REMEMBERING THE 1918 MILITARY RELAY. The Boston Athletic Association’s #PassTheBaton campaign encouraging and recognizing acts of service and altruism will pay tribute to the 1918 Marathon in which batons were passed between military relay teams on race day.
To commemorate the century anniversary of this relay “the B.A.A has selected 16 people with ties to the five branches of the US Military and to the eight cities and towns” through which the race is run, “to pass a baton during the 2018 Boston Marathon” in the #PassTheBaton Challenge. The names are provided with links to more information on the organization’s “Year of Service” page.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO THE BOSTON MARATHON was not run in the traditional manner, but as a military relay race. The Great War was being fought overseas and America had become involved in the conflict. Congress had agreed to President Woodrow Wilson’s request to declare war against Germany, with the resolution signed on April 6, 1917. Troops arrived in France in late June, became the American Expeditionary Force on July 5, and first entered combat October 21, 2017. They joined with British, French, Canadian, and Australian forces against the German Empire.
In January of 1918 Wilson had put forth a plan for world peace, the Fourteen Points. In March of that year, Russia had withdrawn from participating in the fighting. Later in March and extending into April, Germany had begun a series of last-ditch spring offensives. Great Britain’s Royal Air Force was founded April 1, 1918.
Because the Marathon was still a men-only competition, it must have been a daunting prospect to assemble a field of healthy athletes who were not serving in various military branches. From a public relations perspective, it would have been difficult to honor participants who were not assisting with the nation’s new war effort.
Canadian men had won the Boston Marathon as early as 1898, and 6 more times before 1918. Other internationals had run the race in previous years as well. The worldwide conflict known then as The Great War plus the dangers of Atlantic Ocean crossings would have stopped participation. The country's and world's attention was perhaps not on marathon running.
The B.A.A. description of the 1918 event is described below:
“Due to American involvement in World War I, the traditional Patriots’ Day race underwent a temporary change of format. A 10-man military relay race was contested on the course, and one of the teams from Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, bested the field in 2:24:53.
1. Camp Devens Divisional Team 2:24:53
2. 302nd Infantry, Camp Devens 2:28:10
3. Boston Navy Yard 2:28:45
4. 301st Signal Battalion, Camp Devens.2:29:14
5. Naval Cadet School 2:29:23
6. 304th Infantry, Camp Devens 2:32:20
7. Bumkin Island 2:37:20
8. U. S. N. Radio School 2:44:26"
The 5th anniversary of the 2013 terrorist bombing incident will also be recognized.
Members of the running community have been asked to “Pass the Baton” forward with “acts of kindness to those who serve others” during the Year of Service campaign. With this effort, race organizers wished to bring people together, to highlight and thank all who serve our country, and others, especially the Boston community, who came together in solidarity after the tragedy. “From military to law enforcement personnel; firefighters to doctors, nurses, and EMTs, and our own thousands of Boston marathon volunteers” indicates the B.A.A.
Knowledge that the 122nd race is commemorating other historical years makes watching* it even more special. It will be a delight to celebrate such a unique competition.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
*The schedule of race start-times for Monday, April 16 does not identify a separate start for the relay teams. Perhaps closer to the race there will be more information available.
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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