“It all starts here.” It’s a familiar phrase in Hopkinton and the town’s claim to fame as the start of the Boston Marathon. But through the work of the 26.2 Foundation, Hopkinton also has ties to another marathon — Marathon, Greece, where in 490 B.C. the soldier Pheidippides ran from a battlefield to Athens, bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. His run is credited as the inspiration for the creation of the marathon, one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896.
It is 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, and 4,760 miles from Hopkinton to Marathon, but that distance was shortened when Hopkinton established a sister city relationship with the Greek city in 2006. Following efforts by the 26.2 Foundation, a statue of Greek legend Stylianos Kyriakides, the winner of the 1946 Boston Marathon, was unveiled at the race’s 1-mile mark, at Weston Nurseries. The statue commemorates Kyriakides and how he used his victory to generate support for his fellow Greeks, who were starving after the Nazi occupation during World War II. Known as “Spirit of the Marathon,” the statue was commissioned by New Balance, sculpted by Miko Kaufman and dedicated in 2006 to mark the 60th anniversary of Kyriakides’ victory. An identical work was commissioned for Marathon, near the ancient battle site, to mark the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
In 2008, the Marathon Flame was officially gifted to the town of Hopkinton and now has a permanent home here, the only other place besides Greece where it burns continuously.
Through the connection to Marathon and to Stylianos Kyriakides, what is now known as Hopkinton’s “marathon footprint” is reaching outward and expanding, and creating new opportunities for Hopkinton and its residents.
Last month, 26.2 Foundation executive director Tim Kilduff spoke about Kyriakides at the MetroWest YMCA Marathon Breakfast. He also presented Rick McPherson, president and CEO of the MetroWest YMCA, with a gold olive branch from Marathon.
The Hopkinton Middle School chorus will sing the U.S. and Greek national anthems at the 36th annual Boston Marathon Wreath Ceremony on April 11, where the consul general of Greece in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, will present the Boston Athletic Association with gold olive branch wreaths to crown the four first-place winners of the race.
Also part of the wreath ceremony is the annual marathon essay competition in which middle school students write about the historical significance of the Battle of Marathon. This year nearly 1,000 students from Hopkinton Middle School, Ashland Middle School, Boston Latin Academy and O’Bryant School of Science & Math in Boston participated in this educational initiative sponsored by the Marathon Education Committee. The committee is an initiative to encourage an appreciation of the civic responsibility and bravery that the ancient Greeks demonstrated at Marathon and was developed through a collaborative effort between the 26.2 Foundation, the Alpha Omega Council of Boston and the consul general of Greece.
At Hopkinton Middle School, there is the 26.2 Desire to Inspire program, designed to provide a 21st century learning experience for students that goes beyond Hopkinton, broadening boundaries and creating global connections. It was enhanced by the efforts of the 26.2 Foundation to facilitate the connections between the Hopkinton Public Schools, the Alpha Omega Council of Boston, the consul general of Greece, professor Loren J. Samons II from the Boston University Department of Classical Studies, and The Examined Life, an organization whose mission is to strengthen Greek studies in schools. The result is an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes class lessons, enrichments, guest speakers, fundraisers, sports and competitions — all tied to the spirit of the marathon.
And for the 26.2 Foundation, acting as the catalyst to bring Hopkinton and Marathon, Greece, together, and facilitating connections, is what brings the most satisfaction.
“We are beginning to see how these inspiring activities are leading to the creation of a global network, connecting people and communities, all while celebrating the marathon run,” said Kilduff. “Even more exciting is the fact that Hopkinton is directly linked to history, the marathon, and to the world renowned Boston Marathon.”