Little Bits of History

Boston Marathon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 19, 2014
The first Boston Marathon

The first Boston Marathon

April 19, 1897: The first Boston Marathon is run. The run was inspired by the revival the marathon race for the 1896 Summer Olympics held in Athens. It is the oldest continuously running marathon in the US and the second oldest footrace in North America. The Buffalo Turkey Trot is the oldest by only five months. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) had been in existence for ten years by this time and they were the proud sponsors of the first marathon which covered a distance of 24.5 miles. It was scheduled to be run on the newly established Patriots Day and was intended to link the Athenian and American struggles for freedom. It has been held every year since its inception.

In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles and 385 yards to conform to standards set at the Summer Olympics held in 1908 and codified by the IAAF in 1921. Originally a local event, fame spread and the status of running the Boston Marathon is now a worldwide phenomenon. In the early years, the race was free and the only prize went to the winner who was given a wreath woven of olive branches. In the 1980s, corporations began to sponsor the event so that cash prizes could be awarded since professionals would not race without this incentive. The first cash prize was awarded in 1986.

In 1951, during the Korean War, Walter A. Brown (President of the BAA) would not permit Koreans to run in the race. The first woman to be recognized as running the entire race was Roberta Gibb in 1966. The next year, KV Switzer entered and was given a race number, making Kathrine the first to achieve that. Women were only officially permitted to enter beginning in 1972. However, in 1996 the BAA retroactively recognized as champions the women who won between 1966 and 1971. In 2011, about 43% of the entrants were women. In 1980 Rosie Ruiz came from nowhere to win the race, but officials were suspicious when she wasn’t found in any videotapes of the race. She had not run most of the race but joined only for the last mile and was disqualified.

In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya finished in 02:03:02, the fastest runner. The fastest woman runner was Margaret Okayo of Kenya who finished in 2002 with a time of 02:20:43. The course used at Boston does not qualify for world record ratification in two different areas. The course drops 459 feet between start and finish and the start is west by a fair margin from the finish allowing for a favorable tailwind. In 1897, John J McDermott of the US won the race with a time of 02:55:10. Ronald J MacDonald of Canada won the next year. In 1932, the first European won when Paul de Bruyn finished in 02:33:36. Winners have now spanned the globe and the 2013 winner was Lelisa Desisa Benti (Ethiopia) for the men and Rita Japtoo (Kenya) for the women.

If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. – Emil Zatopek

When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time. – Haile Gebrselassie

I’ve run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people’s support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon. – Haruki Murakami

Marathon running, for me, was the most controlled test of mettle that I could ever think of. It’s you against Darwin. – Ryan Reynolds

Also on this day: Look It Up – In 1928, the last fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
Trippin’ – In 1943, Albert Hofmann tried LSD.
Sex Is Obscene  – In 1927, Mae West was sentenced to jail for her play, Sex.
Jump – In 1919, Leslie Leroy Irvin jumped from a plane.

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