When I first started running, I remember thinking that finishing a 5K seemed impossible. To prepare, I ran one mile a day and eventually that goal didn’t seem all that crazy. I got really comfortable running 5Ks and increased my mileage over the years to some longer distance runs. I thought I could push myself some more so I impulsively signed up for a half marathon and started training. I became comfortable with those longer distances and suddenly 13.1 miles didn’t seem so crazy. But a marathon? I always thought that was out of the question for me.
I heard of all the big races in cities across the country, Boston being the most well-known and most popular, but I never really knew why it was so special. If you’re not involved in the running community or don’t live in the area, you might not know either! I’ll break it down into five simple reasons for you:
1. The history of the race.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon that is still in existence. The first race was held in 1897 with just 15 male runners, and now in its 122nd year there will be 30,000+ runners from countries around the world. They didn’t even allow female runners until 1967 and even then it technically wasn’t “allowed.” Katherine Switzer was the first women to run the Boston Marathon over 50 years ago and was harassed by other athletes the entire time. They even tried to force her off the course on multiple occasions. Crazy, right? Against all odds, she completed the course and just ran the 2017 race to celebrate the iconic milestone.
The race is always held on Patriots’ Day which was first proclaimed a holiday in Massachusetts in 1894 by the Governor and was celebrated on April 19th, the anniversary of the Minutemen battles. However, since 1969 the holiday has been marked as the third Monday of April, thus getting the name “Marathon Monday.”
It’s a huge day for the city of Boston and the marathon is kind of like our own little holiday parade.
2. You have to qualify for the race.
Runners from all over the world aspire to earn their spot in the race. It’s been described as the “highlight of their careers” and a “runner’s life goal.” In order to qualify for Boston, you have to meet time standards that correspond with your age and gender. You have to run a marathon prior to race day and that time must fall within qualifying standards. Here are the times for the 2019 race; as you can see, runners that qualify are elite athletes.
If I was to qualify for my age group, I’d have to run an 8-minute mile or less for the ENTIRE race. That takes extreme physicality, strength, and a whole lot of endurance!
My ass is pretty slow, so qualifying for Boston probably wouldn’t happen for me unless I trained for years. You’re probably thinking, how the hell is she running in the race then? I’m running in the race because you can also qualify with a fundraising amount through the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) Charity Program. (Read more about my fundraising qualifier here). See, that’s the cool thing about Boston – it’s a race for the elite, but it’s also a race for the ordinary, regular runner too 😉 And if you’re part of the regular group like me, it’s pretty amazing to get the chance to share the course with some of the best runners from around the world!
3. The iconic course.
This course is considered “difficult” for even the most experienced marathoner, mainly due to the rolling hills throughout the 26.2 miles. Boy is that gonna burnnnn!
The route starts in Hopkinton and then makes its way through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley all along Route 135. It then merges into Route 16 and continues on into Newton before merging again on Route 30 near Commonwealth Avenue.
Runners hit the Reservoir near Chestnut Hill and then go down Beacon Street until they hit Fenway Park and Kenmore Square. The course veers onto Commonwealth Avenue again for a few more blocks through the four Newton Hills, one of which has earned the famous name of Heartbreak Hill. (I’m sure you can guess why it’s called that, especially at this point in the race!).
From there, runners turn right onto Hereford Street and then left on Boylston Street for the final 4 blocks. The final stretch extends down Boylston past Hynes Convention Center and the Prudential Center to finish right in Copley Square near the Boston Public Library.
4. The crowds.
People say, there is nothing like the heartbeat in old Beantown on marathon day, and now I know why.
I moved to Boston a couple summers ago, but only had my first experience with Marathon Monday last year. The whole week before the race was INSANE. I had never seen a city come together and show so much support for one event – the Boston Marathon takes over Boylston street. The whole strip was just a blur of blue and yellow and every single business leading up to the finish line had something in their windows to help cheer on runners in the final stretch.
More importantly, I remember seeing the crowds on race day by the finish line – runners were parading around with their medals and mylar blankets, each with a beaming sense of accomplishment on their face, and their families were beaming with pride just the same. I remember watching the official Marathon Snapchat story and crying (happy tears) along with the people in the videos that were overwhelmed with emotion after finishing the race.
These massive crowds come out for hours just to cheer on complete strangers. It’s really weird to think about in that way, but it’s also such a powerful message of unity.
“When thousands of runners from around the nation and world take on a daunting distance while being encouraged by huge, welcoming crowds on roads where history has been formed, the world becomes a better place.”
5. The day we all became #BostonStrong.
And then of course, the terrible tragedy that struck in 2013 that made this joyous day one of remembrance. I don’t want to focus on the heinous acts that were performed, because those monsters don’t deserve any attention. Instead, I want to focus on the powerful movement that came after the bombing…#BostonStrong.
It was truly incredible to witness a time of rebirth for the city and the country for that matter. Everyone came to rally behind Boston and support the victims from the attack. The message was clear: now is not a time to be afraid; no one can make us feel intimidated or scared in our country; and we will fight & come back stronger every time.
But I think David Ortiz (Big Papi) from the Red Sox said it best… “This is our f*cking city.”
I still can’t believe that I’m getting the chance to push myself one more time to complete the ultimate challenge of running my first marathon & running it in Boston. Add in the fact that I’m running for the ALS Association, a cause that I am so incredibly passionate about, and I think you can start to understand why this whole experience is so important to me.
With that, I’ll end on a quote that pretty much sums up the Boston Marathon in 9 little words: “It’s overwhelming. It’s a runner’s experience of a lifetime.”
I can not wait until April 16th. 49 days and counting…
[Finish Line photo credit: boston.com]
Click here to support my Boston Marathon Campaign & the ALS Association: http://bit.ly/BostonBeginnings262