Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to ever run the Boston Marathon in 1967. Ellison Brown coined the name “Heartbreak Hill” when he passed hometown hero Johnny Kelley in 1936. Geoffrey Mutai ran the fastest marathon in history in 2011, finishing in two hours, three minutes, two seconds. A double-amputee, Celeste Corcoran, crossed the finish line with her family in 2014, a year after the tragic attack that changed so many lives forever.
You could understand why Chris Laudani, the mystery man who shoveled snow off the finish line, feels as though he doesn’t belong in that group. But the symbolism of that simple act, and the impact of the word “FINISH” in bold blue lettering, are both very powerful.
Maybe that’s why Boston graffiti artist Percy Fortini-Wright teamed with Adidas to immortalize Laudani among five paintings depicting iconic moments in Boston Marathon history.
“I’ll tell you the truth, man. I saw all five of those pictures, and personally, I feel like my picture doesn’t really belong there,” Laudani said in an interview on Friday. “Four huge moments in the Boston Marathon, and then there’s me, some crazy kid shoveling the finish line. I feel like it didn’t belong there. All the other ones were so momentous. I spent 20 minutes shoveling the finish line.”
Laudani was given the painting, and Adidas will auction off the four other paintings on Paddle8 from April 17-27, with the proceeds going to The One Fund.
Laudani was only acting on impulse that cold Tuesday, in the middle of a blizzard that walloped the city with two feet of snow, but he simply couldn’t stand to see his favorite spot in Boston covered in snow—not given all that spot means to him.
“The Boston Marathon has helped me figure out a lot about myself, pushing myself to the limit,” Laudani says. “A few years ago, if you had asked me in 2008 if I thought I’d be running a marathon in two years, I would have said ‘no way.’ It’s kind of a personal thing, for me. I’ve come a long way and proved to myself that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. My brother and I run the race now together. We take this long journey together every Marathon Monday, and we start together and we finish together. It’s very powerful. There are a lot of powerful memories to be had on that little strip of paint in the road.”
Unfortunately, there are also some painful memories because of the attack in 2013, but thanks to the seemingly inconsequential act of shoveling the finish line, he can play a part—albeit an indirect one—in helping to ease that pain.
“If there’s anything I want to come from this, it’s to help people who need it,” he says. “I work my job, I pay my rent, and I enjoy working hard for what I have. I didn’t want anything from this. The way it’s been going is that we’ve been collecting money for charity, and there will be money going to The One Fund from this. That’s huge. We get to make a big difference in hopefully a lot of people’s lives through this. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
There have been some perks to his overnight viral popularity—Adidas will be putting both he and his brother in the race, and sending them all the necessary equipment. He’s not accepting every gratuity sent his way, though as he passed up an invitation from Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval to attend the home opener at Fenway Park.
“I was working that day," says Laudani. "I couldn’t make it."
He wasn’t complaining, though—he works at Back Bay Social Club, which has a perfect view directly across the street from the finish line, his favorite spot in Boston.