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Hopkinton Launches Efforts To Create An International Marathon Center

The proposed, first-of-its-kind center would be located just beyond the half-mile mark on the Boston Marathon course.

With the support of local residents, the Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Select Board and Town Manager have begun to move forward on a proposed International Marathon Center. The goal of the nonprofit, museum-like Center, also supported by the Boston Marathon, is to create a sports and cultural institution such as the Museum of Science in Boston or the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.

“We’re aiming for something ambitious,” says Hopkinton resident Tim Kilduff, who first brainstormed the Museum more than a decade ago. “We know the idea is only sustainable if we have state of the art, frequently changing educational, cultural, and athletic exhibits. We’ll have a special space for the Boston Marathon, of course, but the vision is very much a global one.”

Kilduff has lived in Hopkinton for more than 40 years, and served as the Boston Marathon race director in 1984 and 1985. As a high school runner in New Britain, Connecticut, he won the state championship in the high and low hurdles. He has run the Boston Marathon just once himself, in 1987, when he finished in 3:40.

The proposed site for the Museum is a 15-acre parcel of land at six-tenths of a mile on the Boston course, on the runners’ left. The land was donated to the town by a local developer, and the town has pledged to lease it to the Marathon Center for $1/year. The Hopkinton Town Manager has just released a 51-page RFP for the Center, which is slated to include exhibit space, a hall of fame, conference and educational facilities, an events venue, and classroom and research space. It has a projected cost of $20 to $30 million.

In a video produced by Boston25 News Boston Marathon CEO Tom Grilk says his organization will get behind the museum. “We’ll work to provide whatever sort of support we can consistent with what they’re doing,” he said.

Hopkinton’s Select Board is enthusiastic about the Center. “This is going to be amazing, absolutely amazing economically not just for Hopkinton but for the entire region,” says John Coutinho, vice chair of the Board and special liaison from the town to the Boston Marathon. “Our tourist industry will be booming. I’ve been in favor of the Center idea since I first heard about it 10 years ago.”

Residents of small, bucolic towns like Hopkinton are not always keen on development plans. But Coutinho says that’s not true in this case. “You have to remember that the Boston Marathon has been part of this town for four generations,” he notes. “Marathoning is ingrained in the fabric of this community.”

Two other marathon museums exist at present. One in Marathon, Greece, primarily celebrates the famous Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Another, in Berlin, Germany, contains artifacts relating to the Association of International Marathons (AIMS) and the development of marathoning as a worldwide sport. Kilduff and friends have a grander vision. “At the moment, there’s nothing else in the world quite like what we’re talking about,” he says.

Kilduff was instrumental in forming another Hopkinton nonprofit, the 26.2 Foundation, and still serves as its president. That foundation began its efforts in 1996, the year of the 100th running of the Boston Marathon. Among other things, the foundation organizes educational events with a marathon focus, has held two dinner celebrations to honor Boston’s pioneer women runners, and is still raising funds for a Roberta Gibb statue. Hopkinton and Marathon, Greece, have become sister cities, and the 26.2 Foundation also coordinates Greco-American exchanges, particularly each April.

“Through the years, I’ve learned that the marathon is about much more than just running 26.2 miles,” says Kilduff. “It’s about endurance of all kinds, about education and the arts, about the preservation of democracy and legal systems. In Hopkinton we deeply appreciate and understand these connections, and we believe the International Marathon Center can preserve and strengthen them.”