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Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon Logo
Date and location April
Boston, USA
Race type Road
Distance Marathon
Established 1897
Record Men: 2:07:14 (2006)
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot
Women: 2:20:43 (2002)
Margaret Okayo
Official site

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by the city of Boston, Massachusetts, on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897 and inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics,[1] the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's most well-known road racing events. It is one of five World Marathon Majors.

Today, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) manages this event. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly New England terrain and varying weather to take part in the race.

The event attracts an average of about 20,000 registered participants each year. In the 100th running of the Boston Marathon in 1996, the number of participants reached 38,000. While there are cash prizes awarded to the winners of the marathon, most of the runners participate for the accomplishment of having run the race at all.



Boston Marathon Finish Line, 1910.

The Boston Marathon was originally a local event, but its fame and status have attracted runners from all over the world. For most of its history, the Boston Marathon was a free event, and the only prize awarded for winning the race was a wreath woven from olive branches. However, corporate-sponsored cash prizes began to be awarded in the 1980s, when professional athletes began to refuse to run the race without cash awards. The first cash prize for winning the marathon was awarded in 1986.

Women were not allowed to enter the Boston Marathon officially until 1972. Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb is recognized as the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon (in 1966). In 1967, Kathrine Switzer, who had registered as "K. V. Switzer", was the first woman to run with a race number. She finished, despite a celebrated incident in which race official Jock Semple tried to rip off her numbers and eject her from the race.[2] In 1996 the B.A.A. retroactively recognized as champions the unofficial women's leaders of 1966 through 1971.



Boston Marathon
Qualifying Standards

Age Men Women
18-34 3hrs 10min 3 hrs 40min
35-39 3hrs 15min 3 hrs 45min
40-44 3hrs 20min 3 hrs 50min
45-49 3hrs 30min 4 hrs 00min
50-54 3hrs 35min 4 hrs 05min
55-59 3hrs 45min 4 hrs 15min
60-64 4hrs 00min 4 hrs 30min
65-69 4hrs 15min 4 hrs 45min
70-74 4hrs 30min 5 hrs 00min
75-79 4hrs 45min 5 hrs 15min
80+ 5hrs 00min 5 hrs 30min

The Boston marathon is open to all runners, male and female, from any nation, but they must meet certain qualifying standards.[3] To qualify, a runner must first complete a standard marathon course certified by a national governing body affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon (usually within approximately 18 months prior). Prospective runners in the age range of 18–34 must run a time of no more than 3:10:59 (3 hours and 10 minutes) if male, or 3:40:59 (3 hours and 40 minutes) if female; the qualifying time is adjusted upward as age increases. For example, a 40–44 year old male can still qualify with a time of 3:20:59. An exception to the qualification requirement is awarded to 1,250 runners who raise a pre-determined level of sponsorship for officially designated local charities.

Besides the Olympic trials and the Olympic marathons, Boston is the only major American marathon that requires a qualifying time. Thus for many marathoners to qualify for Boston (to "BQ") is a goal and achievement in itself, making it a "people's Olympic event."

In the 1980s and 1990s, membership in USA Track & Field was required of all runners, but this requirement was eliminated.

Race day

The race has traditionally been held on Patriots' Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts, and until 1969 that was every April 19, whichever day of the week that fell on. Starting in 1969, the holiday was observed on the third Monday in April and so the marathon date was correspondingly fixed to that Monday, often referred to by local residents as "Marathon Monday."

Start time

Through 2005, the race began at noon, (wheelchair race began at 11:25 a.m., and the elite women at 11:31 a.m.) at the official starting point in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Beginning with the 2006 event, the race has used a staggered "wave start," where (in 2006) top seeded runners (the elite men's group) and a first batch of up to 10,000 runners started at noon, with a second group starting at 12:30. Beginning in 2007 the starting times for the race were moved to 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. for the two wave starts, with the wheelchair and elite women's divisions starting at 9:25 a.m. and 9:35 a.m., respectively. These changes were made primarily because of the runners' desire to begin the race earlier to take advantage of cooler temperatures, though another added benefit is that many roads along the course can reopen to traffic earlier in the day.[4][5]


Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot in the 2006 Boston Marathon, where he set a new course record.

