The first Boston Marathon was run 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 precedent for 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.”
Search for the Wellesley Scream Tunnel on YouTube if you want to be deafened!
While Wellesley students have created signs for runners for years, only recently has this turned into an organized event led by the House President of Munger Hall. In 2011, students from Munger extended the reach of the sign-making tradition by starting @TheScreamTunnel on Twitter and Scream Tunnel Signs by Wellesley's Munger Hall on Facebook to take custom requests, show off signs created for runners, and interact with runners and other members of the community. Munger faces the marathon race course on Central Street, so it’s only fitting that its residents decided to take responsibility for upping the ante with this tradition.
Sign requestors can now complete the Boston Marathon Scream Tunnel Sign Request form — submit early to ensure you have an awesome sign for race day—but volunteers continue to take photos of each sign and post them to Facebook. All are encouraged to check out the comprehensive collection of signs from years past and tag themselves, friends, or family with their signs!