The Boston Marathon is an annual road race covering 26-plus miles that is held each April in Boston. One of the most prestigious marathons in the world, the event is organized by the Boston Athletic Association and attracts many world-class marathoners among the thousands who compete each year. Originally called the American Marathon and first held in 1897, the race is the oldest annual marathon in the country and is held on Patriots' Day, a state holiday, each year.
The origins of the Boston Marathon date to the 1890s, when John Graham -- a member of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) and the U.S. team manager at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 -- was inspired to create an event similar to the marathon race held at that initial Olympiad in Athens, Greece.
Aiming to match the distance of the initial Olympic marathon (24.8 miles), Graham and the BAA decided on a route beginning in Ashland, Mass., and ending at the Irvington Street Oval in Boston. And with some funding from a city businessman, the race was scheduled to be included as part of the 1897 B.A.A. Games on Patriots' Day, a Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War.
On April 19, 1897, 18 participants entered the inaugural race -- initially called the American Marathon -- with John McDermott of New York crossing the finish line first after covering the 24½ miles in 2:55:10.
The marathon soon became a Patriots' Day highlight and began drawing participants from across the country. The event's first international winner came in 1900, when John Caffery of Hamilton, Ontario, led a trio of Canadians atop the field for the first of his two consecutive wins. Another Canadian, Thomas Longboat, took first place in 1907 when some changes to the course included a new starting point.
The 1916 edition featured the first Bostonian to claim victory in the marathon, as Arthur Roth of Dorchester held off Willie Kyronen to win by 11 seconds. Two years later, the standard marathon was canceled due to World War I and replaced by a relay race among various military division teams. With 10 men per team each logging 2½-mile legs, the group from the Army's Camp Devens (from Ayer, Mass.) won the race, finishing ahead of a team from the 302nd Infantry and a crew of sailors from Boston's Navy Yard.
The course record was broken a number of times during the 1920s, including in 1924 when the distance was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards -- to conform to the new Olympic standard -- and the starting point was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton. Clarence DeMar captured his third straight Boston Marathon that year and would claim six of his seven victories -- the most by any runner in the history of the event -- between 1922 and 1930.
Winner of the 1935 race -- Johnny A. Kelley -- would go on to compete in 61 Boston Marathons (between 1928 and 1992) and become a local legend. The Medford, Mass., native was the victor again in 1945 and finished in second place a record seven times. In 1993, a statue in in his honor was erected along the marathon course, close to the "Heartbreak Hill" portion in Newton.
That grueling section of the race reportedly got its name after the 1936 race, when Kelley went ahead of leader Ellison Brown within the hilly section of Newton. Kelley had given Brown a pat on the shoulder while passing him, only to see his opponent muster the strength to regain the lead for good on the final hill and leave a heartbroken Kelley as the second-place finisher.
The 1940s brought additional records for the race, with Rhode Island's Leslie Pawson becoming the event's second three-time winner in 1941. And as top international runners continued to take part as the Boston Marathon gained in prestige, Korean Yun Bok Suh set a world-record time for a marathon by completing the course in 2:25:39 in 1947.
Foreigners began to dominate the race, with runners from Japan, Guatemala, Yugoslavia and Finland among the victors during the 1950s. Eino Oksanen of Finland won three times between 1959 and 1962, before Belgium's Aurele Vandendriessche took first place in 1963 and 1964. The only American to win the race between 1946 and 1967 was a second (unrelated) John Kelley, who also is the only BAA member to ever win the Boston Marathon.
In 1969, the state of Massachusetts officially moved the Patriots' Day holiday (from April 19 each year) to the third Monday in April, meaning the marathon from then on would always be held on a Monday. And the next year, race organizers began instituting qualifying standards for entrants. Runners looking to apply for an "official" spot in the race now have to complete a certified marathon within a specific time frame (based on age), although some groups and charity are allowed to field a number of additional entrants.
Women began to make their mark in Boston in the late '60s, at a time when the country's Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) had yet to formally accept participation of women in long-distance running. Roberta Gibb was the first woman to run the full marathon in 1966, and unofficially finished first among females from 1966-68 (without an official participant number). When the AAU did finally permit its sanctioned races to allow women to enter, Nina Kuscsik of New York became the first official female champion with her 1972 victory.
The Boston Marathon became the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division, when Bob Hall finished the 1975 race in under three hours to earn an official finisher's certificate and serve as the impetus for a new group of participants in the annual race.
That same year, Bill Rodgers won the first of his four titles in Boston that included three straight from 1978-80, which helped fuel Americans' interest and involvement in long-distance running. In 1982, Americans Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley became the first two runners to break 2:09:00 in the same race after battling each other over the final third of the race. An exciting final sprint gave Salazar the victory by two seconds and a winning time of 2:08:52.
