The Boston Marathon- 121 Years And Running

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“The Runners Are Coming, The Runners Are Coming!”. Famous for launching the American revolution in the 18th century, Boston was also the first city to kick off an annual marathon in 1897.

“Beantown” is one of six cities to host a World Marathon Major; the others are Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago, New York. But the New England race predates the rest by what seems like marathons in the decades making- New York’s pavement chase is the second oldest and it didn’t get going until 1970.

Inspired by the first Olympics in 1896, the Boston Athletic Association held a 24½ mile race on Patriots Day, April 19, 1897, to complete the club’s athletic tournament. The stated goal in their charter- “to encourage all manly sports and promote physical culture”.

New York native John J. McDermott won the inaugural event from a field of 18 hopefuls, crossing the finish line with a time of 2:55:10. The 25-year old took the lead 12 miles into the race, holding his position to a bloodied and blistered end.

By 1924, the course was lengthened to conform with Olympic standards of 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195 km). The number of ground-pounding athletes also grew to 147 and that figure cleared 1,000 for the first time in 1968. Forty-eight years later, 30,741 entrants would register for the bipedal extravaganza.

American Bill Rodgers holds the record for winning the Boston Marathon four times- 1975 & 1978-80 (photo above). Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya ran the fastest, clocking the race at 2:03:02 in 2011. Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia tops the women’s category at 2:19:59 posted in 2014.

Women were officially permitted to join in 1972, though their “pioneering era” stretched back to 1966, a period only recognized by officials decades later. Massachusetts native Roberta Gibb was the first female to clear the finish line in 1966, recording a time of 3:21:40. She retained her title for the next two years.

Marathoners historically competed for honor, glory and an olive branch wreath at the close, but the first cash prize came in 1986. Boston’s first run for the money was won by Australian Rob de Castella who took $60,000, a Mercedes-Benz, plus miscellaneous awards for finishing in 2:07:51.

This year, the long distance champs will walk away with $150,000 each for men and women, plus performance bonuses. Wheel chair winners will pocket $20,000.

The tragic bombing in 2013 that killed three people and injured hundreds was made that much more heartfelt for a city that represents the marathon tradition and its longevity.

To that, we say 121 years and running !

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