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April 15, 2024

History of the Boston Marathon

The is the oldest footrace in America! The Boston Marathon takes place the third Monday in April each year since 1969. This is also "Patriot's Day" in Massachusetts (and Maine) named for the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Therefore, as its name implies, the Boston Marathon is always held in the city of Boston, Massachusetts on "Patriot's Day," 

 Ironically, the Boston Athletic Association first organized the race to be run on St. Patrick's day in 1897, with only 15 runners. Today it records as many as 9,000 runners each year.  The course is 26.2 miles long and begins in Hopkinton and ends in the front of the Prudential Center of Boston. It's basis is the original Olympic footraces held in 1896 which is from the legend that a Greek runner ran 25 miles to bring the news of the marathon to Athens that they WON over the Persians in 490 BCE. The first modern Greek winner of this race was in 1896 named Spiros Louis.

The Olympic marathon was changed to a standard 26 miles, 385 yards in 1924.

Runners from all over the world now come to Boston to run this marathon which is considered the most prestigious running even in the world today (that as far as I know is open to anyone and not just professionals like the Olympics are.)  Some well-known winners include John Kelley, won twice and continued to compete into his 80's. Then "young" John Kelley (no relation to the old Kelley) was the first American in the Post WWII era. Someone named "Tarzan" Brown won in 1938 and also took a quick swim in Lake Cochichuate.  Bill Rodgers won 3 in a row, 1978, 1979 & 1980.
As far as women winners, we have Rosa Mota of Portugal who was the first to win 3 in a row.

Then we have the infamous scandal of 1980 where Rosie Ruis tried to defraud the BAA by showing up at the end of the race to take the Laurel Wreath without having actually run the race. Fortunately, television coverage at various checkpoints proved her unworthy and Jackie Gareau of Canada was later declared the official winner. But, Rosie Ruiz continued to insist she ran that race fairly and deserved the win.

Heartbreak Hill is located at mile 21 of the race and considered the downfall of many runners. It is 2/3 of the race at that point, when many runners have just lost most of their steam, this part of the race has an incline that is just dreadfully challenging. 

But if you make it, you get the infamous Laurel Wreath placed on your head as the traditional winners won back in ancient Greece.  The laurel tree was sacred to Apollo, (God of Light, Healing, Music, Poetry, Prophecy and Manliness) so the leaves were used to weaves garlands and crowns and signified that anyone who wore this crown or garland had overcome great obstacles and/or negative influences to achieve their goals and won!

Information Source based on the book, "Holiday Symbols, 2nd Ed." by Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics, Inc. 2000

Midi Title is "Chariots of Fire" Theme from the movie by Vangelis


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