Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

What Marathon Monday can teach us


Patriots’ Day is a holiday celebrating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the Revolutionary War – but how many University of Massachusetts students would tell us what the day actually means? The school’s mascot is the Minuteman, yet most of us take this particular Monday off without giving any thought as to why we don’t have classes.

And why should we? It’s not like we’ll be penalized if we’re unable to give the correct answer. There’s no test asking us what the day entails. But just because this information may not be applicable to an upcoming Scantron doesn’t mean that it is any less valuable than, say, the time it takes for a rock to drop from a 30-foot bridge.

While I think it’s important to recognize the history of Patriots’ Day, I also think it’s important to learn about another historical event that this day entails: Marathon Monday.

Beginning in 1897, I’d say that this event is one worthy of the history books. “I remember a guy winning the marathon who ran in his dungarees” said my dad, Tom McKenna. “You know your Uncle Dave once beat Alberto Salazar in a high school track meet. And then Alberto Salazar won the marathon in 1982.” While some, like my dad, have a more romanticized perspective, I can understand that others might see it differently.

“What’s so exciting about watching people run?” asked my friend when I had told him that I was going to the Boston Marathon last year. The Boston Marathon is, in its literal form, a 26.2-mile race between lots of people from all around the world. Friends, family and (sometimes drunk) college students gather to watch the world’s oldest marathon.

What I’ve always liked most about the race, though, is not the support of friends, family or Boston area college students, but rather the support coming from complete strangers. I don’t know if there is any greater good than helping out a stranger for the sole sake of being supportive.

In a world disenchanted by crime, poor economic conditions, drugs and math homework, it has become natural to develop a slightly jaded perspective of life, in general.

Even a few weeks ago I sat in the study abroad office awaiting an appointment, and one of the strangers sitting in the room with me attempted to make conversation. Heads turned all around the room; what was this person doing? “Where are you thinking of studying?” he asked. “Why does this person care?” I thought. There was no way I could take this seriously; it seemed insincere to me. “What does he want from me? How could he possibly care,” I thought. I mean, why would anyone talk to someone that they didn’t absolutely have to talk to? The idea baffled me as well as everyone else in the once silent waiting room.

I then learned that he was from the South; this explained a lot as he didn’t quite comprehend our less friendly, impatient and, dare I say, “meaner” New England ways.

It soon dawned on me that perhaps this person really was just trying to be friendly and make genuine conversation.

It may not be healthy to look at everything so logically; we don’t always need a reason to chat with someone new or to cheer on about 22,426 strangers. We don’t absolutely need to know the meaning of Patriots’ Day, either. A good deed is not performed due to reason, but due to a genuine heartfelt impulse. As Cornelius Tacitus once said, “Gratitude is thought of as an obligation, revenge as pure profit”. There is reason in revenge, but the best things in life surpass reasonable thought and skip straight to the heart.

The marathon demonstrates this in a more visibly apparent way than anything I’ve witnessed does. There are cheers and positive energy coming from everyone, for everyone. Men, women, teenagers, 70-year-olds, people wearing cow costumes, soldiers and marines – almost anyone can be seen running the Boston Marathon and everyone is given support regardless of status. These moments of unity and unquestioned faith are rare in life, but when they appear, I can’t help but notice and smile.

The Boston Marathon is more than an exhausting trek along Massachusetts town lines; it’s built on moments. To answer my friend’s question, there is nothing very exciting about watching people run. There is only something very moving about standing in a wave of people, wanting so badly for each and every individual to reach a common goal – one step at a time.

Katie McKenna is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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