The events that occurred during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon had me thinking about all the time I’ve spent at the
Boston Marathon. Whenever asked about my athletic career I would say “I wheelchair raced in road races, you know like the Boston Marathon,” and people would promptly understand, I gained instant creditability and the disability drifted away. That’s the power of the Boston Marathon.
The Boston Marathon is the most famous marathon in the world. If you asked anyone to name a marathon, Boston would dominate the answers, even before history’s first marathon in Marathon Greece over 2500 years ago. Boston the longest continuous running marathon, 117 years, is the most coveted. Every marathon runner wants a shot at the Boston Marathon.
, the Boston Marathon race director since 2001, has literally run the Boston Marathon every year since 1973. After working all day on the marathon, Dave traditionally makes his way to the start in Hopkinton, for a second time,
just as thousands of runners have before him and runs the 26.2 miles. His run usually begins in the afternoon, after all the roads have opened to traffic, around 3pm and runs either solitarily or with a few friends.
But not this year, not until as he said, ”The second marathon is finally over. This is better than BOSTON winning the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals...times a bazillion! Boston and State Law Enforcement personnel deserves the MVP Award and a finisher's medal. I haven't run in two weeks...heading out now and will not stop until I can clear my head and all these emotions which probably won't be until I reach the Pacific Ocean. What a week! God bless all the victims. We will never, ever forget you. Thanks again to all my kind friends for the absolute incredible outpouring of support and all the kind words. It has been overwhelming and very humbling.”
I competitively wheelchair road raced ambitiously during the 1980’s and 90’s and I know Dave, not as well as I know Guy Morse who was the race director in my day, but we do know each other. Dave was brought into the
Marathon fold in
1988 as the Technical Coordinator after the double trouble start of the 1987 Boston Marathon
and I believe he was the key player in keeping the wheelchair division alive and continuing forward within the race.
The first Boston Marathon wheeler was Eugene Roberts in 1970. Eugene was an unofficial (the wheelchair division would not gain official status until 1984) participant and started an hour before the noon start (all the Boston Marathons I raced in started at noon) and finished in just over 7 hours. Then Bob Hall emerged, encouraged by Bill Rogers in 1975 as the first sanctioned but not official wheelchair racer in the Boston Marathon finishing in a time of 2:58.
By giving Bobby a start, this move made the Boston Marathon the first major marathon to permit wheelchair racers on course.
Keep in mind 1972 was the first time women became official competitors in the Boston Marathon. And speaking of women in1977 the iconic Sharon Rahn Hedrick was the first woman wheelchair racer to finish the course in a time 3:48 and the floodgates were opened for wheelchair racers.
My first Boston Marathon in 1981 in a time of 2:38:41 was my first win of six titles. Throughout this race I was repeatedly taken by surprise when people cheered me on using my name. I didn’t know anyone in Boston how did they know me? This had never happened in any other race and come to find out the names and numbers of all the runners were published the week before the event.
I said years later in an interview, “I remember the first Boston Marathon I ever ran, I was so surprised at all the people screaming and yelling my name. At Heartbreak Hill, it was so hard to get up, but I felt that if I didn’t make it, they would all
come out and push me over it. They, the people of Boston, want to see everyone succeed. It was one of my biggest adrenaline rushes, ever.”
At that time our race chairs had no brakes or steering, well we had bolts sticking out of the forks of our 8-inch front wheels to steer with and there were no helmets on our heads. Slowing our chairs was a test of tolerance, searing heat tolerance as the speeds on the Boston course could reach 40MPH plus. By pressing our heavily taped baseball gloves to the back tires we would slow our speed until they heated up just short of flaming and let go. Sometimes it was just easier to go fast and hope for the best on the unpredictable road surfaces.
When I’m asked what’s my favorite race, I say they’re all unique it’s hard to settle on just one, but Boston, it’s special. It begins with generous and willing hosting homes in Hopkinton creating a calm respite before the point-to-point roller coaster ride is set in motion by helicopters beating the air into mini tornados as the start launches the illusion of control.
Racers fly fiercely through sleepy minute size New England towns on to the earsplitting screaming of hundreds of girls and women at Wellesley College to the smells of hot dogs and beer from the baseball game spilling into the hundreds of thousands of spectators, to the three Newton hills, not just one, that make up Heartbreak Hill to tip toeing over the tracks of
Cleveland Circle, Boston is the wildest ride with the biggest heart.
So when I read the post by Dave McGillivray “see you all at the starting line in Hopkinton in 2014! I'll bring the bulldozer to make more room for all of you!” I find myself longing to be on that start line even though I don’t have a racing chair that fits since I broke my femur or that I couldn’t be anything close to competitive with the fields of now. None of that matters after what happened this year. My longing is a wanting to offer solidarity, support and to give back to the event that faithfully gave the athletes in the wheelchair division heartfelt respect. And selfishly I covet the biggest adrenaline rush, ever!
Blessings to All with joy Candace
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. Small Piece of Tennyson's Poem, Ulysses