The Boston Marathon- 121 Years And Running
“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 !
MOTOR RACING July 20, 2008 Lewis Hamilton wins the German Grand Prix driving for McLaren-Mercedes. The victory was Hamilton’s second consecutive triumph after taking the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At season’s end, the 23-year old would become the then youngest and only black racer in F1 history to win a championship title.
GOLF July 17, 1998 Mark O’Meara shoots a 280 to win the 127th British Open at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. In a playoff against fellow American Brian Watts, O’Meara claimed his second major championship of the year after topping the Masters three months earlier. Those victories were the only major titles of his 34 professional wins.
HOCKEY July 16, 1988 In a lavish event dubbed by the Canadian press as the “Royal Wedding”, Wayne Gretsky weds actress Janet Jones; the couple would have 5 children. After 20 seasons in professional hockey, Gretsky wrapped up his career in 1999 playing for 4 teams and producing more goals and assists than any other player in NHL history.
BASEBALL July 17, 1978 Yankee Manager Billy Martin and slugger Reggie Jackson clash at a Royals game after Jackson tried to bunt when he was told to hit away, causing Martin to suspend him. A week later, Martin himself would resign following 3 tumultuous years with the NY club, but the troubled and controversial manager would eventually return.