Today is Patriots’ Day

Paul Revere Statue in the North EndEveryone knows about the Boston Marathon running today in the horrible weather. Many people I talked to here in CT thought the Marathon was transferred to Monday because of the wicked Nor’easter that ripped through our region yesterday.

No, that’s not it.

The third Monday in April is when Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day – the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Paul Revere’s Ride.

“Listen my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
On the 18th of April, in Seventy Five,
Hardly a man is now alive
who remembers that famous day and year.”

Maine celebrates it, too, since they used to be part of Mass. I think they just wanted another holiday.

Boston and its surroundings mark this day in important ways other than closed schools. At the Old North Church in the North End of Boston, they recreate the raising of the lanterns to the bell tower, and across the river, riders reenact the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes. At dawn, the battles themselves are reenacted on the village greens, surrounded by tourists. It’s all very patriotic and historic, reminding us of the humanity that gave birth to freedom.

We also run the Marathon and play a home Red Sox game, just because it’s a good idea. The race, which begins in Hopkinton, runs right past Fenway Stadium and the game is usually timed so the happy throngs (because of course the Sox will win on this day) come out and cheer the runners.

So what about this Marathon? It’s the world’s oldest annual marathon and was inspired by the success of the first modern Olympic marathon in Greece in 1896. The US coach was so impressed by what the marathon meant to the Greek people that he vowed to begin one back in his home. We’ve been running it since 1897.

I’ve lived near the marathon route all my years in Boston, albeit in different places on the way. The crowds are huge all along the way, for hours, there to support and cheer on those who labor long and hard to complete the race. The elite runners will do it, of course, but those who take 5 hours to make it need encouragement and they get it in spades.

I can’t conceive of running 26.2 miles, especially the ones on our route which have hills – Heartbreak Hill is near where I live – and this year, horrendous rain and strong headwinds at 42 degrees. I heard this morning that some 20-30% of runners were expected to skip running because of the conditions. Even qualifying to run is an achievement; I hope they are back next year to complete the dream.

The race is wonderful and puts an active sports face on our city. But those of us who live there don’t forget that the day of the race is also a time to remember our history, and to give thanks for those who gave our lives then – and now.