The Inside Lane: The Waiting Game

Mario Fraioli will be at the ready when Boston Marathon registration opens on Monday morning.

Senior editor Mario Fraioli is looking forward to being part of the Boston Marathon’s storied history next April.

In a little less than 72 hours, I’ll be hunched over my laptop—which, come to think of it, isn’t much different than any other day—furiously entering my name, address and other vital information into a form on to secure my spot in next year’s Boston Marathon. As I wrote in this space two weeks ago, the pull of Boston has been tugging at me stronger than ever before, and after taking care of the business of qualifying two Sundays ago at the Santa Rosa Marathon, the dream of once again standing on the starting line in Hopkinton next April 20 is one step closer to becoming a reality.

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Despite qualifying for the race by a healthy margin in Santa Rosa, getting into Boston is not an achievement I take for granted. It’s a race I’ve held in the highest esteem since before I even had a desire to compete in it, and for that reason—along with a whole host of others—it will forever hold a special place in my heart. Boston—the race, the city and the people who live there— commands respect. As the oldest annual marathon in the world, its history is unmatched. There was a time when it was the most competitive marathon in the world, a fact that’s been affected by a number of different circumstances over the years, but for many such as myself, it remains The People’s Olympics. Qualifying standards have been loosened and tightened multiple times in the past few decades, but with 118 years of history behind it, the Boston Marathon, I’d argue, is the one race in all of road racing that has truly stood the test of time. Qualifying for the event still carries with it a significance that resonates with runners around the world.

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While a lot has changed in Boston—the fields have gotten bigger, the average finishing times slower, women were officially allowed to enter for the first time in 1972, more and more spots have opened up for charity runners and non-qualifiers over the years, and the start time was bumped up two hours in 2007—the core of what makes Boston the holy grail of marathoning has deviated little since its first running in 1897. With the exception of moving the start line from Ashland to its current location in Hopkinton in 1924, the same storied stretch of roads has taken runners into downtown Boston for the past 118 years. Year after year, that famed route has been blitzed by some of the most legendary figures in road racing, including  the great Johnny Kelly, Clarence DeMar, Toshiheko Seko, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Uta Pippig, Cosmas Ndeti, Catherine Ndereba, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Geoffrey Mutai, Rita Jeptoo and Meb Keflezighi, amongst others. The crowds that line those roads have been coming out in full force for decades, with many locals putting their chairs out on the sidewalk days in advance so they have the best spot to cheer for the front-runners and back-of-the-packers with equal amounts of energy and excitement. And finally, the experience of turning onto Boylston Street and crossing the finish line some 600 yards later, whether the clock reads a little over 2 hours or closer to 4, evokes a different type of emotion for those fortunate enough to get there and culminates in a moment that can only be experienced, not described. There’s a consistency in the history of this old, annual event which contributes to—or may be the main reason for—its unique aura and unmatched appeal.

“You know, you have the feeling of that history of Boston when you are on that starting line,” Bill Rodgers told earlier this year. “And you can just feel it in the air. It just saturates you.”

While the chance to stand on that starting line in Hopkinton for the second time and feel that history is still seven months away, the excitement of Boston is most definitely in the air right now. But the opportunity to go there and once again be a part of its storied history can’t come soon enough.

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