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Marathon paying tribute to Indigenous champion

Marathon paying tribute to Indigenous champion

Ellison M. “Tarzan” Brown, a 22-year-old a citizen of Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe, breaks the tape to win the 40th annual Boston Marathon, in Boston, in this April 19, 1936, file photo. Organizers of the Boston Marathon are seeking to make amends for running the 125th edition on Indigenous Peoples Day by throwing the spotlight on Brown, who won the race twice in the 1930s and inspired the name “Heartbreak Hill.” The Boston Athletic Association said on Sept. 27 it will honor Brown’s legacy at the pandemic-altered Oct. 11 running of the race.

BOSTON — Organizers of the Boston Marathon publicly apologized for running the 125th edition of the planet’s most celebrated footrace on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Now they’re seeking to make amends by throwing the spotlight on a citizen of Rhode Island’s Narragansett tribe who won the race twice in the 1930s and inspired the name “Heartbreak Hill” to describe the most iconic — and dreaded — section of the course.

The Boston Athletic Association, which administers the marathon, said it will honor the legacy of the late Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, Boston’s champion in 1936 and 1939, in the run-up to the race’s pandemic-altered Oct. 11 staging.

The Boston Marathon traditionally is held in mid-April on Massachusetts’ unique Patriots’ Day holiday. In 2020, it was canceled in its traditional format for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic, and because of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, it’s being run this year in the autumn rather than the spring.

The running falls on Indigenous Peoples Day — observed in some places as an alternative to Columbus Day — and that rankled enough people for the BAA in August to issue “sincere apologies to all Indigenous people who have felt unheard or feared the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be erased.”

Story Credit: William J. Kole Associated Press

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