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Boston Events: History of the Boston Marathon

by Boston Mama
(boston-tourism-made-easy.com)


Before we get into the history part, this pre-Boston Marathon video is just beautiful and will get you inspired to learn more about this great race. Enjoy!



If you're in Boston on Patriot's Day (the third Monday in April), you'll definitely want to get out onto the streets to see the Boston Marathon.

Like most things in Boston, the race has an extraordinary history, dating back to 1897 (as far as I know this is the oldest of our beloved Boston sporting events). And with about 500,000 spectators lining the streets, you'd have to work pretty hard not to get drawn into the excitement.

Boston Marathon 1910
Boston Marathon 1910
Here are a few fun facts about the Boston Marathon to give you a taste of why we love it so much:
  • Initially inspired by the 1896 Olympics in Athens, the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annually run marathon (as well as one of the toughest!).

  • One of the marathon's most renowned features is called Heartbreak Hill. It's the last of four hills in the race located in a suburb of Boston called Newton. The hill itself isn't so intensely steep or long, but it's located just at the point where, physically, runners are likely to "hit the wall" - and they do!

  • The marathon always overlaps with a home Red Sox game. After the game, the baseball crowd pours out onto the streets to support the marathon runners as they enter their final mile. How good is that? Two Boston sporting events in one!

  • In 2006, the Boston Marathon became one of only five annual marathons included in a new international two-year competition called the World Marathon Majors.

  • The Boston Marathon receives the second largest amount of on-site media coverage in the world for a one-day sporting event (only the Super Bowl gets more).


The Passion to Compete
Boston Marathon Richard Whitehead on Heartbreak Hill
Richard Whitehead running up Heartbreak Hill

As you'd expect, much of the Boston Marathon's history is defined by those who have run it. Here are a few significant competitors who played their role in redefining the race.
  • Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in full (in 1966). Because women weren't allowed to compete, she literally hid in the bushes until the race started!

  • Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the race with a number. Interestingly, the only reason she received a number was because she had registered as K.V. Switzer (the signature she always used), so they didn't realize she was a woman. Part way through the race, one of the officials did his best to literally throw her out of the race. Fortunately, her (rather large) boyfriend, who was running with her, shoved the official with a cross body block, and their group of friends ran off as fast as they could!

  • In 1975, Bob Hall made a deal with the Boston Marathon Race Director that if he finished in under three hours, he would receive a Finisher's Certificate. He finished in two hours and 58 minutes, making the Boston Marathon the first major marathon to have a wheelchair division.

  • Father and son team, Dick and Rick Hoyt (aka Team Hoyt) are a story of their own. Find out more on our Being a Boston Sports Fan page.


Boston Marathon Logistics
Date: Patriots Day (the third Monday of April) each year
Distance: 26.2 miles, 385 yards (42.195 Kilometers)
Start Times:
   Push Rim Wheelchair Start: 9:22am
   Elite Women Start: 9:32am
   Elite Men & Wave 1 Start: 10:00am
   Wave 2 Start: 10:30am
Start Line Location: Main Street, Hopkinton, MA
Finish Line Location: Copley Square, Boston
Click here to see the Boston Marathon course map.


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Deborah Bradley G+

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