The course runs through 26.22 miles (42.195 km) of winding roads, following Route 135, Route 16, Route 30 and city streets into the center of Boston, where the official finish line is located at Copley Square, alongside the Boston Public Library. For this reason, the MBTA suspends service to the Copley Square stop for the day, and runs increased service to the area. The race runs through eight Massachusetts cities and towns: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston.[6]

The Boston Marathon is considered to be one of the more difficult marathon courses because of the Newton hills, which culminate in Heartbreak Hill near Boston College. While the three hills on Commonwealth Avenue (Route 30) are better known, a preceding hill on Washington Street (Route 16), climbing from the Charles River crossing at 16 miles, is regarded by Dave McGillivray, the 2007 race director, as the course’s most difficult challenge.[7][8] This hill, which follows a 150 foot drop over the course of one half-mile, forces many lesser-trained runners to a walking pace.

Heartbreak Hill

Heartbreak Hill is an ascent over 0.4 mile (600 m) of the Boston Marathon course, between the 20 and 21 mile marks, in the vicinity of Boston College. It is the last of four "Newton hills", which begin at the 16 mile mark. The Newton hills confound contestants (out of proportion to their modest elevation gain) by forcing a late climb after the downhill trend of the race to that point. Heartbreak Hill itself rises only 88 vertical feet (27 m), from an elevation of 148 feet at the bottom to an elevation of 236 feet at the top,[9] but is positioned at a point on a marathon course where muscle glycogen stores are likely to be depleted—a phenomenon referred to by marathoners as "hitting the wall."

The nickname "Heartbreak Hill" originated with an event in the 1936 race. On this stretch, defending champion John A. Kelley caught race leader Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, giving Brown a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed. His competitive drive apparently stoked by this gesture, Tarzan Brown rallied, pulled away from Kelley, and went on to win—in the words of Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason, "breaking Kelley's heart."[10]


Current course records, as of 2009, are 2:07:14 and 2:20:43 for men's open and women's open, respectively.

On only three occasions have world record times for marathon running been set in Boston. In 1947, the men's record time set was 2:25:39, by Suh Yun-Bok of South Korea. In 1975, a women's world record of 2:42:24 was set by Liane Winter of West Germany, and in 1983, Joan Benoit Samuelson of the United States ran a women's world record time of 2:22:43.. The course is now considered invalid for international records because the finish is substantially lower in elevation than the start, and also because the start and finish are too far apart, leading to the possibility of a consistent tailwind.[11]

The race's organizers keep a standard time clock for all entries, though official timekeeping ceases after the six hour mark.


Spectators watching the 2006 Boston Marathon

With approximately 500,000 spectators, the Boston marathon is New England's most widely-viewed sporting event.[12] More than 1,100 media members from over 250 outlets were expected to receive media credentials in 2006.

For the entire distance of the race, thousands line the sides of the course to cheer the runners on, encourage them, and provide free water and snacks to any of the runners. The crowds are even more encouraging for the amateur runners and first time runners. At Wellesley College, located in the 13th mile, it is tradition for the students to cheer on the runners in what is referred to as the "scream tunnel."[13][14]

Every year, the Boston Red Sox play a home game at Fenway Park, starting at 11:05 a.m. (10:05 a.m. starting in 2007). When the game ends, the crowd empties into Kenmore Square to cheer as the runners enter the final mile. This tradition started in 1903. In the 1940s the Red Sox and the Boston Braves (now Atlanta Braves) would alternate yearly as to which team would play the morning game. In 2007, the game between the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was delayed until 12:05 p.m. due to heavy rain. The marathon, which had previously been run in a wide variety of weather conditions, was not delayed.

The B.A.A.

The Boston Athletic Association is a non-profit, organized sports association that organizes the Boston Marathon and other events.

Among the nation's oldest athletic clubs, the Boston Athletic Association was established on March 15, 1887 under its first president, Robert F. Clark, and with the support of George Walker Weld and other leading sports enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and politicians of the day. The B.A.A. is now headquartered at 40 Trinity Place. It relies on the support of John Hancock Financial Services Inc. and other sponsors and contributors not only with its signature event, the Boston Marathon, but also in its year-round community programming.


