On any other Marathon Monday, thousands of runners would have gathered in the pre-dawn hours in Hopkinton, easily tripling the hill town’s population of 16,000 or so. Many of them would have chowed down on pasta the night before in Boston at the annual carbo-loading ritual. They would all be hoping for a good race Monday morning from the blue and yellow starting line painted across Route 135 to the finish line across Boylston Street, 26.2 miles distant.
On any other Marathon Monday, the Red Sox would be on the field warming up around the time the packs of marathoners ran by within sight of Fenway Park, where the traditional Patriots Day game would be getting underway.
On any other Marathon Monday, it would be Patriots Day, too. Before dawn you would find a ragged row of minutemen clutching flintlocks and fowling pieces, facing off against hundreds of uniformed British “regulars” on the Battle Green in Lexington, surrounded by thousands of spectators. In 1775, 700 British troops faced just 77 colonial volunteers under Capt. John Parker. When the smoke cleared, eight minutemen lay dead and another nine were wounded.
But this is unlike any Marathon Monday or Patriots Day, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping almost everyone home. The governor and Boston’s mayor made urgent pleas to frustrated runners: Don’t go to Hopkinton. Don’t run the race route. Wait for September when the rescheduled race will be run. Things will be better then. Have faith.
Monday’s Red Sox game was cancelled weeks ago, along with at least the early part of the baseball season. The wheels are still turning though, as Major League officials hope to find a way to play games without fans present before the spring ritual turns into summer or fall.
The minutemen and redcoats will wait until next year for their reenactment, keeping the crowds away from Lexington and Concord this year for everyone’s safety. Many fans of history might spend the week at home experiencing the sounds and sights of the battles virtually (https://www.lexingtonhistory.org/patriotsday.html) through Friday, in programs sponsored by the Lexington History Society. Would-be marathoners and Sox fans can relive past races and games, but videos are sorry substitutes for the real thing.
This Patriots Day will be one to remember for what it wasn’t. But, like social distancing and hunkering down at home, we can all pack that memory away and talk about it next year when we might be together again.