The first Boston Marathon was run (with 18 competitors) in 1897, just a year after the first modern Olympics were held—and 22 years after Wellesley College admitted its first students.
The College is around the halfway point on the marathon route. In the first race, Wellesley students are reported to have cheered on a particular favorite (a Harvard student), thus setting a precedence of vociferous support for the runners.
The Scream Tunnel
That support continued every year, and soon turned into tradition, now known as the Scream Tunnel. The ritual gained momentum in the 1970s when women were at last allowed to officially run the race. Today, more than 25,000 competitors race the course on foot and in wheelchairs, and more than $800,000 is awarded in prize money at the Boston Marathon. Wellesley and its students are as much a feature of the race (if more beloved) than Heartbreak Hill. According to Runners’ World magazine, “Thousands of women line about a quarter mile of the course, motivating runners with hoots, hollers, high-fives... even kisses! The so-called Wellesley Scream Tunnel is so loud, runners say they can hear it from a mile away.”
Sponsor New Balance referenced it in its 2010 “Excellent” ad campaign with billboards reading, “Excellent screams through Wellesley.”
Students from Munger, the residence hall closest to the race course on Central Street, offer to make customized signs for runners, and accept requests via a Twitter account. Students are also seen holding signs with variations of the saying 'Kiss Me, because...' to cheer up runners.
Search for the Scream Tunnel on YouTube if you want to be deafened!