Painting of the Boston Marathon Start Line
What used to be a single white strip no wider than eight inches long, just past Hopkinton Center on East Main Street, has become a five foot wide piece of art; the start line of the Boston Marathon. It’s a destination known by people from all over the world. Some are runners, others are not, but they all share the desire to stand and have their picture taken in the same spot where record setting marathoners stood as they began their 26.2 mile run from Hopkinton to Boston
For the past 31 years, artist Jacques LeDuc has gathered all his materials and brought them to the start line of the Boston Marathon a few days before the race. With a police detail, he gets right to work painting over last year’s masterpiece and starting fresh.
LeDuc began working for the Boston Marathon in 1981 when a close friend, Paul “Buzzy” Buswell, called upon his artistic abilities to make a sign honoring Johnny Kelley’s 50th Boston Marathon. He has painted the starting line ever since and tries to make it a little different each year.
It’s hard to not reuse the starting lines,” says LeDuc, “especially if they’re good”.
While it may seem impossible to come up with 31 different designs that say the same thing, LeDuc has a team of helpers who never fail to aid him in the design process. He’s also had the assistance of his two daughters, Laura (28) and Jeanne (27), for the past 18 years. He hopes that when it is his time to put away his paints, his daughters will continue the painting, carrying on a family tradition.
For LeDuc, the painting of the start line has become less about the race, and more about the friendships created. In 2010, when life-long friend Buzzy Buswell passed away of cancer, the funeral procession took a detour so that LeDuc could stencil Buzzy’s name onto the starting line. That same year, LeDuc experienced the loss of another close friend, Dr. Charles Bobeck. Both of these men had helped with the painting of the start line in the past. That April, with a heavy heart, LeDuc painted the start line, adding a picture of Buzzy and Doc above it.
In addition to painting the start line each year, LeDuc is also one of the official race announcers, has painted the finish line numerous times, and has also made the run from Hopkinton to Boston more than once.
The painting of the Boston Marathon Start Line is an example of the impact the sport of marathoning can have on art, family, and tradition. What began as a simple line to mark the start of the Boston Marathon, became a work of art, a family tradition and an integral part of the history of the Town of Hopkinton.