The 121st Boston Marathon will take place this Monday, April 17th. With thousands of runners set to tackle the streets of Beantown, it's only fitting that we delve into a few facts about this historic event.
1. The starting line is located at One Ash Street in Hopkinton, MA. The start line is permanently painted on the ground. Each year, the line is repainted by hand by Jack Leduc. Jack began painting it on his own in the early 1980s. He has now become an established member of Boston history.
2. Less than two miles of the Boston Marathon is actually in Boston proper. The course itself heads through seven other cities and towns before finally reaching its namesake.
3. Ashland, MA, pops up about three miles into the race. From 1897 to 1923, it was the start line for the marathon. In 1924, the start line was moved to its current location to make the course conform to the Olympic marathon standard of 26.2 miles.
4. The Boston Marathon has the fastest median finisher time for the marathon—in the 3 hour, 40 minutes range. This fast average time is due to the fact that runners must qualify for the race. Each year, athletes around the globe attempt to hit age/gender graded qualifying time just to enter. Still, even if you qualify, you're not guaranteed an entry. The field is selected from the fastest of the qualifiers.
5. Olive wreaths are given to the overall male and female finishers. The olive leaves are picked from olive plants in Marathon, Greece.
6. The Boston Marathon is held every year on the third Monday in April. This coincides with Patriot’s Day, a holiday celebrated only in Massachusetts and Maine. Patriot’s Day celebrates the beginning of the Revolutionary War: the battles of Lexington and Concord.
7. Clarence DeMar holds the title for the most titles. DeMar won the race seven times. His first title was in 1911. He did not win again until 1922 due to his doctors forcing him to retire after the first win. He would go on to win six more times from 1922 to 1930.
8. Over 500,000 people line the route to cheer on the runners, making it the largest spectator event in New England. To give you some perspective, that's about 80 percent of the population of Boston.
9. The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19th, 1897. John J McDermott won the 24.8 mile race in 2:55:10. There were eighteen total entries. Of those eighteen, fifteen started and only ten finished.
10. Boston Marathon weekend doesn't just include the Monday marathon. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) also hosts a 5K open to anyone and an elite athlete invitational mile on Sunday morning.
11. In 1975, Boston became the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division. A few athletes in wheelchairs had competed in previous years, but the first official winner was Bob Hall.
12. The 12th mile of Boston is where the course hits the "Scream Tunnel" at Wellesley College. The women of Wellesley traditionally line the road and welcome the runners with an encouraging wall of cheers that runners report can be heard from almost a mile away.
13. Boston is a point-to-point course from Hopkinton to Boston, with a net downhill of 459 feet. Net doesn't mean all downhill though, as athletes discover once they hit the hills through miles 16 to 20 (or so).
14. It takes a village to stage the Boston Marathon. Each year, over 8,000 volunteers make this awesome race possible.
15. The Boston Marathon truly is an international event. Starting with the winner of the second Boston Marathon who hailed from Nova Scotia, the event has been won by athletes from twenty-four countries. The USA leads list with fifty-three victories.
16. The race course ends sixteen feet above sea level.
17. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first woman to run the Boston Marathon course. Roberta 'Bobbi' Gibb "banditted" (ran without entering) the race in 1966. The following year, 1967, Katherine Switzer received the first bib given to a female. Entering as K.V. Switzer, the race director tried to pull her off course when he realized a woman was running, but was sent flying by several of the male marathoners before he could grab her.
18. The minimum age to enter Boston is 18 years old. However, there is no cap on how old you can be. Last year, Katherine Beiers became the oldest athlete to complete the course at a spry 82 years of age.
19. The 19th mile finds the "Forever Young” statue in honor of John A. Kelley. John has the record for completing Boston fifty-eight times. In addition to completing it fifty-eight of his sixty-one starts, he won the race in 1935 and 1945.
20. The 20th mile offers what is possibly the most well-known part of any marathon course: Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak isn't necessarily the longest or hardest hill an athlete will find. It earns its name because it falls at the 20-mile mark of the marathon, just after the Newton Hills, which have already taken the runners’ legs away.
21. In 1979, Joan Benoit Samuelson announced herself to the running world by winning her first Boston Marathon at the age of 21. Wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, she took nearly 8 minutes off the women's course record with a 2:35 Boston debut. "Joanie," as she was affectionately known, won again in 1983 in another course record, 2:22, that stood for over a decade.
22. The oldest major marathon meets the oldest major stadium each year as the Boston Red Sox host an early home game on Patriot’s Day. The game traditionally finishes up right as the runners are passing by, adding to the already huge throng of spectators along the course.
23. The men's and women's winners of the Boston Marathon come home with more than just an olive wreath crown. They each earn a nice $150,000 paycheck.
24. Women were first officially allowed to enter the race in 1972. Eight women entered (and all finished), led across the line by American Nina Kuscsik in 3:10:26.
25. The giant Citgo sign is a welcome sight for the runners, as it signifies only one mile to go.
26. New to the course this year is a large blue-and-yellow banner emblazoned with the words “Boston Strong." It is displayed at the Bowker Overpass over Commonwealth Avenue, positioned so that the runners can see it as they near the final mile.
26.2. To be inspired, cheer on your friends, or see if they can beat their bib number (a common goal for those running Boston), you can follow all the action through the BAA website. They'll have live feeds and runner tracking starting at 8:15 a.m. on Monday.
To everyone running Boston, congrats on earning your way there, and enjoy the race!
Tim Cary is Head Track & Field and Cross Country for Lindenwood University at Belleville and the former Fleet Feet Assistant Training Manager. Over his more than two decades of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to subscribe to our blog.