The Ties that Bind Us

staffwriter

By: Kate Bransfield

What does it mean to have a sister city? By definition, it means that two cities exchange cultural ideas and develop friendships. Recently, I discovered that Hopkinton has a sister city relationship with Marathon, Greece. 

Along with forty other Hopkinton girl scouts, I’ve been involved in organizing the 2nd annual Marathon Tea Reception for the Mayor of Marathon, Greece and other Greek dignitaries. We have invited them along with eighty other distinguished guests to join us on April 17th to celebrate our friendship. One of the main reasons why Hopkinton and Marathon have this connection is that both towns have a history with long distance running.

In 490 BC, an Athenian warrior named Pheidippides ran 140 miles from Athens to Sparta to ask for their assistance in battling against the Persian Army. They agreed to fight, but they could not leave until a full moon was present because of a religious law. Pheidippides rushed back to Athens only to immediately march out to Marathon to help defeat the powerful Persian army. Upon the defeat, the Persian army fled to Athens by ship. Recognizing the danger ahead, Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to report their victory as well as warn them of approaching Persians. After delivering his message, Pheidippides dropped dead from exhaustion. 

Many generations later, in 1896, the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece. Because of Greece’s history of distance running, the marathon was to be the highlight of the Olympics and the final event. Up until this point, Greece hadn’t won any medals. The race started in Marathon and finished in Athens. Greek runner Spyiridon Louis was the victor, bringing great pride and joy to Greece. Officials from the Boston Athletic Association attended the event and enjoyed it so much they decided to start a marathon tradition. The following year the first Boston Marathon took place. It’s the oldest annual marathon in the world, and since 1925, its start has been in Hopkinton.

In 2006, our sister city relationship with Marathon officially took flight. “The Spirit of Marathon” statue, along with the “Marathon Flame” in 2008, were given to Hopkinton as part of a cultural exchange. The statue is a replica of the one in Marathon, Greece which marks the start of the 2004 Olympic marathon. The statue commemorates two terrific Greek runners- Spyiridon Louis, the winner of the 1st modern Olympic marathon and Stylianos Kyriakides, the winner of the 1946 Boston Marathon. Kyriakides’s Boston Marathon win was considered miraculous. He was victorious in spite of his doctor having advised him not to run for fear that he was too emaciated and weak to compete due to the poor conditions in his country.  One of his goals in competing in 1946 was to raise people’s awareness about his impoverished nation. Many Americans in the Boston area were touched by his struggle and donated goods and money. In honor of his great run, and to learn more about Hopkinton’s sister city, the girl scouts have invited Kyriakides’s son and his wife to the Marathon Tea Reception to learn more about his city.

Hopkinton girl scouts are working hard to nurture this growing relationship with our sister city. In future years, we plan to expand this event to include more Hopkinton girl scouts and eventually other troops from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. As part of this cultural connection, a pen pal relationship between Hopkinton girl scouts and girl scouts in Marathon is being developed. Right now we have paired up with two fellow scouts in Greece and letters are being exchanged. The purpose is to share ideas and learn more about each other’s lives and experiences as scouts. I think this is a wonderful opportunity to educate each other about our similarities and differences. It will bring scouts closer together and it will hopefully build lasting friendships.

We expect our sister city relationship to last for years. It will continue to inspire us to learn about places that we haven’t seen through our own eyes.

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