BOSTON (CBS) – Marathon Monday will be the culmination of the Boston Athletic Association’s year long salute to service. That means recognizing service at every level, including their volunteers, first responders, and the military.
There will be a special tribute on race day to the servicemen who played an important, but little known role in the marathon’s history.
One hundred years ago, World War I was being fought overseas, but the impact was felt by everyone, even by the B.A.A. Uncertain that they would have enough runners for the 1918 Boston Marathon, they enlisted 10-man teams and turned the marathon into a military relay. Those teams came from places like the Boston Navy Yard, the Springfield Armory, and Camp Devens – the winner of that relay.
On April 16, military veterans will run to honor those servicemen who ran to keep the Boston Marathon alive.
Eight teams of two, each representing one of the 8 cities and towns along the course, will hand off the baton from Hopkinton to Boston.
“When I started reading up on the history and the 100-year anniversary of this military relay that took place in 1918, and growing up and going to down to the Boston Marathon as a kid, I thought I had to put my name in the hat and try to participate,” said Dennis Magnasco, who served as a a combat medic in Afghanistan.
Magnasco and Alexia Parks will run the final leg of the relay.
“I think crossing the finish line’s going to be unbeatable,” said Parks, who went to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
“I’ve seen the excitement of runners crossing the finish line, and I’m excited to be a part of that for sure,” Magnasco told WBZ-TV.
For Laura Piscopo, a U.S. Army veteran, the connection is powerful.
“I surprised everyone by joining the Army reserves in the middle of senior year of high school,” she said. “My grandfather, who I never met, he’s a veteran of World War I. I’m actually going to run with his dog tag. It’s almost a family heirloom. On the back of the dog tag it has his thumbprint, so that had to hurt, it’s not what we do now with dog tags. I feel like we’re going to be close together that day, it’ll be very special.”
Even though these teams are only running a 3-to-4 mile stretch, and not the whole 26.2, they’re all business.
Boston Commissioner of Veterans Services, Giselle Sterling, is an alternate in case anyone else can’t run. She joined the Marines right out of high school, something that she knew she wanted to do since she was 14 years old. She’s run Boston, and knows the crowds will carry this team.
“I feel like a lot of that energy is going to be focused on them because they represent so much as a team. That day is really about that energy that we carry and what we represent,” Sterling said.