Since 1897, the Boston Marathon has been recognized as the world’s oldest and most respected long distance running race.
As New Englanders officially celebrate Patriots Day today, the revered race returns to a once shaken city that suffered through two horrific finish line bombings just four years ago.
The tragic events took lives, maimed victims and shed an unwelcome, ponderous pall over a proud and marvelous city.
However, the dastardly event not only galvanized a shaken city, but it enervated a hurting American public.
This morning 30,000 runners will embark upon the race’s 26.2 mile journey from the Boston suburb of Hopkinton to the downtown finish line at Copley Square.
At the same time, Americans will once again adopt a Boston Strong spirit to honor the victims stricken in the 2013 tragedy.
Today, I’ve chosen to feature the race’s famous Heartbreak Hill in my sports blog to pay tribute to those affected by the horrible event.
Boston Marathon’s Heartbreak Hill
Heartbreak Hill is no longer just a piece of real estate that separates excellent long distance runners from the truly elite.
That’s because Heartbreak Hill now unwittingly stands as a universal symbol of indomitable strength and immovable belief for the better in all of us.
The hill no longer just represents triumph for exhausted runners racing in Boston.
But, it also serves as a beacon for every hurting American seeking to overcome death or despair in order to emerge victoriously.
Allow me to take a look back at this sleepy suburban real estate.
Boston Marathon: A Patriots Day Tradition
On Patriots Day each spring, Heartbreak Hill entertains teeming crowds of New England spectators who watch thousands of runners courageous enough to scale it. The surprising hill appears after Boston marathoners complete their first 20 miles of the race.
Amateur and professional runners who complete the 26.2 mile course each year suffer from more than dehydration, sore knees and blistered feet. Boston Marathon runners can get their hearts broken at this spot on the hilly course where they first catch glimpse of the finish line.
Located along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, an affluent suburb of Boston, Heartbreak Hill is the fourth in a series of shorter rolling hills, none rising more than 90 feet in elevation. Heartbreak Hill’s peak stands at only 236 feet above sea level, but its unexpected, 800 feet gradual scale surprises participants with another late climb.
Around the 20 mile mark, marathoners typically find themselves warding off the physical challenge of “hitting the wall.” In the case of the Boston Marathon, runners hit Heartbreak Hill.
Origin of the Name Heartbreak Hill
The nickname originated in 1936 during a surprise lead change at the 21st mile mark of the race. Boston Globe’s Jerry Nason reported that eventual champion Ellison Brown streaked past front-runner and reigning champion John Kelley.
This lead change took place after Kelley already passed him on one of the previous hills and extended an encouraging tap on his shoulder.
Brown’s sudden surge supposedly broke Kelley’s heart and the Heartbreak Hill nickname was thus born. The name captured this legendary location. It also marked the exchange of fate it signaled for a former, reigning champion.
Many broken heart runners have succumbed to Boston Marathon’s biggest challenge over the years.
Despite its daunting presence, serious runners from around the world prepare annually to scale it.
That’s why today a myriad of resilient runners and afflicted fans will both physically and metaphorically ascend Heartbreak Hill.
They’ll remember the painful memories of 2013’s marathon bombings, but they’ll all emerge stronger than ever – Boston Strong!
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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!