Monday, April 9, 2012

Countdown to Boston: Doing it All for a Bowl of Beef Stew

With Boston only days away (7 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

Next Monday, the top male and female participants in Boston will be vying for a $150,000 first place prize. In addition to the official prize purse, the runners also receive appearance fees and bonuses from their sponsors. All in all, major marathons are pretty lucrative for the top contenders. Of course, Boston wasn't always like that.

Go back in time just 25 years and the winners were competing for something very different--a bowl of beef stew, and a laurel wreath. All you have to do is look at the post-race photos to know the laurel wreath is alive and well, but beef stew is longer part of the spotlight.

For many years, every runner who crossed the finish line received a bowl of beef stew, served in the basement of the BAA's old headquarters, the Sodden Building, at 84 Exeter Street. Later, once Prudential Insurance began sponsoring the race, the stew was served in the company's cafeteria.

With the running boom of the 1970s, however, giving beef stew to every finisher became too big of a hassle. Soon only the winners were receiving this former-fixture. As a vegetarian I'm just as happy to receive Gatorade and a Powerbar instead, but it's fun to imagine the days when victor and weekend warrior alike sat down together for a bowl of beef stew.

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