Every Saturday morning, History of Science professor Peter L. Galison ’77 wakes before dawn, laces up his shoes, and runs. Some days he heads for the Charles River, other days for downtown Boston, often braving the snow and ice to prepare for his second Boston Marathon.
“For me it’s a great treasure to see the city wake up while running and see people rowing on the Charles,” said Galison, who has been training for nearly two years since he first decided to run the marathon. “There’s something calming about it.”
Galison is one of about 36,000 runners racing this year’s Boston Marathon on Monday. More than two dozen of those runners will come from Harvard, either as qualifying runners or through the Harvard College Marathon Challenge, which this year has opened up spots for 17 Harvard undergraduates to race for a charity. Though Galison is running independently of the Marathon Challenge, with a non-Harvard group called the Marathon Coalition, he said the camaraderie of the runner community is universal.
But this year, Harvard runners say, that camaraderie will extend well beyond the race course. Many of those racing the 118th-annual Boston Marathon were present at last year’s event, either as spectators or runners, and remember vividly the horrific bombings near the finish line.
Some, like Galison, were stopped short of the finish. Others, like fourth-time marathon runner and Human Evolutionary Biology professor Daniel E. Lieberman, had already completed the race and only heard news of the explosions after returning to campus. Even runners who did not partake in last year's marathon feel a strong connection with those who were affected by last year’s events.
To many Harvard racers, this year’s marathon is the ultimate symbol of “Boston Strong,” a message of solidarity that arose in the aftermath of the bombings last April. And on Monday, Harvard runners will celebrate this message, racing to honor the victims of last year’s tragedy and to finish the long course toward recovery.
“We’re running to reaffirm this wonderful tradition,” Lieberman said. “To reaffirm our community.”
Most Harvard runners have been preparing for the marathon since 2013, consciously watching their diets and gradually ratcheting up their mileage all with an eye toward Marathon Monday. Over the course of six months, many runners, like Matthew J. Mollerus ’17, have been running 40 to 50 miles per week, saving the longer 20-mile runs for weekends.
Mollerus, a member of the Harvard College Marathon Challenge, said the group selects marathon participants, who this year have raised funds for either the Phillips Brooks House Association or the American Medical Athletic Association, based on their participation in the group, making the marathon push one with community at its center.
Community members can access the group's listserv, managed by Craig Rodgers, founder of the Harvard College Marathon Challenge, and post the time and place where they intend to run that day. In preparation for the marathon, many racers will find partners to accompany them on their longer distance runs, those most similar to the marathon itself.
Kate D. D'Orazio ’15 and Anne F. Wenk ’15 began running at Harvard during their freshman year. The two met through Harvard club running and have completed each of their long runs together in preparation of this year’s marathon.
“You just have hours to talk,” D'Orazio said. “[Anne] would bring water, and I would bring a banana and we would split it half way because you need to eat something when you are running a long run, like a 20-miler.”
Lieberman agreed, adding that he always needs to eat more food when in training mode.