The origin of the marathon - one of modern society's most celebrated displays of endurance and determination - has been widely disputed. One popular myth involves the fabled run of the Greek messenger Pheidippides, who, in 490BC, brought news of victory from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. He delivered the message through a final, arduous gasp before collapsing at the feet of the magistrates in session.
Noticeably less grim (though no less fabled) are the humble origins of the Vermont City Marathon, Burlington's hometown race and the state's largest single-day sporting event. The 26.2-mile testament to fortitude was founded in 1989 and is New England's second-largest marathon, hosting 7,500 runners annually with thousands more spectating. One of the most scenic courses in the country with breathtaking stretches hugging Lake Champlain, the annual Memorial Day event was forced to pause last year, but plans to return on October 24th with some slight modifications.
"It's on a non-traditional date and a non-holiday weekend," says Peter Delaney, Executive Director of Run Vermont, the local organization that's been producing the race since 2004. "We decided to reconfigure the course so it didn't impact quite as much of the community. We'll be utilizing a two-loop course that's 13.1 miles long."
For the brave souls out there hungry for glory, registering for the marathon is easy - head to RunVermont.org to sign up. It's also where COVID protocols and event notifications will be regularly updated. In addition to being a Boston Marathon qualifying race, the VCM offers relay team options as well as a mini-marathon for kids 4-14. "That's probably the most fun of the whole weekend," says Delaney. "Seeing several hundred kids running around having a grand time is pretty special."
So is the sense of warmth and support expressed by many of the marathon's spectators, passionately cheering on the epic efforts of friends, family, and strangers alike. "If you want to restore your faith in humanity, come be a part of this event," says Delaney, speaking to the marathon-inspired empathy he's witnessed amongst fans of the race. "You can run, you can cheer, you can volunteer. Just put all the politics, all the negative stuff aside, and for a day you'll remember what it's like to celebrate life."
Bob O'Brien, a Vermont native who now lives in Ohio, has completed every Vermont City Marathon since 1989. "I've always had this attachment to the race," he says, preparing to run it for the 32nd time. "I think everybody's hometown marathon is probably their favorite, but for me, it's about coming home."
For many fans of the race, the feeling is likely mutual. In addition to celebrating the perseverance of all those participating, this year's event will be a testament to the endurance of the race itself, and a memorable addition to its already storied legacy.