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The Appeal of the Boston Marathon

Nick Kane / Special to The Recorder

Hopkinton, Mass.: to most people it’s nothing more than a place with less than 13,000 people and represents a quintessential New England town.

But for one day a year, it is transformed into the Mecca of a sport. For one day a year it is the center of the sporting world. Hopkinton, Mass. is home to the starting line of the Boston Marathon.

To most people, the Boston Marathon is nothing more than a spectacle that goes quicker than the runners who take on the 26.2-mile course. But for those who look to toe this hallowed starting line, it can indeed consume their lives, causing people to border on obsession until the goal is reached.

There are many differences between your everyday weekend race and the Boston Marathon. The qualifications, the course itself, the passion that even spectators bring on race day, the competition which is only rivaled by the Olympics and of course the lore which has built over the years is something that no other race in the world can contend with.

Boston is one of the oldest road races in the world, inspired by the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896. It has been called the “Peoples Olympics” since it is the only race besides an Olympic trial, which requires a qualifying time.

For anyone between the ages of 18-34, you must run a 26.2 mile certified marathon in under three hours and ten minutes. That is equal to a 7:15 minute per mile pace for 26.2 miles. This time increases with age; however for most people (like me) people start their quest to qualify as soon as possible.

Obviously this type of competition will attract the best runners in the world, usually attracting multiple Olympic marathon winners and medalists, including marathon record holders. This is especially true in 2009 since the 100-meter gold medalist Usain Bolt will be pacing the lead group of runners for the first 15 miles.

This year’s field boasts numerous world record holders all vying for the coveted title of Boston Marathon Champion. Everyone from world record holder Robert Cheuriyot of Kenya to the U.S. national Champions Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher will take part. Joining them will be 20,000 of their closest friends.

The passion that this race brings is echoed not only by those who hope to conquer the grueling course, but those who cheer from the sides. People who have never ran a day in their lives will pour out by the thousands for this incredible race.

One of the most passionate groups is the girls of Wellesley College, who have become famous for their demonstrations of fanaticism throughout the course of the race, since the course itself passes right by their campus. The ladies of Wellesley are only one of the many different attractions that the race boasts, even though some are not exactly what runners would call attractive.

Heartbreak Hill, has indeed earned its namesake by ruining personal records and even stifling world class runners in their tracks. This brutal climb on mile seventeen has reduced even the most seasoned veterans to tears by its steep climb at such an integral part of the race. However, once a runner has conquered this part, there is nothing but relatively flat road standing between them and the finish line on Boylston Street.

To most people, the Boston marathon is something that people look at as more of a spectacle than anything else. Something so far out of the realm of their lives that it doesn’t even penetrate their thoughts other than at the passing glance at the news that night.

But for some of us it is the realization of a dream, a dream that is earned through many miles through all weather conditions, all conditions of the body, as well as the mind. But once that dream is realized and the finish line is crossed, it is an experience that few can describe. As Amby Burfoot, a top runner in the 1980’s and a leader in the research of the sport famously said, “Once you cross that finish line, whether it’s in world record time or just your time, it will change your life forever.”