Joan Benoit of Maine won twice in Boston between 1979 and 1983, and her second victory came in a world-record time of 2:22:43. She went on to finish first at the 1984 Olympic Games to become the first person to win the Boston Marathon and the Olympic Marathon.
The women's race received some notoriety in between Benoit's two wins, when Rosie Ruiz of New York crossed the finish line first in the 1980 race. But it was revealed days later that Ruiz had dropped out of the race early and taken the subway for a time before returning to the course for the final mile. She had initially fooled race organizers but was stripped of the title, with first place awarded to Jacqueline Gareau of Canada.
Prize money was awarded for the first time at the Boston Marathon in 1986, when Australia's Rob de Castella produced a course-record time of 2:07:51 to earn $60,000 and a new Mercedes-Benz.
Kenya's Ibrahim Hussein won the 1988 marathon to win the first of his three times in Boston. The victory -- by just one second over Tanzania's Juma Ikangaa -- marked the beginning of a period of dominance by runners from Africa, who would take first place 14 times in 16 years.
The 100th edition of the Boston Marathon, in 1996, drew a record number of entrants. More than 38,000 official entrants began the race and 35,868 runners completed the course to set a record for the largest field of finishers in the event's history.
In 1997, Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia became the first African woman to win in Boston and the fourth person to win both the Olympic and Boston marathons. She would also go on to claim victory the next two years to serve as just the second woman (of the official era) to win the Boston Marathon in three consecutive years.
Roba's streak was ended in 2000 by Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, a country that produced ten straight men's winners from 1991 to 2000. That run of unprecedented success in Boston for one nation was finally halted in 2001 by Lee Bong-Ju, who was the first Korean man in 51 years to win the Boston Marathon.
The BAA began a number of changes to the race format in 2004, when a separate start was instituted a half-hour earlier for the top female entrants. Two years later, the field of runners was split up into two starting waves, with 10,000 entrants beginning at noon and the rest of the runners starting 30 minutes later.
That year, Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot broke the course record for his second title in Boston. The Kenyan would claim a second straight victory in 2007 -- when the race's starting time was moved to a 10 a.m. -- and make it three in a row in 2008.
Following Deriba Merga's victory in 2009, another Robert Cheruiyot from Kenya -- Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot -- set a course record of 2:05:52 to win the 2010 race. That record was broken the following year, when Geoffrey Mutai set a marathon record, finishing in 2:03:02.
The 2012 race was marked by unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures rising into the 80s by the midway point of the race. Kenya's Wesley Korir won the men's race in a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 40 seconds, the second-slowest pace since 1985. His win marked the 19th win in 22 races by a Kenyan runner.
Two explosions near the finish line marred the 2013 Boston Marathon. The explosions went off hours after the winners had crossed the finish line, but the race was still in progress. At least three people were killed and 150 more were injured, and the remainder of the race was canceled.
The Boston Marathon course begins on Main Street in the town of Hopkinton, some 26 miles from Boston and the starting point for the race since 1925. There is a 130-foot drop in elevation within the first mile of the race, which follows Route 135 into Ashland, site of the marathon's starting point from 1897 to 1924. The five-mile mark of the race is located in Framingham, where an extended flat portion of the course takes over.
Runners remain on Route 135 into Natick, where the elevation lowers again before leveling out for a stretch. A string of gentle slopes then takes runners into Wellesley, where Route 16 joins Route 135 and which features the halfway point of the race. After turning onto Commonwealth Avenue in Newton, competitors have to endure a series of seven hills between miles 16 and 21, the last of which is the famous Heartbreak Hill.
After a short visit to the Brighton section of Boston and through Cleveland Circle, runners take a turn into Brookline for the homestretch. The course hits Beacon Street at Mile 23 and continues back into Boston to Kenmore Square. Racers then follow Commonwealth Avenue into the city's Back Bay section, where final turns on to Hereford Street and Boylston Street lead to the finish line in Copley Square, near the John Hancock Tower and the Boston Public Library.
