my friend Carlo has been running a couple years and has gotten really strong. he has several marathons under his belt and a proper respect for the history of running, except for one thing. he doesn’t get Boston at all.
why would anyone want to run Boston, he asks? to me, this is like asking “Why does God prefer Texas?” It just seems so obvious that you don’t give it much thought.
but then i started to wonder: just why are the letters BQ tattooed on the brains of so many runners?
when i was a pup, Boston was truly a race for the elite. the fields were small, the runners were gazelles. when you saw someone wearing the fabled Boston jacket, you knew they had arrived.
i guess the problem these days is that so many people have arrived. Boston is hard-pressed to keep up with the payday of other major races, so the elite field is never quite up to the other marquis marathons. the addition of so many runners who get in by means other than qualifying leaves the once-proud throng of runners looking a bit pedestrian, and crammed into a little road never meant for such a heavy load.
the race doesn’t even have a rock band at every mile point. it’s really not an indicator of greatness anymore, just another race on the calendar. so what’s the big deal?
for me, i guess it’s the course. the same road run since 1897. while new york added boroughs and los angeles changes the course every other year, boston has always stayed true to its path. it’s like the old Yankee Stadium. If someone said you could play a baseball game on the Yankee Stadium field the same day as the World Series Game 7, would you say, what’s the big deal, it’s just a baseball game? It’s not a race course. It’s Mecca. It’s Vatican Square. It’s the Alamo.
i was lucky enough to be there once at the finish line. i wasn’t fast enough to qualify, but just being a spectator was enough. it’s a magical place to stand. i can only dream of what it would be like to cross that line. our friend Gossie ran Boston back in the old days. he won’t even argue the point with carlo. he just gives him The Look. (you don’t want The Look. Gossie was a boxer in a former life.)
in the end, i don’t know. maybe it’s just an individual thing. some drive through Death Valley and dream of Badwater. some want just to qualify for the Olympic Trials despite having no chance of making the team. For many, the dream is Boston.