The Boston Marathon does not only offer running divisions for both men and women. In 1975, a tradition of offering racing opportunities to those with disabilities and impairments began when one wheelchair racer decided to take the challenge and complete the entire distance of the marathon. Since then, three new divisions have emerged, including a push rim wheelchair division, a visually impaired/blind division, and a mobility impaired division. Similar to the running divisions, a set of realistic qualifying times has been developed for these divisions to ensure the continuation of competitive excellence for which the Boston Marathon is so widely acclaimed. In 1986, the Boston Athletic Association, which is responsible for running the event, introduced prize money into the push rim wheelchair division and made this purse the highest purse in the history of the sport. To date, more than 1,000 people with different disabilities and impairments have participated in the wheelchair division, with the other divisions gaining popularity each year. The wheelchair division frequently gains a great deal of national and international attention considering the performances in the Boston Marathon are often record-breaking performances that demonstrate the continued evolution and advancement in the sport.


The Boston Marathon Memorial in Copley Square, not far from the finish line, was installed to mark the one-hundredth running of the race. A circle of granite blocks set in the ground include a central medallion that traces the race course and other segments that show an elevation map of the course and the names of the winners.[15]

Notable events

Dick and Rick Hoyt

One of the most recognized duos each year at the Boston Marathon is Dick and Rick Hoyt. Dick is the father of Rick, who has cerebral palsy. While doctors originally said he would never have a shot at a normal life and thought that institutionalizing Rick was the best option, Dick and his wife disagreed and raised him like an ordinary child. Eventually a computer device was developed that helped Rick communicate with his family and the family learned of one of his biggest passions: sports. Dick and Rick started competing in charity runs, with Dick pushing Rick in a wheelchair. The father and son began to enjoy racing so much that they started entering marathons and even triathlons, with Dick towing Rick in a little boat during the swim and carrying him on the front of his bike during the cycling portion. Dick and Rick have competed in 66 marathons and 229 triathlons (as of August 2008) and finish with competitive times, often faster than 90% of the pack. Their top marathon finish was an astonishing 2:40:47, a time unattainable for most average marathoners. The team completed their 27th Boston Marathon in 2009, when Dick was 68 and Rick was 47. When asked about their motivation to continue racing, they both say that they hope to prove to people all over the world that disabled individuals should not be left in the corner and forgotten about, but rather included so that they can have the life experiences others are so lucky to have.[16]

Rosie Ruiz scandal

Scandal came to the Boston Marathon in 1980 when amateur runner Rosie Ruiz came from out of nowhere to win the women's race. Marathon officials became suspicious when it was found Ruiz didn't appear in race videotapes until near the end of the race. A subsequent investigation concluded that Ruiz had skipped most of the race and blended into the crowd about one mile from the finish line, where she then ran to her apparent victory. Ruiz was officially disqualified, and the winner was proclaimed to be Canadian Jacqueline Gareau.



  1. ^ "The First Boston Marathon". Boston Athletic Association. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  2. ^ NPR: Marathon Women
  3. ^ Qualifying for the marathon
  4. ^ BAA News Release about earlier start time for 2007 race
  5. ^ Time lapse video of 2008 marathon start
  6. ^
  7. ^ Connelly, Michael: "26 Miles to Boston", pp. 105-06. Parnassus Imprints, 1998
  8. ^ Boston Course Tips
  9. ^ Boston Marathon Official Program, April 2005, p.68
  10. ^ The ultimate guide to the Boston marathon (Blog)
  11. ^ USATF Rule 265(5)
  12. ^ "B.A.A. Boston Marathon Race Facts". Boston Athletic Association. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  13. ^ Pave, Marvin (April 22, 2003). "Resounding Wellesley message: voices carry". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  14. ^ "Runner's World Slideshow: 2008 Boston Marathon". 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  15. ^ Boston Marathon Memorial, Boston Art Commission, 100 Public Artworks, p. 3
  16. ^ Team Hoyt Homepage
  17. ^ Remembering Cynthia

Further reading

  • History of the Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon: The First Century of the World's Premier Running Event, by Tom Derderian, Human Kinetics Publishers, 1996, 634 pages, ISBN 0-88011-479-7

External links

General reference

Photo and video stories

Simple English

The Boston Marathon is a famous marathon which is run every April in Boston, Massachusetts on Patriot's Day. The distance of the race is 26.2 miles or 26 miles and 385 yards. To participate, runners need to qualify ahead of time by getting a certain time on another marathon first. This time is different depending on how old the runner is. (Every year, some runners who do not qualify are allowed in by raising money for charity).

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