A History of the Boston Marathon

1911

The legendary Clarence H. DeMar of Melrose, Massachusetts won his first of seven Boston Marathon titles. However, on the advice of medical experts, DeMar initially "retired" from the sport following his first title. He later won six titles between 1922 and 1930, including three consecutive from 1922 through 1924. DeMar was 41 years old when he won his final title in 1930.

First Boston Marathon

The B.A.A. Marathon was originally called the American Marathon and was the final event of the B.A.A. Games. The first running of the B.A.A. Road Race commenced at the site of Metcalf's Mill in Ashland and finished at the Irvington Street Oval near Copley Square. John J. McDermott, of New York, emerged from a 15-member starting field to capture the inaugural Boston Marathon.

1910

Winner of the 1910 Boston Marathon.

John J. Kelley

John J. Kelley became the first and currently lone B.A.A. club member to win the Boston Marathon. In addition, from 1946 to 1967, Kelley was the only American to win the race. (Info taken from BAA website).

Prize Money

Through the generous support of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Services, prize money was awarded for the first time, and Rob de Castella of Australia earned $60,000 and a Mercedes-Benz for finishing first in a course-record time of 2:07:51. (Info from BAA website)

1898

In its second running, the B.A.A. Marathon welcomed its first foreign champion when 22-year-old Boston College student Ronald J. MacDonald, of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, won the race in 2:42:00. MacDonald's accomplishment foreshadowed the international appeal the race would later attract. Today, 19 countries can claim a Boston Marathon champion. The United States leads the list with 41 triumphs.

1900

Boston, 1900

1904

1904 Boston Marathon

1907

Thomas Longboat is shown leading the 1907 Boston Marathon. During this race a freight train delayed most of the field, including two Olympic gold medalists, by blocking their path at the Framingham crossing. Longboat turned pro within a year of this victory and never competed at Boston again.

1918

Due to American involvement in World War I, the traditional Patriots' Day race underwent a change of format. A 10-man military relay race was contested on the course, and the team from Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, bested the field in 2:24:53.

1924

The course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton.

Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb

Although not an official entrant, Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Joining the starting field shortly after the gun had been fired, Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb again claimed the "unofficial" title in 1967 and 1968. (Info from BAA website).

Kathrine Switzer

By signing her entry form "K. V. Switzer," Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to receive a number in the Boston Marathon. By her own estimate, Switzer finished in 4:20:00. (Info from BAA website).

Qualifying Standards Are Introduced

Qualifying standards were introduced. The official B.A.A. entry form stated, "A runner must submit the certification...that he has trained sufficiently to finish the course in less than four hours…" (Info from BAA website).

Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon

Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon, and Nina Kuscsik emerged from an eight-member starting field to win the race in 3:10:26. (Info from BAA website).

Bill Rodgers, Bob Hall and Liane Winter

A trio of stories emerged from this race, as Bill Rodgers collected his first of four titles, Bob Hall became the first officially recognized participant to complete the course in a wheelchair, and Liane Winter of West Germany established a women's world-best of 2:42:24. Hall was granted permission to enter the race provided that he covered the distance in under three hours. Hall finished in 2:58:00, signaling the start of the wheelchair division in the race. (Info from BAA website).

Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley

Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley became the first two runners to break 2:09:00 in the same race after dueling one another for first place over the final nine miles. Salazar emerged victorious from the thrilling final sprint to the finish, with Beardsley just two seconds behind in 2:08:54. (Info from BAA website).

Joan Benoit and Greg Meyer

Joan Benoit won her second Boston Marathon in a world-best time of 2:22:43. Benoit, who won the Olympic Marathon the following summer, became the first person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons. Greg Meyer, a resident of Massachusetts at the time, won the men's race and is the most recent American man to win the Boston Marathon. (Info from BAA website).

Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach

Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach, who placed fourth at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 U.S. Olympic trials, ran uncontested to win the women's race in 2:34:06 and remains the last female American champion at Boston. (Info from BAA website).

Clarence H. DeMar

April 19, 1927: A marathon favorite, Clarence H. DeMar won his fifth marathon a few days short of his 39th birthday. DeMar also happened to win in an 82-degree heat that his competitor, John C. Miles, couldn’t endure. This year’s race also served as the AAU championship

John A. Kelley

John A. Kelley makes his Boston Marathon debut. He is a record holder for the most races started and ended.

John C. Miles

John C.Miles, a 23-year-old runner who had made his mark on the Race, decided to channel his energies into the Olympic Games of 1928. He made his return with a record time of 2:33:08.

Clarence DeMar

Clarence DeMar had his final victory at this year’s race at the age of 41, making him the oldest runner of the Boston Marathon at the time.

