Friday, April 14 – Sunday, April 16, 8:00 to 10 p.m. each evening.New for 2023, this marathon-themed video projection show will feature three unique shows each evening and get participants, spectators, and community members ready for race day. Featuring highlight videos and memorable moments from 127 years of racing, the projection show will celebrate this year’s #oneBOSTON theme and will play every 15 minutes each evening.
The show is in partnership with Meet Boston, produced by luminArtz with Pamela Hersch as Projection Designer.” Photo credit: Hersch Visuals
According to the BAA, “At 2:30 p.m., the public is invited to join members of the One Fund Community, Mayor Michelle Wu, Governor Maura Healey, first responders, hospital leaders, B.A.A. leadership, and local running groups at the Boston Marathon Finish Line for a dedication of a new commemorative finish line, the ringing of bells, and the unveiling of a One Boston Day marker on Boylston Street.”
This year, 2023, also marks the 50th anniversary of Jon Anderson and my win at the Boston Marathon. As I reflect on this year’s many events, and anticipate many reunions, I am sharing a speech I delivered to a charity luncheon at the 2016 Boston which describes my bittersweet experiences at this iconic marathon over many years.
That year (2016) included Amby Burfoot’s publication of the “First Ladies” book and many of us gathered for a grand reunion. See the photo above for a few of us (R to L): Cheryl Treworgy, Jacqueline Hansen, Julia Chase Brand, Nina Kuscsik, Sara Mae Berman, Eleonora Mendonca, Joan Benoit Samuelson. Not pictured, there also were Patti Dillon and Bobbi Gibb among others.
The speech –
Boston is Where Dreams Come True
In 1966, a young woman named Bobbi Gibb asked to enter the Boston Marathon and was told no, there is no women’s division. She questioned why. And she ran anyway, without a number.
Her dream came true at Boston. Twice.
In 1966, I was a senior in high school in Los Angeles. A new PE teacher on campus, named Dixie Griffin, observed that while we had a boys’ track team, we did not have a girls’ track team. She questioned why. And she started one anyway. I failed at all other sports, but I liked to run. I joined her team.
In late 1972, I had just won the first marathon I ever tried. I had been inspired to try because my teammate Cheryl Bridges ran marathons and I witnessed her world record, the first sub-2:50 ever run by a woman. A friend of mine from Yale said “You should go to Boston. They just opened a women’s division for the first time.” I said YES. Why not?!
In 1973, I won Boston and my life changed forever. Thank you to Dixie Griffin for introducing me to track. Thank you to Bobbi Gibb for opening the door to Boston. Thanks to Patrick Miller who introduced Boston to me. Humongous thanks to my lifelong coach, Laszlo Tabori, for believing in me, for training me hard, and preparing me for anything. He made everything possible. And a dream came true for me in Boston.
Twelve wins out of my first fifteen marathons in my competitive years, including two world records and being the first to break 2:40, I am grateful and satisfied that I had already achieved more than I set out to do when I joined my high school track team. That’s for certain. However, I also realized as the number one woman marathoner in the world for a period of three years, there was an injustice – because I was a woman, I could not run in the Olympic Games. Women were limited to the one mile run as the longest distance allowed. As President of the International Runners Committee, we lobbied and sued until at last we had a marathon for the first time in 1984, but had to drag through the courts before all the women’s distance races were included. Through it all, I finally had the opportunity to join scores of women able for the first time to go to an Olympic Trials in May of 1984.
On April 16, 1984 at Boston, I qualified for the first ever women’s Olympic Trials Marathon – just in time because it was the last day possible to qualify. I finished against all odds, given I was recovering from injuries that required surgery, and ran two failed prior attempts to qualify, plus finished Boston in a heavy rainstorm, in the grips of hypothermia, where I completely blacked out. The only thought in my mind as I fought to finish was this mantra, “I deserve to finish, I deserve to finish.” This was combined with exhaustion of working on the lawsuit which ironically enough began in court on that fateful day, April 16, 1984. It could not have been a more dramatic day in my life. Or so I thought.
But my dream came true in Boston again. I was going to the Olympic Trials, the first ever. I was past my prime as an athlete. I was sick and injured, but it WAS my Olympics .
In 1996, I pulled myself out of running retirement to run the 100th Anniversary and was so happy to participate in the best way I knew how. Running. All the living champions returned to Boston to participate, running or not. It was a glorious time. It was the biggest field Boston ever experienced, at the time. That would change.
In 2013, I celebrated my 40th Anniversary at Boston. Several of my friends purposely qualified for the marathon in order to join me in celebration. A few of them ran for Team in Training. I had been coaching Jeaney Garcia for years, I just began coaching Michele Tritt, and although I was not his coach, we have a mutual friend from Honolulu in Kit Smith who has run many times in honor of the daughter he lost to Leukemia.