Boston Marathon Men's Open Division Champions
|2013||Lelisa Desisa Benti||Ethiopia||2:10:22|
|2010||Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:05:52|
|2008||Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:07:46|
|2007||Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:14:13|
|2006||Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:07:14|
|2003||Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot||Kenya||2:10:11|
|1986||Robert de Castella||Australia||2:07:51|
|1985||Geoff Smith||Great Britain||2:14:05|
|1984||Geoff Smith||Great Britain||2:10:34|
|1970||Ron Hill||Great Britain||2:10:30|
|1967||David McKenzie||New Zealand||2:15:45|
|1957||John J. Kelley||Connecticut||2:20:05|
|1950||Kee Yong Ham||Korea||2:32:39|
|1947||Yun Bok Suh||Korea||2:25:39|
|1945||John A. Kelley||Massachusetts||2:30:40|
|1941||Leslie S. Pawson||Rhode Island||2:30:38|
|1939||Ellison M. Brown||Rhode Island||2:28:51|
|1938||Leslie S. Pawson||Rhode Island||2:35:34|
|1936||Ellison M. Brown||Rhode Island||2:33:40|
|1935||John A. Kelley||Massachusetts||2:32:07|
|1933||Leslie S. Pawson||Rhode Island||2:31:01|
|1931||James P. Henigan||Massachusetts||2:46:45|
|1929||John C. Miles||Canada||2:33:08|
|1926||John C. Miles||Canada||2:25:40|
|1921||Frank Zuna||New York||2:18:57|
|1920||Peter Trivoulides||New York||2:29:31|
|1918||Military Relay||Camp Devens||2:29:53|
|1917||Bill Kennedy||New York||2:28:37|
|1912||Michael Ryan||New York||2:21:18|
|1909||Henri Renaud||New Hampshire||2:53:36|
|1908||Thomas Morrissey||New York||2:25:43|
|1905||Frederick Lorz||New York||2:38:25|
|1904||Michael Spring||New York||2:38:04|
|1902||Sammy Mellor||New York||2:43:12|
|1898||Ronald J. MacDonald||Canada||2:42:00|
|1897||John J. McDermott||New York||2:55:10|
Boston Marathon Women's Open Division Champions
|1985||Lisa Larsen Weidenbach||Michigan||0:02:34|
|1984||Lorraine Moller||New Zealand||0:02:29|
|1982||Charlotte Teske||West Germany||2:29:33|
|1981||Allison Roe||New Zealand||2:26:46|
|1978||Gayle S. Barron||Georgia||2:44:52|
|1975||Liane Winter||West Germany||2:42:24|
|1972||Nina Kuscsik||New York||3:10:26|
|1971||Sara Mae Berman (unofficial)||Massachusetts||3:08:30|
|1970||Sara Mae Berman (unofficial)||Massachusetts||3:05:07|
|1969||Sara Mae Berman (unofficial)||Massachusetts||3:22:46|
|1968||Roberta Gibb (unofficial)||California||3:30:00|
|1967||Roberta Gibb (unofficial)||California||3:27:17|
|1966||Roberta Gibb (unofficial)||Massachusetts||3:21:40|
Boston Marathon Men's Wheelchair Division Champions
|2010||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:26:53|
|2009||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:33:29|
|2008||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:26:49|
|2006||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:25:29|
|2005||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:24:11|
|2004||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:18:27|
|2003||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:28:32|
|2002||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:23:19|
|2001||Ernst Van Dyk||South Africa||1:25:12|
Boston Marathon Women's Wheelchair Division Champions
|2013||Tatyana McFadden||United States||1:45:25|
|2012||Shirley Reilly||United States||1:37:36|
2013 BOSTON MARATHON
Bombing suspect charged with using WMD
Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and in connection with the blasts that killed three and wounded at least 176. Story »
THE AFTERMATH• Keating: Marathons face security challenges
• Pierce: Race, aftermath, dark day in Boston
• MacMullan: Not ready to move on yet
• MacGregor: The day after the day after
• Merrill: Marathon to mayhem for Andruzzi
• Schaap: The worst kind of deja vu
• Rovell: Runners are a resilient bunch
• Metzler: More than ever, running matters
• Ford: Why come back? To 'show solidarity'
• Edes: Red Sox want to help in recovery
• Van Pelt: 'Worse than you could imagine'
• Fraioli: Marathon's melting pot of emotions
• Runner's view of marathon explosions
• Smith: Runner sees Boston carnage up close
• Celtics react to tragedy | Forsberg
• McDonald: B's plan to 'play their hearts out'
• B's Chara, Thornton, Bergeron weigh in
EXPLOSIONS ROCK MARATHON
• Police: 3 dead after marathon explosions
• Report: Bombs packed metal, nails, BBs
• Ford: Attack will test marathon community
• Edes: City is dealt a chilling blow
• Barboza: Those left on course pull together
• ESPN Boston: Eyewitness accounts
• Explosions rock marathon finish area
• Obama: We will learn who did this, why
• Security audit for Sunday's London Marathon
• Safety protocols and challenges
• Timeline of events before, after explosions
• Eyewitness accounts of explosions
• Bruschi: 'I felt the second explosion'
• Scene at the marathon's med tent
• Photographer relays chaotic scene
• Mass confusion near explosion sites
• 'Our entire sport is going to change'
• Runner details experience after explosion
• Tragedy at Boston: An inside view
• Reporter at finish area describes scene
• Initial reaction from scene of explosions