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How to Understand the History of the Boston Marathon

Whether you're running in the world's oldest annual marathon, or watching from the sidelines, gain a better appreciation for the Boston Marathon by learning a little about its history.


  • Step 1: Understand the inclusion of women. Women were not officially allowed to participate in the marathon until 1972, when 8 women started and finished the race.
  • Step 2: Discover the importance of history. The race is still run on Patriot's Day -- which, since 1969, has always been the the third Monday in April. Tune in yearly to join the excitement of the day or head to Boston for an upfront personal experience.
  • FACT: In 1966 Roberta Gibb ran the full marathon, becoming the first female finisher. Because she wasn't officially allowed to participate in the race, she hid in the bushes near the start until the race began.
  • Step 3: Learn about course adjustments. In 1924, the course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards when the International Olympic Committee set the new official Olympic marathon distance.
  • TIP: John McDermott of New York won the race in 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds.
  • Step 4: Understand the organization. John Graham along with Herbert H. Holton and other Boston Athletic Association members organized the first race.
  • TIP: John Graham was the manager of the Athletics Team from the Boston Athletic Association. Their athletes won 6 medals at the 1896 Olympic games.
  • Step 5: Learn about the first race, a 24.8-miler which took place on Patriot's Day, April 19, 1897. 15 men took to the starting line at at exactly 12:19 p.m. The race began with a shout of "Go" -- no official gun needed.
  • Step 6: Discover the inspirational ties with the Olympic games of 1896. John Graham attended the games and wanted to bring the same kind of race back to the United States.

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