek warrior named Pheidippides ran to Athens (from Marathon, Greece) to bestow the news of the Greek victory over the Persians. Unfortunately, he died a short time after delivering the message. All modern marathons originated from this single event in history. Since that era, the marathon has become one of the most prominent tests of human endurance. In 1894, it was suggested that a “Marathon Race” of 40 kilometers (25 miles) be held to commemorate the Battle of Marathon. Shortly thereafter, a Marathon event was held at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Following the lead of the Olympics, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) organized the first Boston Marathon in 1897, and the race continues to make history to this day.

Why Boston?

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's most prestigious road racing events. The B.A.A. manages this iconic event, which has been run over roughly the same course since its inception in 1897. Throughout this long tradition, it has been held on Patriots Day (a Monday) and a holiday for Bostonians to commemorate the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775.

With runners competing and representing states, countries, and provinces throughout the world, the Boston Marathon draws diversity in competition similar to that of an Olympic event. Since participating in an Olympic event is out of reach for all but a few elite runners, Boston provides a more feasible reality and has become the dream race for most serious non-elite distance runners. From the 15 male entrants in 1897 to the record 37,000 in 1996, the Boston Marathon has grown immensely in both popularity and desire of runners to participate in this “pinnacle of Marathons.” Due to its popularity, the B.A.A. has been forced to impose limitations on the number of entrants accepted. In fact, Boston is one, if not the only, open marathon that also requires qualification for entry by meeting stringent qualifying times at certified marathons.

The history, the qualifying time requirement, and the caliber of entrants are the key reasons that thousands, if not millions, of runners throughout the world desire the opportunity to run at Boston. Each year, hundreds of thousands of spectators line the route into Boston to watch and support each of the entrants who have worked hard and sacrificed much just to be there. The caliber and dedication of the race field is mirrored by the quality in the organization of this world-class event. The B.A.A. and the volunteers truly bring to fruition all participant expectations for a great and memorable event.

As a runner, the initial reason that I wanted to run at Boston was the prestige that the event held among my running peers. As I heard their stories of both success and failure to qualify for Boston, I wanted to be there and witness Heartbreak Hill, Boylston Street, and the roars of Wellesley College students. As I learned more about the history and tradition associated with this event, my desire and motivation to qualify increased exponentially, and this was reflected in my focus toward training. I quickly found myself wanting to learn more about how to improve my marathon times. The required age group qualification times are a significant challenge for many novice, as well as experienced, runners. However, the vision of someday running the same route from rural Hopkinton to Boston soon became additional motivation. I was inspired by legends, such as Bill Rogers (four-time Boston winner), Clarence de Mar (seven-time Boston winner), Rosa Mota (two-time Boston winner and 1984 Olympic winner), and Uta Pippig (two-time Boston winner and 1988 Olympic winner).

In addition, Boston is the backdrop for endless stories of sheer dominance, determination, and running longevity, such as the story of three-time winner John A. Kelley. His unprecedented 64-year span of participation in the Boston Marathon is truly astonishing. Another notable marathon was the 1982 battle between Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar. Some say the most memorable marathon battle in history, as a mere two seconds separated these finishers. As we transition into the 21st century, the dominance of the Kenyans and Ethiopians is displayed in nearly every major marathon, including Boston. Their performances have become the new benchmarks in world marathons.