Marathon Preparations Underway at Wellesley

April 12, 2013

Wellesley's "Scream Tunnel" Back for Marathon Monday on April 15

scream tunnel sign making

The Scream Tunnel is often cited by Boston Marathon runners as a major highlight of the race. Hundreds of Wellesley College students and friends line a section of the course that stretches for almost a quarter mile along the campus. They cheer for hours, holding signs and offering motivation, high fives, and even kisses to the runners.

The Scream Tunnel evolved from the long-standing custom of cheering on the Marathon that runs right past Wellesley's door. Legend has it that a group of Wellesley students gathered for the first Boston Marathon to cheer on a particular runner (a Harvard man) who participated in that inaugural race. The ritual—and noise—gained momentum in the 1970s when women were at last allowed to officially run the race. Runners report that they can hear the screams from more than one mile away.

In a new twist on the tradition, since 2010 students have organized to create personalized signs for specific runners who request them through Twitter and Facebook. Here's how a recent Runner's World magazine article about the Boston Marathon described it:

Every year, the women of Wellesley College descend on a section of the course beside their campus, where they offer kisses and blast out their lungs for any and every runner who goes by. But the Wellesley women have found a new way to spread the love—with custom signs for anyone who asks for one via Facebook or Twitter. The idea was cooked up in 2010 by a student named Hayley Lenahan, and these days, junior Natalie Griffin, 20, runs the program. Griffin says that last year there were 180 requests from all over the world, and she expects even more for 2013. For seven days before the marathon, students will gather to crank out the signs. Last year, one of Griffin's favorites was, "Do The Cha Cha Slide, RN!" She's not sure what it meant, but that's sort of the point. At a big event like Boston, it's nice to get a personal touch.

Sign creation is headquartered in Munger Hall, the closest residence hall to the race course. You can preview some of the custom-made signs on the Facebook page called, unmysteriously, Scream Tunnel Signs by Wellesley's Munger Hall. You can also find words of appreciation sent to the students, like: "Thanks ladies you have the biggest hearts & loudest screams," and "I think this is just an awesome thing you are doing...really amazing!" This just adds to the large volume of comments floating around the Internet about the Scream Tunnel, that call it "the greatest moment in long-distance running" and say "I always come out of the 'tunnel' with a little boost."

Photo: Kathy Long '15

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