RALPH WALDO EMERSON, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, AND 26.2 MILES

“Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a resident of Concord, Massachusetts, wrote those lines at the beginning of his poem about the first battle of the American Revolution.   The poem immortalized Paul Revere but it was actually William Dawes who made the ride to Concord, waking the Militia along the route so they would be ready to fight the British.  A group of lawyers, teachers, artisans, and farmers fought the best army in the world and the rest is history, our history.  The nineteenth of April, or the closest Monday, is a state holiday in Massachusetts.  there was a re-enactment of the event just after dawn in the two towns.  A small crowd attends and follows the Minutemen from Lexington Green, where the first shots were exchanged, to Concord where the first battle was fought.

Then the focus of the Commonwealth, and a good part of the world, turns to Hopkinton, a small town 26.2 miles from Boston and the start of the Boston Marathon.  For today’s race, 26,716 runners qualified to participate, meaning they had completed a previous marathon within a required time. For today’s race the expected temperature along the course was predicted to be over 90F.  Yesterday, officials of the Boston Athletic Association encouraged runners to withdraw, guaranteeing them a place in next year’s race without additional fees.  Some runners made a decision based on common sense and  22, 426 runners began the race.

This is what it looked like this morning after the wheelchair competitors, the women, and the elite runners have already started.  The term “elite” is applied to those who have a snowball’s chance of actually showing up at the finish line within three hours.  Last year’s winner in the men’s race set a marathon record of a little over two hours.  This year, he didn’t finish the race.  Last year’s winner in the women’s division opted not to finish, either.  these people are the best because they know just how far a reasonable person will push themselves in pursuit of their personal best.  In fact, medical personnel appealed to those runners who were going to race today to not use today’s marathon to lower their personnel best times.

Dubbed the “Run For the Hoses”, organizers said they were most grateful that there were no deaths. (A participant did die in 2004). the Kenyans won for the umpteenth year in a row, but the two winners were not the two who were expected to win.  One of the Kenyan runners said he had never trained for such high temperatures; the highest temperature at which he had trained was 75F.  the official high temperature for Boston today was 87F but that figure is misleading.  The official temperature is taken at Logan Airport and everyone who has flown in or out of Logan can tell you that the airport is actually in Boston Harbor.  Temperatures there are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the route over which 95% of the race was run.

Times were slower, the two top runners who couldn’t complete the race may have some difficulty qualifying for the marathon in the Olympics, and a considerable percentage of the 500,000 spectators who line the route were treated for dehydration, but Poland Springs, the official spring water of the BAA, could not be found in any supermarkets in the area.  In fact, Sunday there were reports that those not involved in the race were being asked to refrain from buying any bottled water because the BAA was desperate to get every bottle in the state.

The newspapers will be filled with stories about this year’s marathon misadventures and the 2012 race will forever be remembered as the second worst day for running the course (1976 had slightly higher temperatures but about 10,000 fewer runners).  And next year most of those who ran today will be back to run again.  Congratulations to all who tried.

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3 Responses to RALPH WALDO EMERSON, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, AND 26.2 MILES

  1. From the weather, Beth, a more appropriate literary illusion may have been “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” 🙂

  2. Beth says:

    Given that the Charge took place in an area known as Balakava, and the two enept leaders were Lord Cardigan and Lord Raglan, the last thing anyone wanted to think about were hats and sweaters. On the other hand, this coming Monday’s weather is predicted to be low 50’s and raining. (I always think that those three names in the same sentence had to be some historian’s idea of a joke).

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