The Long Road to Boston, by author/runner Mark Sutcliffe, paints his personal quest for trip to Boston to run the storied marathon with the fine brush of an artist while using broader strokes to bring the hallowed course and the former competitors to life. Boston, the goal of many, if not most, marathoners presents a challenge beyond simply finishing the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. To simply toe the line, the marathoner needs to run a qualifying time, no easy feat for the merely mortal. In Sutcliffe’s case, it took twenty-one marathons to get to the start and two years of absolute dedication when his quest, to run the world’s oldest and most historic marathon, became irresistible.
But Sutcliffe has a fine appreciation, not just for the training required, but of the place that the Boston Marathon holds in the pantheon of marathons. Interspersed in his own narrative are the stories of John McDermott, the first champion, to Native American runner and twice-champion Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, to the immortal Clarence DeMar.
In Sutcliffe’s description of his race, he introduces us to the course itself, narrow chute of the starting line, into Ashland with the original starting line until 1908, and through from the screaming tunnel of enthusiasm of the Wellesly women. For runners, no course in the world matches the spectator support that Boston delivers – and it is to these people and the thousands of volunteers that Sutcliffe addresses his most touching words.
For a fan of running, an athlete aiming for their own shot at Boston, or history buff of sport, The Long Road to Boston serves to at once inform and inspire.