Ellison "Tarzan" M. Brown

Ellison Tarzan M. Brown beat the ever-so-punctual media teams to the first checkpoint at Framingham.

Bernard Joseph Smith

This year’s victor, Bernard Joseph Smith was the tallest runner to win the race at the time.

The Most Significant Race

The race was deemed the most significant race by Marathon historian, Boston Globe’s Jerry Nason for several reasons. Greek runner, Stylianos Kyriakides, took home the title with a time of 2:29:27. The race was the first of many races where foreigners dominate.

Yun Bok Suh and the World Record

Korean runner, Yun Bok Suh, made a world record, a first of its kind in the marathon’s history, when he reached the finish line in 2:25:39. Suh was the first Asian champion, the shortest to date, and was funded by American servicemen to get to Boston.

Karl Gosta Leandersson

Swedish representative Karl Gosta Leandersson not only clocked in at 2:31:50, he injured his Achilles tendon and almost got sideswiped by a car as it unexpectedly entered the Auburndale course.

Shigeki Tanaka at 19

Japan’s Shigeki Tanaka became the youngest winner to date when he clocked in at 2:27:45 to take the race. He was only 19 years old.

John J. Kelley

A Boston University runner, John J. Kelley, made it in fifth at 2:28:19. He was not related to John A. “The Elder” Kelley and was the lone Boston Athletic Association club member in the race. Kelley would go on to become the only American to win the race between 1946 and 1967.

Boston Marathon 1962

Click "More" to watch a clip of the 1962 Boston Marathon

First African to Win the Boston Marathon

Kenya's Ibrahim Hussein became the first African to win the Boston Marathon. The win established a trend in which African runners won 14 of 16 races. (Info from BAA website)

The Beginning of a Push Rim Legacy

Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Illinois won her first of seven consecutive push rim wheelchair division races. (Info from BAA website)

100th Boston Marathon

The 100th running of the Boston Marathon attracted 38,708 official entrants (36,748 starters; 35,868 finishers), which is still the largest field of finishers in history. Uta Pippig overcame a 30-second deficit and severe dehydration, among other difficulties, to become the first woman of the official era to win the race in three consecutive years. (Info from BAA website)

First African Woman to Win the Boston Marathon

Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia became the fourth person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons, and the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon. (Info from BAA website)

Three Runners Finish Under 2:08:00

The performances of Moses Tanui (2:07:34), Joseph Chebet (2:07:37), and Gert Thys (2:07:52) marked the first time in the history of the sport that three runners finished in under 2:08:00. (Info from BAA website)

First Kenyan Woman to Win Boston Marathon

Catherine Ndereba became the first Kenyan woman to win the Boston Marathon. (Info from BAA website)

Russian Woman wins For the First Time

For the first time, Russian women finished in first and second place at the Boston Marathon and placed four among the top seven. Svetlana Zakharova led the way in 2:25:20, beating runner-up Lyubov Denisova (2:26:51) by one minute, 31 seconds

Two Starting Waves

In one of the most significant changes in Boston Marathon history, the field was divided into two starting waves, with 10,000 runners beginning at the traditional noon starting time, and the remainder of the runners starting at 12:30 p.m. (Info from BAA website)

Cheruiyot Wins Race For the Fourth Time

Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won his fourth total, and third consecutive, Boston title, joining Clarence DeMar, Gerard Cote and Bill Rodgers as the only men to have won the race at least four times. (Info from BAA website)

Ernest Van Dyk Ties Record for Most Men's Push Rim Wheelchair Wins

African runner Ernest Van Dyk’s won his eighth Boston title for men's push rim wheelchair competition, tying him with Jean Driscoll for most all time Boston Marathon victories. (Info from BAA website)

Cheruiyot and Van Dyke Make History

Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot from Kenya set the men's course record by 82 seconds with a record time of 2:05:52. Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia survived a late surge by Tatyana Pushkareva of Russia for a three second victory in the women’s race, finishing with a time of 2:26:11. In the men’s push rim wheelchair division, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won in 1:26:53 and became the most successful Boston Marathon competitor of all time. With his ninth title, he surpassed Jean Driscoll’s eight Boston victories. The race marked 25 years of partnership with the B.A.A. and principal sponsor John Hancock. The official charity program surpassed the $100 million mark since its inception in 1989, with $10.2 raised in 2010. (Info from BAA website)

Kenyan's Runner Sets World Record Time

Geoffrey Mutai from Kenya set a new course record, as well as a new world’s best time of 2:03:02 (Info from BAA website)

500,000th Person Crosses the Finish Line

In 2012, the 500,000th finisher in the 116-year history of the Boston Marathon crossed the finish line. (Info from BAA website)

Boston Marathon Bombings

In 2013, the marathon was disrupted when two explosions were set off near the finish line. Three spectators were killed and 264 people were injured.

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