Preparations for the 2016 Wellesley Scream Tunnel—Often Cited by Boston Marathon Runners as a Major Highlight of the Race—are Underway

April 15, 2016
Wellesley students create signs for the 2016 Boston Marathon Scream Tunnel

Preparations are underway and excitement is building across campus for Monday's Boston Marathon. Located at the halfway point on the course, Wellesley students have gathered to support and cheer on runners since the very first Marathon. The support continued to grow every year, eventually becoming the tradition known as the Scream Tunnel.

The Scream Tunnel—often cited by Boston Marathon runners as a major highlight of the race—brings together thousands of students and friends who line a quarter-mile section of the course that stretches along the campus. They cheer for hours, holding signs and offering motivation, high fives, and even kisses, to the runners. Their cheers are so loud, some runners report being able to hear the cheers from up to a mile away.

The now iconic signs displayed along the Scream Tunnel are the product of weeks of hard work led by the students of Munger Hall. Wellesley students have created signs for runners for years, but it only recently turned into an organized event (students from Munger started to accept sign requests online in 2011). This year the group will make some 500 signs and post a picture of each to Facebook.  

Alix Lewis '16, who with Emma Howey '16 is co-vice president of Munger house, has been involved with the Scream Tunnel's efforts for the past three years. "Over the years, I've had a couple favorite moments. In general, any 'Go Team Hoyt!' sign makes me smile," Lewis said. She added that any sign from a Wellesley alumna also gets the group excited.

Among Lewis' favorite signs this year are a sign that reads "Run like a Unicorn" (the signmaker included a drawing of a unicorn and some rainbows in her design) and another that reads "Y'eego Vern," which means "Go Vern" in the Navajo language. “We get several sign requests in different languages,” Lewis said, recalling requests in Spanish, French, German, and Gaelic, but she said this was the first time she had seen a request in a Native American language.

Another favorite, she said, was submitted by a husband-and-wife team from Illinois. The wife, who was diagnoised with ALS six months after their marriage, recently passed the 5 year mark of living with the disease, a significant milestone. "This year's Boston is kind of a celebration of life," the request read.

"It's the stories of why people are running the marathon that get to you," Lewis said. "It's people's single-minded drive and belief that somehow 26.2 miles makes a difference, and that our 2x2ft pieces of paper make a difference to them." She added that it does think it makes a difference. "I've seen it firsthand, and people have told me on countless occasions, that somehow, people forget a bit of their tiredness at Mile 13 and find the strength to keep going."

This year, the signmakers also had a few extra visitors on hand with a visit from the filmmakers who are making the first-ever documentary film about the legendary road race. There is no release date for the documentary, entitled BOSTON, but according to a Facebook post which featured a special Scream Tunnel sign, filming will be completed this weekend.

Lewis said it was exciting to have the film crew there, but it didn't surprise her that they would want to include the Scream Tunnel in the documentary. "I think it says a lot about how well-known and important the Scream Tunnel (and by extension, Wellesley) is to the Boston Marathon," Lewis said. "I've lost count over the number of messages we've received over the years of people all over the world saying how much they look forward to the Scream Tunnel, how hearing our cheers and seeing our smiles help them keep going, how it's their favorite part of the entire Marathon."

Beyond the Scream Tunnel, there is one other sign to be on the lookout for on the course this year. A picture of Arielle Mitropoulos '19 was chosen to be on one of the featured street banners. Also, keep a look out for Mitropoulos, who is running for her second year. Last year, she was the youngest runner to complete the Marathon.

Mitropoulos runs for the American Liver Foundation in honor of her high school teacher, mentor, and friend, Mimi Minkoff. Minkoff lost her battle with Liver Cancer in 2014. "She was one of the most important, influential people in my life, and running the marathon seemed like a great way to to keep her presence and spirit alive," Mitropoulos said.

A member of the Field Hockey team, Mitropoulos said she is excited to run through the Scream Tunnel this year and that she can't wait to see her friends and teammates. "As a runner, it is a pivotal point in the race because it means that you are halfway to Boston..." she said, adding, "It is really special to me to be able to share such an amazing experience with the Wellesley community. I have been so grateful for all the support I have received, especially from my teammates, trainers, and coaches, Julia King and Callie Lekas."

For Lewis, the idea that the Scream Tunnel provides runners with a lift rings true. She said, "I know that if I were running that marathon, and I was coming up to Mile 13 and I heard those screams and cheers and saw those faces of joy and signs of love, I'd have a smile on my face and want to run a little bit harder; and not just because running towards Wellesley would be like running home."

A Scream Tunnel Snapchat Geofilter will be available for use on Monday, April 18 in the area of campus along Route 135 and extending back to Munger Meadow. Please use #ScreamTunnel when posting on social media.