With Boston being held on Indigenous People's Day and the Chicago Marathon always taking place that weekend, we wanted to honor the moment. Working with graphic designer & runner Victoria Sprague, a member of the Gun Lake Tribe, Band of the Potawatomi Indians, Heartbreak created a medal ribbon to commemorate this unique Chicago/Boston weekend. The ribbon is free to any athlete who presents their finisher's medal at any Heartbreak location after the race that night or the following week (while supplies last; it can be fitted with the existing ribbon).
Of creating the unique ribbon, Victoria tells us: "I wanted to do a beaded looking style since it's a commonly used art technique across multiple Native tribes." For colors she selected red and black: "these colors typically signify strength and power and I just think they look badass."
Feathers: "A sign of being blessed but more so they were awarded to those who were successful or did well in battle."
Morning stars (the white shapes): "A symbol of guidance and hope."
The text "Kche Maji" means "run hard" in Potawatomi. Tribes native to the Chicago area in addition to Potawatomi include Odawa, Sauk, Ojibwe, Illinois, Kickapoo (Kiikaapoi), Miami (Myaamia), Mascouten, Wea, Delaware, Winnebago, Menominee, and Mesquakie.
In Boston, the official starter of the marathon this year is Patti Catalano Dillon. Patti's story is an incredible one that began as a weight-loss & health journey and ended up resetting the record books. Patti was a fierce athlete in her day, one of the first road runners sponsored by Nike, and the fastest Indigenous woman in history. She placed 2nd in Boston, 2nd in New York, & won Honolulu 4 times. She set the American record for the 10k four times, was the first American woman to go under 33 minutes in the 10k, and the first American woman to break 50 minutes in the 15k (49:42). She set world records in the 20k, 30k, and half marathon.
Patti chatted with Dan (Heartbreak's co-founder) about the honor of starting the Boston Marathon and the quiet tradition she shares with Native women ahead of every Boston. Every year gives a gift to the new crop of Native American women running the race and noted that because of when the race falls, this year it will take on a "different tone and it's really good." As Patti points out and the history buffs already know, the story of Heartbreak Hill itself is a Native American story.
Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, known as "Deerfoot" by his Narraganset Tribe, got out hot in the 1936 Boston Marathon leaving the field in the dust with a blistering pace. In the hills of Newton, legend of the day, Johnny Kelley, gave Brown a little pat on the behind as he caught and passed him. The condescending gesture no doubt lit a fire in Brown who won back the lead while Kelley fell back to 5th. Boston Globe writer at the time Jerry Nason dubbed the final hill of that Newton series "Heartbreak Hill" since that's where Brown ultimately broke Kelley's heart.
Native American contributions to our culture and our sport are too numerous to list completely here and the injustices & violence thrust upon their nation too great to be ignored or glossed over. As runners charge across the tribal lands this weekend and welcome the return of the Marathon Majors in the United States, we can salute and acknowledge the people who were here first and their contributions to the sport we love.
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