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At Wellesley, Students Offer Screams, but no Smooches, as Boston Marathon Returns

The screams can be heard from blocks away.

As the route bends around Central Street in front of Wellesley College, a small private liberal arts college that sits at the halfway point of the Boston Marathon, hundreds of students cheer so vociferously that the passage has become known as the Scream Tunnel.

Signs adorn the barricades that line the street, saying things like, “Hey CK run your little buns off!,” “Sarah Frey the struggle isn’t real today!” and “You’re halfway there!”

But one part of the beloved tradition is different this year, spelled out on a handful of signs thrust above the students’ heads. “Don’t kiss me,” they read with a playful twist.

Since the race’s inception, the encouragement and kisses offered at Wellesley have been a hallmark of the race, offering runners an extra boost to push through the remaining half of the race.

This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Boston Athletic Association strongly encouraged participants and spectators to practice “personal responsibility,” which may include “refraining from kissing a stranger around the halfway mark,” the organizers wrote.

Other traditions, like the playful signs, almost didn’t make it either.

“We just started school, and I didn’t know what Wellesley or the B.A.A’.s rules for spectators would be, so I was toeing the line between taking requests,” said Sydne Ashford, the house president of Munger Hall, the residence hall that is responsible for the signs.

Although people messaged the Scream Tunnel’s Facebook page, it wasn’t until mid-September that Ashford and other volunteers officially opened the request form. They ended up making over 300 signs at the behest of family and friends of runners, with favorites including a “Go, sexy grandpa, go” and “Baby’s first marathon,” for a woman who is running pregnant, Ashford said.

Monday’s race also marked the underclassmen’s first MarMon — or marathon Monday — after the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the race in 2020 and postpone it in 2021.

“It’s wild,” Karishma Gottfried, 20, said of experiencing her first marathon Monday as a junior. “I didn’t realize how exciting it would be. My hands are sticky from the sweat of all the runners high-fiving me.”

As runners zoomed by, the students of Wellesley screamed and cheered, high-fiving the competitors and blowing kisses. And while the mouth-to-mouth contact was all but absent, there were some who did not obey the rules.

One student held a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” sign above her head and managed to get a peck from a runner as he passed. The cheers, already deafening, grew louder.