A Marathon of Inspiration

Boston is gearing up for the 116th Boston Marathon on April 16. That means it’s the time of year when we hope for amazing stories. Last year’s winner Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest marathon ever (though Boston’s course doesn’t qualify for world record consideration), but not all incredible stories make headlines. Marathon accomplishments can be inspirations for personal fitness, community support, social change, and overcoming obstacles.

Each year, marathons reveal countless displays of strength, perseverance, and achievement from the top finishers to back-of-the-pack runners, and everyone in between. Some stories are historical landmarks: Kathrine Switzer made waves at her first Boston Marathon in 1967, at the age of 20. After abandoning field hockey to pursue running in college, she became the first woman to officially register and run Boston’s marathon with a race number, 5 years before women were officially allowed to participate. You can read the full story of how she helped female marathoners gain respect as athletes here (reprinted from Gail Waesche Kislevitz’s book The Spirit of the Marathon). She’ll also be in Boston for this year’s race.

Distance running star, and Massachusetts local, Bill Rodgers didn’t have a stellar start with marathons. He attempted his first Boston Marathon in 1973 (at age 25) admittedly “because I had nothing else in my life” and dropped out with 5 miles to go. The next year, however, he won the Philadelphia

Marathon and then won Boston in 1975, setting an American record and continuing on to an impressive winning career. “Anyone who runs a marathon is on a mission, whether it is to win or to finish… It’s a great thrill, a way to turn your life around,” he says.

But there isn’t a magical formula to becoming an inspirational athlete, not even at a magical age. “You’re never too old,” this pagesays. Profiling not only the oldest marathon runner (age 92) but also the oldest mixed martial arts fighter (70) and English Channel swimmer (also age 70), this story lets us know it’s never too late to set tough goals. Other great stories are easy to find, even beyond the headlines.

Marathonguide.com gathers tales of users’ first marathons. The Boston Athletic Association collects stories from its half-marathon and marathon participants. Forums like YourRun.com let runners share their stories with other runners, and you can always head out to a local race and just listen and observe. Need to brush up on some marathon basics? Check out this neat infographic from CheapSally. (Full disclosure: it’s not perfect. A comment on the original pointed out the date of the Twin Cities marathon is incorrect.) For more marathon stories, tips, and news, keep an eye on Boston.com, Runner’s World, and, of course, the official website of the Boston Marathon.

Do you have an inspiring marathon story to share? What is your proudest athletic accomplishment? Let us know in the comments!

Post by: Rebecca Dobrzynski