My virtual Boston Marathon


From: Linda Williams


As has become customary for the race, this year’s Boston Marathon was scheduled for Patriots’ Day, which fell on April 20, 2020. However, the holiday started its monumental role in the race’s history back in 1897, when the Boston Marathon was held on Patriots’ Day, April 19, a commemoration of the start of the Revolutionary War that was recognized only in Massachusetts and Maine. The lone exception was when April 19 fell on a Sunday.  In those years, the race was held the following Monday (Monday the 20th), and in 1969, the holiday was officially moved to the third Monday in April.

This year, there was no Patriots’ Day race held in Boston. Due to COVID-19, the race was postponed to Monday, April 14, 2020. On March 28, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) decided to cancel the marathon and hold a virtual event. Runners who had qualified and were accepted into the Boston Marathon 2020 were allowed to register for the race virtually. Runners were allowed to run the race any day between Saturday, September 5, and Monday, September 14.

I chose to run my virtual race on Saturday, September 5. My race began on the east bike path near River Hills Dental. From there my husband, daughters, and I plotted a distance of 13.1 miles. At eight different locations along my route, we placed signs alongside the road with the names of the towns (Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston) that I would have been running through as if I were in Boston. My route took me from the East Lake to the West Lake, out toward Prairie Island road, and continued past Minnesota City Boat Club and through Minnesota City. It then wrapped around Industrial Park Road, around Airport Lake and out onto Theurer Boulevard into Goodview, until I reached 13.1 miles, at which I turned around and went 13.1 miles back, ending where I started.

I arrived at the bike path a little before 7 a.m., where many people were at the start line to wish me well on my fourth “Boston.” One friend chalked the entire bike path with encouraging messages. The start line read: “26.2 No Problem You Got This Linda W,” and where she thought my finish was going to be read: “4 Bostons In The Books!”

The cow bells started my marathon at 7:11 a.m. For the first leg of my journey, I was accompanied by a few of the varsity Cotter cross country runners, one who was my oldest daughter, Aubrey. We were followed by my friend Carrie, who rode her bike the distance carrying food and water to fuel my run. The cross country runners ran with me for the first hour, and Aubrey continued on a little while longer, helping the time and miles fly by.

Support lined the route from beginning to end, as many fans came out to line the route and cheer me on. Boston may have a lot more spectators, but I had the best spectators! From grade school friends to familiar faces of my former colleagues from the Winona Police Department to teachers and newer friends, one friend that followed me 23 miles in her van playing upbeat music along the way! Her energy was contagious!

This has been a year like no other for all of us. Maybe the reason this Boston Marathon meant so much to me was for the same reason the Boston Marathon was canceled, COVID-19. On July 22 I tested positive for COVID-19. The virus took the wind out of my sail and after two weeks of no running, my body thought it would never be able to run again, let alone 26.2 miles.

This was a journey shared by the people who know and love me. A journey I am thankful to have been able to achieve with the love and support of my awesome husband, daughters, family and friends.

If there is a fifth Boston in my future, I hope it’s as memorable and awesome as my virtual 2020 Boston Marathon, held in Winona!


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