For Boston, another first, with the annual running of the Boston Marathon is celebrated by great local artists, Robert Shure, Mark Flannery and Nancy Schon.
The longest continuously run annual marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon ends here at Copley Square with these sculptures.
Situated adjacent to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, this memorial celebrates the race’s annual running. At first, the memorial might be easy to miss: instead of rising up vertically, the memorial consists primarily of granite patterns set into the ground. The central medallion traces the marathon’s course from the suburb of Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay, and an elevation map shows off its notoriously difficult hills, the most infamous being “Heartbreak Hill”.
Around this central medallion are inscribed the names of the marathon’s winners, including Bobbi Gibb. Initially disguised as a man, she first ran the marathon in 1966 when women, thought to not be physiologically capable, were not yet allowed to enter the race. Depictions of the diverse runners of the Boston Marathon are captured in bronze reliefs on posts around the medallion. Men, women and physically challenged are all represented in this sculpture.
Nancy Schon, sculptress of the famous “Make Way for Duckling” sculpture was watching the 1991 Marathon and started thinking about what a sculpture might be like for the Boston Marathon, the oldest foot race in the United States. She said, “I wanted to create a sculpture that would be attractive to children, yet be a meaningful metaphor for the race. I knew the marathon was based on a Greek warrior who in 490 B.C. ran approximately 25 miles to announce the news of a great military victory. The Greek connection of using another kind of race, that of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare created by Aesop ( ?620- 560 B.C.) came to mind.
I couldn’t show a man running, or a woman, or a person in a wheelchair. The tortoise and the hare seemed a perfect metaphor to represent the wide variety of people who participate in the marathon people of all ages, shapes and sizes, many of whom finish, but
walk over the finish line. Some of the marathon runners I know run just to finish, they don’t expect to win, they are challenged and want to have that wonderful sense of accomplishment. Persistence pays off, slow and steady wins the race. They want to be a part of one of the most important sports event in the country. 1996 was the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon. I wanted to do something to commemorate that event.”
Nancy Schon said further ,”I hope that children will cherish these animals pat them, hug them and learn the important lesson that the fable teaches. After all, children are our future and they are the runners and citizens of tomorrow.”
The Friends of Copley Square have sponsored this sculpture and they believed the fable was an ideal coupling of it and the Boston Marathon. The sculpture brings a needed human factor which is significant to the neighborhood and its children.