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The 1997 Boston Marathon Poster

"We're fortunate that an artist with Andy Yelenak's ability and sense of historical perspective and relevance was available for this important project," said B.A.A. Race Director Guy Morse. "The image on the lithograph and poster is one that runners and residents of the communities associated with the race will want to own to remember the 101st B.A.A. Marathon: the first race of our second century."

Artist Andrew Yelenak describes the steps taken to create the painting:

Work began on the poster in the summer of 1996.  The concept for the painting, which came from the Race Director, Guy Morse, was to show the start of the first Boston Marathon in 1897, contrasted with the finish of the 1997 race.   It will be titled "The Second Century."


Researching the 1897 start necessitated a visit to the Ashland Historical Society which is about a mile from the first starting line.  Historian Dick Fanon gave me a tour of the site, including the remnants of Metcalfe's Mill and it's surroundings.  The key piece of information I drew from this visit was the proximity of the railroad to the starting line.  Many people traveled to the first start from Boston by way of the Boston & Albany Railroad.  A steam engine would be an interesting element to suggest the time period.

No pictures are known to exist of that first race.  The Ashland Historical Society did have photos of later races which I referenced for period details, such as clothing and bicycles.  The New Haven Historical Society also provided information on turn of the century fashions for the spectators.


To explore different concepts, I also visited and photographed Wellesley College and the Heartbreak Hill area.  I wanted to give the BAA a choice of designs for the poster.  I finally settled on two designs and produced a detailed color sketch of each.

Click on a sketch to view
a large, detailed image.

Heartbreak Hill

1897 Start/1997 Finish

The BAA approved the 1897/1997 sketch with some minor changes, and I was given two weeks to create the final painting.  This may seem like a tight schedule in which to work.  As a freelance artist, most of my assignments are needed in considerably less  time.  This deadline was a comfortable one.

The Base Drawing

My plan for the final version was to first produce a very accurate and detailed base drawing.  Starting from an accurate drawing and "loosening up" when painting the watercolors over it, would give me a nice combination of gesture and precision.  After the watercolors dry, the pencil drawing is erased.

This the top part of the base drawing,
 the 1897 start.

Click on the image for a large version.

The Final Painting

The final watercolor painting was completed in approximately 100 hours.  

Details from the painting.

The painting has been reproduced as an art poster and as a lithograph.  Email us at mail@runningpast.com for ordering information.

An Artist's Remarque

Lithographs will be available with a special artist's remarque, an original watercolor sketch painted by the artist in the margin of the lithograph.  

Billy's Breakthrough

Visit his studio where Andrew Yelenak discusses another of his marathon lithographs, "Billy's Breakthrough."  It's a very detailed painting of Bill Rodgers' first victory at Boston in 1975.

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