Monday April 19, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Boston Marathon

On this Day:

In 1897, the 1st Boston Marathon (B.A.A. Road Race) was won by John J. McDermott in 2:55:10.  

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon race hosted by several cities in greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts, United States. It is traditionally held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, the event was inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. Its course runs from Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County to Copley Square in Boston.

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has organized this event annually since 1897, except for 2020 when it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and rescheduled for 2021 to be held in the fall, tentatively). The race has been managed by DMSE Sports, Inc., since 1988. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly Massachusetts terrain and varying weather to take part in the race.

The event attracts 500,000 spectators each year, making it New England’s most widely viewed sporting event. Though starting with 15 participants in 1897, the event now attracts an average of about 30,000 registered participants each year, with 30,251 people entering in 2015. The Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 established a record as the world’s largest marathon with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters, and 35,868 finishers.

The Boston Marathon was first run in April 1897, having been inspired by the revival of the marathon for the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Until 2020 it was the oldest continuously running marathon, and the second longest continuously running footrace in North America, having debuted five months after the Buffalo Turkey Trot.

On April 19, 1897, ten years after the establishment of the B.A.A., the association held the 24.5 miles (39.4 km) marathon to conclude its athletic competition, the B.A.A. Games. The inaugural winner was John J. “JJ” McDermott, who ran the 24.5 mile course in 2:55:10, leading a field of 15. The event was scheduled for the recently established holiday of Patriots’ Day, with the race linking the Athenian and American struggles for liberty. The race, which became known as the Boston Marathon, has been held every year since then, even during the World War years & the Great Depression, making it the world’s oldest annual marathon. In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) to conform to the standard set by the 1908 Summer Olympics and codified by the IAAF in 1921.

The Boston Marathon was originally a local event, but it’s 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 refused to run the race unless a cash award was available. The first cash prize for winning the marathon was awarded in 1986.

Walter A. Brown was the President of the Boston Athletic Association from 1941 to 1964. During the height of the Korean War in 1951, Brown denied Koreans entry into the Boston Marathon. He stated: “While American soldiers are fighting and dying in Korea, every Korean should be fighting to protect his country instead of training for marathons. As long as the war continues there, we positively will not accept Korean entries for our race on April 19.”

The Boston Marathon rule book until after the 1967 race made no mention of gender, nor did the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) exclude women from races that included men until after the 1967 Boston Marathon. A separate women’s race was not established at the Boston Marathon until 1972. Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb is recognized by the race organizers as the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon in 1966. Gibb’s attempt to register for that race was refused by race director Will Cloney in a letter in which he claimed women were physiologically incapable of running 26 miles. Gibb finished the 1966 race in three hours, twenty-one minutes and forty seconds, ahead of two-thirds of the runners.

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer, who registered for the race using her official AAU registration number, paying the entry fee, providing a properly acquired fitness certificate, and signing her entry form with her usual signature ‘K. V. Switzer’, was the first woman to run and finish with a valid official race registration. As a result of Switzer’s completion of the race as the first officially registered woman runner, the AAU changed its rules to ban women from competing in races against men. Switzer finished the race despite an infamous incident in which race official Jock Semple repeatedly assaulted her in an attempt to rip off her race numbers and eject her from the race. In 1996 the B.A.A. retroactively recognized as champions the unofficial women’s leaders of 1966 through 1971. In 2015, about 46 percent of the entrants were female.

In the 2016 Boston Marathon, Jami Marseilles, an American, became the first female double amputee to finish the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to have run the entire Boston Marathon (1966), was the grand marshal of the race. The Women’s Open division winner, Atsede Baysa, gave Gibb her trophy; Gibb said that she would go to Baysa’s native Ethiopia in 2017 and return it to her.

The Boston Marathon is open to runners 18 or older from any nation, but they must meet certain qualifying standards. To qualify, a runner must first complete a standard marathon course certified by a national governing body affiliated with the World Athletics within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon (usually within approximately 18 months prior).

