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Historical facts about the Boston Marathon

Finish Line Commemoration
Finish Line Commemoration
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Boston Marathon is a tradition that has been taking place for more than a century. For Bostonians, it is a part of the year that is purely expected and even anticipated by far more than just the runners and organizers. In 2013, the marathon caught the attention of the entire world when two young terrorists decided to target the race. If the event affected the race in any way, it was to make it even more important, but history shows it has always been special in different ways.

The Boston Marathon was conceived of by John Graham, a U.S. Olympic Team manager. He enlisted Bostonian Herbert H. Holton and a 24.5-mile course was mapped out from Ashland's Metcalf Mill to Boston's Irvington Oval.

The Boston Marathon is always held on Patriots' Day (except when it used to fall on Sunday). Patriots' Day itself has changed from April 19 to the third Monday in April. This was great for the race because it could fall on the holiday every year. However, it made the holiday inaccurate, as it originally fell on the date the American Revolution began, which is why the people of Maine and Massachusetts celebrate.

The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897. There were only 18 runners compared to the tens of thousands that run today. Runner John J. McDermott crossed the finish line first with a time of 2:55:10. This time is still quite a bit faster than the average more than a century later. Speaking of time, it took more than a quarter century for the course to change to its current length of 26 miles and 365 yards.

Women were initially barred from the Boston Marathon. In fact, they have been barred for longer than they have been officially allowed to compete. The first official female entrants finished in the 1972 race.

In 1980, a woman named Rosie Ruiz actually tried to chat by beginning the race, skipping most of it and then rejoining in time to become the apparent female winner. She was later found to have cheated in the New York Marathon that got her a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.

Like any marathon, there have been injuries and even a few exertion related deaths over the years, but the general experience for runners and bystanders is positive. For the time, it remains a major feat of athletic prowess and a spectacle that Boston loves.

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