In Hopkinton right next to the local Weston Nurseries is a statue of two men. Many people drive by and see it every day but probably don’t give it a second thought. The placement of a statue at a busy intersection right next to a nursery may seem odd, but it’s deliberately located at the one-mile mark of the Boston Marathon and is dedicated to one of the event’s great underdog stories.
In the statue, the man pointing the way forward is Spyridon Louis, the Greek winner of the first Olympic marathon in 1896. The man following and running is Stylianos Kyriakides, a Greek man who won the 1946 Boston Marathon and is widely considered the race’s first charity runner.
Kyriakides was born in 1910 and competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. There he met famous American runner and Massachusetts native Johnny Kelley, who invited Kyriakides to participate in the Boston Marathon. Kyriakides participated in the 1938 marathon, but a foot injury prevented him from finishing. He vowed he would return one day and win the competition.
During World War II, Kyriakides was part of the Greek resistance and narrowly survived execution by German troops in 1943, when he presented his Olympic ID and was allowed to walk away by the commanding officer. Kyriakides returned to the U.S. for the 1946 marathon. It was the midst of the Greek Civil War, and Kyriakides had to sell most of his belongings to buy a single one-way ticket. He chose to run for his country and won with a time of 2:29:27. His cause garnered tremendous support and he returned to Greece with 25,000 tons of aid and $250,000 to help the starving population.
Kyriakides died in Athens in 1987 and the statue was dedicated in 2006 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his victory. Today the Boston Marathon has 41 charity teams and thousands of runners. Quite an amazing backstory behind this seemingly ordinary-looking statue and definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of the Boston Marathon.