Opinion: The True Meaning of Marathon Monday

Marathon Monday is very much intertwined with the Bostonian identity of “work-hard-play-harder,” a philosophy most Boston College students are familiar with. And with a social gathering of the college or greater Boston variety, one can expect drinking. Today, has Marathon Monday become known as a holiday of inebriation instead of a celebration of independence and community?

The essence of Patriot’s Day is that of a unique breed of nationalism. In commemoration of the battles of Lexington and Concord, its arrival ushers in a burst of springtime that has everyone along those 26.2 miles itching to begin their Monday mornings. The Boston Marathon celebrates this day in a most fitting way--runners from around the world come together as athletes, activists, professionals and weekend warriors to compete in the race of a lifetime.

Approximately one million spectators line the 26.2-mile course annually, according to estimates by police and public safety officials from the eight cities and towns along the route. This makes the Boston Marathon New England's most widely viewed sporting event. For one day, we highly motivated, tightly-wound New Englanders rejoice in the success of complete strangers--we cheer on the old and young, the wheelchair and handcycle bound, those racing the clock and those racing for a cure--we declare this is what makes us Boston Strong.

But for a number of BC students, this isn’t what Marathon Monday is about: it’s about waking up at 7:00 am to the steady bass of blasting music and the sweet smell of Natty Light and Ruby. Donning a marathon tank top with a witty reference to drinking, students crowd into the Mods or gather in off-campus yards to enjoy some sunshine and the darty of the year under the watchful eye of BCPD, Residential Life, city police officers and state troopers. By 4 pm, most students begin the trek home, sunburnt and dazed, to rest for classes on Tuesday.

In the midst of the jubilation of a free day to drink with friends, many of us forget that the main event isn’t actually drinking–it is the marathon. Not 500 yards away from the Mod gates, 32,458 people raced passed St. Ignatius Church after conquering Heartbreak Hill with 5 miles left to go.

To say that BC students are lazy or apathetic to the marathon experience is, I think, the wrong explanation. Those 500 yards represent more than just the fear of leaving the Mods and not being able to get back in or the absentmindedness of a few students – the culture of drinking we have created around celebrations like Marathon Monday has superseded the value we see in the shared experience of standing along the route and cheering for the runners.

According to a self-reported survey conducted by the Alcohol and Drug Education Program at Boston College in the spring of 2014, the average BC student drinks twice a week, with females consuming four drinks and males consuming six. This puts us just over the national average of four drinks twice a week per person. The slight increase can easily be attributed to that fact that BC is a highly residential campus with Division I athletics, substituting campus organizations for Greek life and the Mods for tailgating.

That third Monday in April is a unique moment in time for this city that is more or less used as a giant excuse to get blackout drunk before the elite runners even get to Chestnut Hill. Unhealthy binge drinking in an eight-man or within the Mod gates isolates us from that unique shared experience. A fleeting memory of being on Commonwealth Avenue as your roommate who trained seven months for the Marathon ran by isn’t really the genuine expression of solidarity that being a spectator of the Marathon is all about.

Drinking goes hand-in-hand with almost any social gathering in college, and it is only magnified when talking about Boston-area schools. Part of the reason why Marathon Monday is such a holiday is because everyone, from spectators to law enforcement, seem a little happier to be outside with their fellow Bostonians simply enjoying the day.

With this enjoyment comes drinking, which will never change, nor do I believe that it should change. It is an undeniable part of the tradition of Marathon Monday. But the Marathon isn’t about you or me on the sidelines – it’s about those in the race and our unequivocal embrace of their determination and athleticism.

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Christie Merino