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Crank up the volume: Boston Marathoners count on Wellesley Scream Tunnel

April 16, 2009 – 4:52 PM

By Sarah Odell

As a freshmen at Wellesley College, I gawked at a larger than life poster hanging in Boston’s Prudential Center that featured a blurred runner and hundreds of smart, attractive, and energetic women cheering wildly, along with the tag line: “Sometimes losing your hearing is the best inspiration.”

“What is that?” I asked a senior.  Only one of the coolest aspects of the Boston Marathon, she explained.

Better than any water stop — or group of random fans – the stretch of Route 135 which borders Wellesley College is known as “the Wellesley Scream Tunnel” and is the official emotional high point of the race. It’s the Motivational Mount Olympus to the dreaded inner Hades that is Heartbreak Hill.

“As a runner going through Wellesley, you know if you make eye contact with someone, or gesture to them, letting them know you need support, you will get it,” says Ben Temple, a teacher and cross country coach at Wesstown School in Pennsylvania who is running his second Boston Marathon. There is no missing it: As runners come off the stone bridge on Bacon Street, they hear the roar of the women of Wellesley waiting for them on route 135 just opposite a large digital clock offering their half-marathon split.

“You’ve got to try not to get too excited,” says Temple. “The Scream Tunnel comes at the half-way mark, when you really need the energy, but I have to keep reminding myself to keep pace and not speed up. I try to remember what the scream tunnel sounded like once I reach Heartbreak Hill.”

As one of the cheering masses, I experienced my first Boston Marathon as a freshman the spring of 2007, standing in the rain and yelling encouragement as runners passed. Each year it goes down about the same: The elites wave — if they are far enough ahead of the pack. The first set of “weekend warriors,” mostly men ages 18-35 are pretty intense, too (that’s where you’ll find a Ben Temple). They might wave or smile. Sometimes students know a runner and – well – cover your ears.

What’s important about this Wellesley tradition (it’s our equivalent of Homecoming), is we are out there for hours – and hours.

Of course, it gets more fun as the pack swells. It’s a Wellesley tradition that mid and-back-of the packers often stop and give or get a kiss. The runners who smooch are typically pretty sweaty, but as Megan Wood, Wellesley class of 2010 and one of the stars of our softball team puts it, “I think its kind of disgusting but they have come so far I might as well kiss them.”

We don’t have football like Harvard or men’s lacrosse like Johns Hopkins to rally around, but I find it appropriate that the Boston Marathon excites the Wellesley campus. Wellesley women work hard, spending hours mastering their subjects in the library, the lab, or at their desks. It seems incredibly fitting that we get excited about a sport that takes months of grueling practice and tests the limits of the human body. Training for hours and days is something we understand – and gladly cheer for.

Sarah Odell is a junior at Wellesley College who will represent the U.S. this July in Squash at the Maccabi Games in Israel.

  1. 5 Responses to “Crank up the volume: Boston Marathoners count on Wellesley Scream Tunnel”

  2. Kudos to all the runners, particularly women that train for the event to test challenge themselves.

    It is one of the most amazing, exciting and fun things that I’ve witnessed at Wellesley. It is an event worth being a part of whether affiliated with Wellesley or not.

    By Bridget Belgiovine on Apr 17, 2009

  3. Everyone I know who has run Boston says the same thing–going through Wellesley’s Scream Tunnel is inspiring and truly amazing. Never a participant, but often a spectator on the side of the road, I vow to one day not run (!) but join in this great Wellesley tradition.

    By D Tambascio on Apr 20, 2009

  4. i just experienced my first Wellesley tunnel as a first-year at the college about an hour ago and it was truly amazing- 6 random people kiss me too!!

    By CORI-RI on Apr 20, 2009

  5. I am the father of Libby Freeman, ’12, watched my son Crosby Freeman run the marathon today, and was proud to see him finish 30th in 2:25.
    I ran my first marathon in 1972 (101st, 2:42), and to this day my all-time best running memory is passing through Wellesley. I don’t remember the name scream tunnel, but boy does that label fit. Somehow a horde of highly enthusiastic females does get ones spirits up. Thanks for the memories.

    By Peter Freeman on Apr 20, 2009

  6. As a former coach at Wellesley College, I remember fondly the day when I’d make sure my team was out supporting all the runners. It was particularly awe inspiring when the first woman runner would come through…the “Screetch Tunnel” became even louder. You can hear it for miles. What a fantastic tradition.

    By Nicole LaVoi on May 3, 2009

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