On this day, I had the honor of shooting the starting gun for the women’s race. I was shuttled with a police escort back to the finish line in time for the first finishers. I was even able to gain access to stand right at the finish line to greet each of my runners as they raced in. And because we were staying on Copley Plaza, I could escort them each back and forth to the hotel from the finish. It was on our way back to the finish line for my final runner to come in, my best friend Jeaney, when we heard and felt the two blasts. Kaboom, kaboom. Like a sonic boom and an earthquake (at least it seemed so to this Californian). You all know what took place. We were separated by two bomb blasts near the finish line and it took hours to reunite and to know that each other was safe. We cried and hugged when we finally found each other. Others were not so fortunate. We grieved for a long, long time. I had no idea in 1984 that, in my experience, Boston could ever hold more drama. I had no idea drama could be so tragic.
In 2014, most of us returned to Boston, perhaps for closure (if there is ever such a thing). I’ve looked up the definition of “closure.” The dictionary says it’s a feeling of finality or resolution, especially after a traumatic experience. A letting-go of what once was. A complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new.
Jeaney ran for TNT again. She could’ve taken the free pass to return and run on her own, as offered to all of those who did not get to finish in 2013. But she chose to fundraise all over again. She did it because it was the right thing to do. She did it because she is the most positive person on the planet and I am enriched because of our deep friendship and unconditional love.
She did it because she believed dreams do come true in Boston.
While we waited for Jeaney at the finish line again, I witnessed the most gratifying finish by the first American in over 30 year to win Boston. Meb. That’s all I need to say. Just one name. Meb. (I take pride in predicting his win.) A huge sigh of relief came over the city of Boston when Meb crossed the finish line. I even got a big hug at the finish from Meb. I cried and for the first time, I was absolutely speechless, muttering my words and shedding tears of joy. All was right with the world again. Boston Strong. Take back the roads. Take back our race. Everyone was saying these words. And I do believe the runners outnumbered the record number I mentioned that ran at the 100th Boston. Everyone wanted to participate and support. Boston Strong.
For me, for my entourage, we didn’t quite find closure until Jeaney crossed her finish line. And then she did. Here is the conclusion to a heart-warming article she published:
“I followed the advice of the champions at the breakfast I went to before the race. I made the Boston Marathon the best experience possible, making friends and memories that I’ll never forget. I used to run to get the fastest time, but as Amby Burfoot refreshingly reminded me: been there, done that. My coach and best friend, Jacqueline Hansen, has been with me over many years and many hurdles, including the 1996 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier where I came up short on time and injured but somehow finished. I suffered more than I had in childbirth and felt almost as proud. Jacqueline always said I was in sub 2:50-shape for a good portion of my fastest years, but unfortunately, I did not prove it in races often enough.
“At 52-years-old, I now know that I can prove that every race is a great race, no matter your time. Jacqueline continues to remind me to just run what I can, where and when I can. I will always run for the survivors, the fighters, the taken. I deserve to finish, as Jacqueline the champion said. We all deserve to finish.”
“I run to refresh my body and soul. I run because it brings me life. I run to be the best version of myself. I remember those who can’t run and what they would give to have this gift. There is no such thing as a bad run because every day is a blessing, and I am proud of every run I do. And as it proclaims on the back of my TNT singlet, I run for those who cannot run for themselves.”
In 2018, I returned to Boston as a spectator and a coach. I visited my former student who I still coach, Adan Acevedo, and I do believe he caught the “bug” to make Boston his marathon goal.
As a sidenote, I made a bold prediction (which also came true) when I said Desi would emerge victorious.
In 2022, after a few unprecedented years during the pandemic, with a cancelled race, a virtual race, and an off-season race, Boston returned to its traditional day on the traditional course. I returned as well. This time Adan’s goal became a reality. I’d coached Adan since high school, and helped coach him to his first marathon in LA. This year his was a two-fold goal, to run his first Boston Marathon and to raise $15,000 for Dana Farber Cancer Research.
Yes, Adan’s dreams came true.
Now, in 2023, I anticipate the reunions more than anything, and this is something that Jon Anderson and I completely agree on. We came into the 1973 Boston Marathon from completely different placements. Jon was an Olympian and a highly accomplished runner, who arrived with the goal of placing as the first American. I came in as a previous middle distance runner, with little experience at any competition, much less as a marathoner (it was my second road race, my second marathon). More that either of us expected, our dreams certainly came true.
We met again and again, and when we shared race starts, I won. His presence was a good omen. The most memorable of these is the OTC (Oregon Track Club) Marathon 1975, the scene of my best marathon, world record 2:38.19.