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Memories and Reflections from the 118th Boston Marathon

By Michelle Murdock, Freelance Writer

What is your favorite Boston Marathon memory? Have you lived in Hopkinton for many years and attended every start? Do you have a special experience or a number of events that you think about when you think back to the different races over the years? Do you remember the start way back when, or are you more recently involved with the events of Marathon Monday in Hopkinton. Here is a look back at memories and reflections from the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014.

To begin, I’ll admit that I did not have the time I would have liked to spend talking to many more who might have been willing to share their reflections, and there were some that I contacted whose busy schedules prevented them from sharing as well, but I hope that you enjoy some of the memories and thoughts of those who were able to share.

When asked for her thoughts, Hopkinton’s Mary Harrington began with memories from her childhood.

“My father driving us to Clinton Street at approximately 11:30, turning the car around and sitting on the fenders to watch the maybe 200 plus runners going by….the race started at Lucky Rock, top of the hill before you get to Weston Nurseries,” said Harrington. “I also remember the year that Pat Paulson ran when the race started on Hayden Rowe, near #12, and the year that Joanne Woodward and her husband Paul Newman filmed for the movie. They were in the house at 26 Hayden Rowe where Kenny Clark lived.”

Picture the start line; did you know that they used to put up a rope at the start? Dale Danahy remembers.

“I have seen all but one marathon since I was born more than five decades ago,” recalls Danahy. “We used to walk to them when less than a thousand people ran in it and about that many came out to watch."

“I used to play in the high school band on Patriot's Day even though it was school vacation.”

“They used to have a rope across Main Street holding the runners in place and when the gun went off the rope was dropped to the ground and the runners took off for Boston. Well one year the gun went off and the rope got in the way of the runners and I watched a runner, Rob De Castella, start to fall at the beginning of the race right in front of me. Two runners on each side of him picked him up quickly, preventing him from being trampled by the 1,000 or so runners behind him. He went on to win the race that year. That was the last year the rope was used.”

“I remember meeting Johnnie Kelly at the Common every year just walking around talking to all the spectators and signing autographs or posing for pictures with anyone who wanted one.”

“I remember seeing the Hoyts go by me the first year they ran and being totally amazed and I couldn't wait to watch the race on TV to find out who they were. It is still an amazing story! For several years Dick has dropped off Rick's wheelchair the week before the race and I keep it in my living room and walk it up town on Marathon morning so it won't get damaged being transported on a bus. I will miss seeing them after this year.”

Ken Weismantel, 145 Ash Street, says this year will be his and his wife’s 26th race as B.A.A. volunteers.

“The first assignment that my wife and I had as volunteers was unloading the trucks of barricades the day before the race and manning the information booth,” recalls Weismantel. “As this work was done on Sunday, we could watch and photograph the start. After about 8 years, the barricades seemed to get heavier each year and we found other jobs.”

“In the 1980’s, before we were B.A.A. volunteers, we remember drinking two Bloody Marys before the noon race start from the Professional Insurance Association offices that were located at 1 Ash Street. Great way to start the race. Earlier with the late start time, there were more activities on the common, more people to watch the start and more vendors at the Hopkinton start than now. I liked the pancake breakfast.”

“One early year I took my three young daughters to watch the start near the first set of woods near Wilson Street. Not the best race watching location as hundreds of over hydrated runners used the first woods to empty their bladders….oops.”

“For the 100th, at the high school, there was a long urinal borrowed from the New York Marathon, but they left a section in New York so we would not be tied for the world record for the longest urinal. Let’s leave that record for the Yankee fans.”

I enjoyed watching the later years of Johnny Kelley running. I think I saw his 50th to 59th marathon starts. He was such a gentleman before the race. Doc Bobeck used to paint a special spot for Johnny Kelley to start from.

I was very honored to be one of the Hopkinton veterans recognized during the wait for the start of the race by the Marathon Committee. That made that race special for me.”

Hopkinton resident and author Jennifer Graham hadn't always lived in Hopkinton, but shares her reflections as someone newer to town.

“When we first looked at a house in Hopkinton, the real-estate agent said, somewhat apologetically, this is a great town, great schools, but the only negative is, the Boston Marathon starts here, and some people don't like all the hoopla and the roads closing. I looked at her as though she was a space alien. Who WOULDN'T want to live here, because of that?

"I think everyone in the United States who runs should move here. Zero one seven four eight is the premier runner ZIP code, and it's not just because we can eat pizza at Bill's (on the run!), and have a sandwich at the Marathon deli and fill our cars with gas at the Marathon Mobil." (Don't talk to me about the late, great Marathon Restaurant - I'm still in mourning at the loss of their cornbread.)

"The Kenyan runners -- God love them -- taking their time to inspire our kids at Elmwood every year. The unicorn inching forward in the BAA offices. The runner gingerbread cookies at Colella's. The chance that, the week of the marathon, you can be running the back woods of Hopkinton and run by one of the world's most elite athletes out loosening up his or her muscles, with a "slow" jog that exceeds your own fastest pace. The statues. The starting line. Even the sea of porta-potties is a thrill.”

As I was collecting some of these memories, listening to the thoughts of others, it was obvious that while they were not all the same, they share a common theme. These memories, impressions, and reflections are all part of Hopkinton’s Marathon Footprint, that certain something that touches each and every one of us here in Hopkinton that proves that Hopkinton stands alone in the marathon world.

“No other community, which hosts the start of a marathon, exhibits its support, love and respect for the sport of marathoning like Hopkinton does, has, and will continue to do,” says 26.2 Foundation Executive Director Tim Kilduff.