Josna Rege

195. Marathon

In 1970s, 1980s, 2010s, Family, health, Stories, United States, women & gender on April 15, 2013 at 1:47 am
John Blanding/ Globe Staff  (

John Blanding/ Globe Staff (

My parents moved to Newton, Massachusetts in the late 1970s, onto a street off Commonwealth Avenue just over the brow of the notorious Heartbreak Hill, the one that all Boston Marathon runners dread. The runner who first makes it over that hill is invariably the winner of the race, but just getting that far is an achievement. Actually, the first to crest the hill are the wheelchair entrants. In 1975, Boston was the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division.

mother and daughter set to run the 2013 Boston Marathon (

mother and daughter set to run the 2013 Boston Marathon (

I remember walking out to Commonwealth Avenue on Marathon Day, stationing ourselves on the side of the road facing west, and cheering our hearts out. The winners sailed by early and, after a bit of a lag, the rest followed, old and young, men and women, many of them huffing and puffing alarmingly. But they persevered. I remember tears coming to my eyes as I cheered on young and middle-aged women, mothers and grandmothers running together. Some labored up and over that hill long, long after most of the pack had passed, but they made it over, and we cheered them until we were hoarse.

There are 29,000 people signed up to participate in the 2013 Boston Marathon,  so many that  it may be hard to remember a time when marathon-running wasn’t a big deal. But in 1970, the year we immigrated to the United States, there were only 1174 entrants, and in 1960, just ten years before that, fewer than two hundred. I remember the excitement when New Englander Bill Rogers won both the Boston and the New York marathons in 1975, and won Boston twice more in the late 1970s; suddenly jogging was all the rage. Apparently, interest in running marathons among the U.S. public had been sparked in the 1972 Olympics by the dramatic TV coverage of  American Frank Shorter winning the men’s marathon after an attempt to steal the race by an imposter was foiled.

Some of the female runners at the 1972 Boston Marathon (Image © Bettmann/CORBIS)

Some of the female runners at the 1972 Boston Marathon (Image © Bettmann/CORBIS)

It may also be hard to remember, now that more than 40% of the participants are women, that although the Boston Marathon started way back in in 1897, it was not until 1972 that women were allowed in the race. Now that I think of it, that fact probably accounted in large part for my emotional response to the intrepid women of all ages who crested that hill, determined to finish the 26.2-mile course no matter how long it took. Now that I am middle-aged myself, I am in even greater awe of them.

I have never run a marathon myself, though one Sunday I set out on a stroll and ended up walking 23 miles (see Two at a Time). That was a long, long time ago; more recently, the closest I’ve come to a marathon is this A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge, not 26 miles but 26 entries in 30 days. It’s Day 15, and I’m already flagging, with Heartbreak Hill still up ahead.

Monday evening, April 15th, 2013: This day that dawned full of excitement and anticipation has ended in tragedy, grief, and utter bewilderment. Sending love and deepest sympathy to all those who were hurt and traumatized, and to the families and friends of those who lost their lives.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents


  1. I’m on the sidelines, reading every post, and cheering you on!!!

    • Dear Ann, thank you for your sweet note. Such a horrible end to a happy day. To think how many people set out in such a different spirit.

  2. Wow! That’s a lot of runners. I have a silent deal with myself that I will run a half marathon some day. I just have to do it! Great post! Your blog is great to look at and a fun read! I, too, am in awe of the people who run marathons regularly! It is certainly a lifestyle. Happy M Day!

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Katelin. How terribly sad that yesterday ended as it did. It doesn’t diminish the achievement and good energy of the many people who participated, but now there is so much sorrow and pain. Thinking of all the victims and their families, and of all the people, many of them children, who attended that event. I hope that you will still run your half marathon and that it will be a joyful experience.

  3. Given what happened today, reading a description of what it usually is, makes me feel sad.

    • Yes, Kristin. It seems almost disrespectful to leave it up there, such a happy, celebratory story. I have added a very short note to the end.

      • I don’t think it was disrespectful. It shows what the run is supposed to be and just makes it all the more plain what the violence destroyed this year.

  4. I was really inspired by the President’s words at the memorial service. He can really use his gift when it is needed most. We all learned more about Boston and what a special city it is to the country as a whole. I am glad that my nephew, Evan is carving out his piece of Boston right now as he studies at the Berkeley School of Music there. How sad that those Russian immigrants should choose to do be used by such evil even after receiving so much from a place that they supposedly came to for a new life.

    • Yes, Marianne, I think it was important that the President came. The whole thing is so very sad. I am waiting until more of the story comes out to try to make sense of it for myself. Right now there is a lot of speculation out there. Please let me know whenever Evan is going to give a performance, in case I can make it in to it.

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