As I reflect on the inhumanity of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, I couldn’t help but think of the humanity of another story from decades before — also from the Boston Marathon.
This story involves a destitute Greek runner named Stylianos Kyriakides.
Kyriakides ran for Greece in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, where he met John Kelley, a fellow runner from Boston. Kelley and Kyriakides stayed in touch and a decade later, the American invited his Greek friend to race in Boston.
Greece was on her knees, reeling from years of a devastating Nazi occupation and civil war that led to death, destruction and starvation everywhere. Kyriakides himself hadn’t trained and wasn’t prepared — physically or emotionally — for what would be the most important race of his life.
Kyriakides came to Boston in 1946 not only to win the most famous race in the world, but also to bring attention to his people’s suffering and rally American support.
Emaciated and with hardly any training, he miraculously won the race. And with it, the love and admiration of an entire nation of Americans. He returned to Greece as a hero — and with millions of dollars of commitments for food, medicine and dramatically increased American awareness of the Greece’s struggles.
According to newspaper reports, Kyriakides was running with Kelley near the end when an old man shouted from the crowd, “For Greece, for your children!” inspiring him to pull away and win the race in 2:29:27.
Kyriakides shouted “For Greece” as he crossed the finish line.
For Greece. For Humanity.
This is the real legacy of Boston and those who have been inspired by this marathon. Every time we think of the bombings of 2013, let’s recall the humanity of 1946.
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