ON the day of the 100th Boston Marathon, old Sol came out of springtime hiding to brilliantly illuminate the race's asphalt roadway. A cloudless sky competed for blueness with Uta Pippig's sparkling, winner's eyes. And a man named Moses (Kenya's Moses Tanui) led the largest multitude in marathoning history (an estimated 40,000 runners) to the Back Bay finish line.
The granddaddy of all non-Olympic road races deserved a special birthday and it got it, from cooperative weather to smooth organization to superb athletic efforts. The latter were turned in not just by the elite entrants, who were kept from record-breaking times by a head wind, but by thousands of rank-and-file runners who primed themselves for this occasion.
Patricia Pederson, a mother of two young children from Swampscott, Mass., viewed this as a run for the ages. Dropped off in the city at 6 a.m. by her husband, she sat post-race in the lobby of a stately downtown hotel awaiting a ride home. "This was my ninth marathon and third Boston," she said. "Even if there's a 100th marathon somewhere else, it won't be Boston. And let's face it, Boston is 'the race.' This really is something to tell the grandchildren about."
Pederson finished in just over three hours, an excellent time. Runners who came in long after her, however, were no less pleased about their participation or, in most cases, less appreciated by onlookers.
Greg Mathis, for example, was quick to chide a friend who complained that marathoners were completing the 26.2-mile course six hours or more after the starter's pistol. "Give those guys some credit," he said. "Ninety percent of Massachusetts can't walk 26 miles."
Marathons, by their very nature, are an anthem to the heroism of the average athlete, one supported by an especially strong people's chorus of 1.5 million spectators in Boston.
Maybe women's winner Uta Pippig, who found a passing gear near the finish to score her record third straight Boston victory, put it best. "It was like the whole city was on its legs," she said in her charming German-accented English. She wanted to "thank every person on the course" for making the moment so special.
Jean Driscoll was equally effusive in speaking of the honor of triumphing on such a hallowed marathoning ground. She did so for a record seventh straight time in the women's wheelchair division. Her appearance met with special approval from the women of Wellesley College, who reserve some of their loudest cheers each year for such valorous females.
Said Elisha LeFlore, one impressed student, in summarizing the day: "People support people. That's beautiful."