A week from today, on April 17, the Boston Marathon will be run. American runners, regardless of their city affiliation have Boston to thank for establishing a custom 120 years ago that has since been copied by many other towns. It decided to hold a running race every year to celebrate a local holiday.
A Wikipedia entry claims this race “is the oldest continuously running marathon, and the second longest continuously running footrace in North America, having debuted five months after the Buffalo Turkey Trot.” One of Earned Runs blog items posted during last year’s “Boston Week”, updated a bit this year, provides additional information on the race’s history:
The official Boston Athletic Association (B.A. A.) website tells the story of the Boston Marathon, which it has sponsored since it’s very first running. The page explains that “after experiencing the spirit and majesty “ of the marathon run at the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, “B.A.A. member and inaugural US Olympic Team Manager John Graham was inspired to organize and conduct a marathon in the Boston area.“
According to another Wikipedia entry, the city’s event “is the world's oldest annual marathon, inspired by the success of the 1896 Olympic marathon and held every year since 1897 to celebrate Patriots Day, a holiday marking the beginning of the American Revolution, thereby purposely linking Athenian and American struggle for democracy”
For those not familiar with the Commonwealth’s holiday, “Patriot's Day (or Patriots' Day) commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were fought near Boston in 1775. Patriot's Day is annually held on the third Monday of April.” Only in Massachusetts and Maine is it an official state holiday. Patriot’s Day should not be confused with the September 11, Patriot Day, on which the entire nation marks the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Boston Marathon History that you may not know:
- The race’s distance was not always 26 miles 385 feet! The first modern Olympic marathon course covered 24 .5 miles and the Boston Marathon covered 24.8 miles. The official marathon distance was standardized by 1924.
- The first year in which women were officially allowed to run was 1972. However, one (Roberta Gibb) ran and finished the full race without a bib number for 3 years, 1966-68, and one (Katherine Switzer) ran and finished but did not identify herself as a female in 1967.
- This was the first marathon to include a wheelchair division, in 1975.
There are many other details and a link to a page with other race milestones on the BAA website.
The tradition of city-stopping marathon festivals began in Boston. It’s a great reason to celebrate the day regardless of where you live, especially if you have trained for and run this long-distance endurance race or hope to in the future. If you have run a half marathon you should be twice as grateful (it’s crazy math, think about it).
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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