Qualifying standards for the 2013 race were tightened on February 15, 2011, by five minutes in each age-gender group for marathons run after September 23, 2011. Prospective runners in the age range of 18–34 must run a time of no more than 3:05:00 (3 hours 5 minutes) if male, or 3:35:00 (3 hours 35 minutes) if female; the qualifying time is adjusted upward as age increases. In addition, the 59-second grace period on qualifying times has been completely eliminated; for example, a 40- to 44-year-old male will no longer qualify with a time of 3:15:01. For many marathoners, to qualify for Boston (to “BQ”) is a goal and achievement in itself.

An exception to the qualification times is for runners who receive entries from partners. About one-fifth of the marathon’s spots are reserved each year for charities, sponsors, vendors, licensees, consultants, municipal officials, local running clubs, and marketers. In 2010, about 5,470 additional runners received entries through partners, including 2,515 charity runners. The marathon currently allocates spots to two dozen charities who in turn are expected to raise more than $10 million a year. In 2017, charity runners raised $34.2 million for more than 200 non-profit organizations. The Boston Athletic Association’s Official Charity Program raised $17.96 million, John Hancock’s Non-Profit Program raised $12.3 million, and the last $3.97 million was raised by other qualified and invitational runners.

On October 18, 2010, the 20,000 spots reserved for qualifiers were filled in a record-setting eight hours and three minutes. The speed of registration prompted the B.A.A. to change its qualifying standards for the 2013 marathon onward. In addition to lowering qualifying times, the change includes a rolling application process, which gives faster runners priority. Organizers decided not to significantly adjust the number of non-qualifiers.

On September 27, 2018, the B.A.A. announced that they were lowering the qualifying times for the 2020 marathon by another five minutes, with male runners in the 18-34 age group required to run a time of 3:00:00 (3 hours) or less and female runners in the 18-34 age group required to run a time of 3:30:00 (3 hours, 30 minutes) or less in order to qualify.

The winners have represented 27 different countries: Americans have won the marathon the most, doing so on 108 occasions; Kenyans have won 34 times; and Canadians 21 times. Ernst van Dyk is the most successful individual athlete, having won the men’s wheelchair division ten times. The current course records are held by Geoffrey Mutai, Buzunesh Deba, Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär.

Clarence DeMar won the men’s open race seven times, more than any other runner, achieving his first victory in 1911 and his last in 1930. Women were only officially allowed to run the race beginning in 1972, though female runners had unofficially participated beginning in 1966 despite breaching the rules of the Amateur Athletic Union. The first six victories in the women’s open division, between 1966 and 1971, were officially recognized in 1996. Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to finish the race in 1966, while Nina Kuscsik was the first official winner in 1972. Catherine Ndereba’s four victories between 2000 and 2005 are the most in the women’s open division.

At Wellesley College, a women’s college, it is traditional for the students to cheer on the runners in what is referred to as the Scream Tunnel. For about a quarter of a mile (400 m), the students line the course, scream, and offer kisses. The Scream Tunnel is so loud runners claim it can be heard from a mile away. The tunnel is roughly half a mile (0.8 km) prior to the halfway mark of the course (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Did you hear about the locomotive conductor who ran the boston marathon? He had to do a lot of training.

Second, a Song:

Michelle Lewis’ “Run Run Run” is the first single from Michelle’s second full length CD, The Parts Of Us That Still Remain (release date 4/29/14). 

Michelle writes intensely visual songs, rich with melodic texture and emotional depth, and she performs with an unmistakable swagger. Too refined to call folk and too personal to call pop, her music surprises listeners who think they know what to expect from a singer/songwriter, and those who never expected to like one. A graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Michelle collaborates with producer Anthony J. Resta (Elton John, Duran Duran, Shawn Mullins) on her newest release, with songs co-written by Nashville favorite Robby Hecht and LA sound designer Conan Skyrme (per

Here is Michelle performing Run Run Run set to scenes of runners training in Boston.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“I want to run until I can’t run.” – Bill Rodgers [4 time winner of the Boston Marathon]

[Editor: I qualified for and ran the 109th Boston Marathon in 2005.  Bucket List Item! Great memories!]


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply