The Vintage Athlete of the Month for April was originally planned to be a baseball player, for obvious reasons. But for reasons even more obvious the events of this past week led to a change of plans. Instead, BST&N takes this month to honor the Marathon runners. This article will pay tribute to some of the most noteworthy, but the real honor goes to all have participated in this great event since its founding in 1897.
The Boston Marathon was founded in 1897, in response to the positive reception given to the marathon run at the first-ever Olympic Games the previous summer in Athens, Greece. It might sound easy to say in our current context that the Boston Marathon has become a showcase for the best of the human spirit—persistence, courage and fortitude, but the following examples bear witness to the reality that it’s true.
*Roberta Gibb grew up in the suburbs of Boston and got started on running, when she jogged through the woods with her dogs. Later, she kept in shape by jogging the eight miles between her and nursing school. In the early 1960s there were no running shoes designed for women, so Roberta ran in leather nurse shoes.
In 1966, she decided to run in the Marathon. Women were still not allowed to officially participate, so she basically snuck in the middle of the pack. Eventually other runners realized a woman was running alongside of them, and they gave Roberta encouragement. She was further encouraged by the observers on the street who became aware of what was going on, and cheered her on. Roberta is the first female to complete the Boston Marathon.
*Geoffrey Mutai grew up in Kenya, one of eleven children. He couldn’t afford to continue with his education, so he worked on a farm and he ran. He ran so well that he earned a spot on his country’s team for a world competition in 2002. Nine years later he ran a record-setting time in the Boston Marathon.
*John Campbell is from New Zealand, one of six kids born to a factory foreman. He did his running while earning a living doing a variety of jobs form shopkeeper to fisherman to milkman. He delivered his own record-setting performance in the Marathon. “You do what you do and you get on with the job,” he said regarding his training and how it integrates into his daily life. Those words might well serve as the masthead for all Marathon runners.