The Boston Marathon means so much to the City of Boston. It’s a sign of the true beginning of spring weather after long, cold snowy winter. It’s the start of the April school vacation week in Massachusetts and it’s also held on Patriots Day which is a holiday only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. From the start in Hopkinton to the finish in Copley Square, the route is lined with people cheering on the runners and enjoying the spring weather. This year, the 124th running of the Boston Marathon will not be happening in April on Patriots Day, it has sadly been postponed to September due to the covid-19 pandemic.
The first Boston Marathon took place on April 19, 1897 after the US Olympic team manager saw the marathon in the Olympics and wanted to bring the spirit of that race to the city of Boston. There were 15 runners in the race and the winner had a finishing time of 2:55:10, which is almost an hour slower than recent year’s winners. The fastest Boston Marathon finish time was in 2011, 2:03:02. Now the race has over 30,000 participants and is one of the hardest races to qualify for in the world. People spend years running other marathons to earn their Boston Qualifying time and then hope that they are accepted in the race. Of all the qualifiers that applied for this year’s race, over 3,000 were not able to get in. This speaks volumes to what this race means to the running community.
Did you know that back in 1897, the length of the marathon was not the 26.2 miles that we have all come to associate with a marathon? It was actually only 24.8 miles based on the distance that the Greek soldier, Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens with the news of Greece’s victory over the Persian Army. The distance changed numerous times during the first seven Olympics and was changed to 26.2 miles permanently as of the 1924 Olympics.
From 1897 to 1968, the race was held on April 19th unless the 19th fell on a Sunday, then the race was held on Monday the 20th. In 1969, the Patriots Day holiday was moved to the third Monday in April and the marathon has been held on that Monday each year since. If you do not live in Massachusetts or Maine, you may wonder, what exactly is Patriots Day? Patriots Day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary war which were fought in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts in 1775. You may remember from history class, the midnight ride Paul Revere took to Lexington to warn the troops that “the British are coming…” Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country and celebrates it’s history.
There are many events that take place during Marathon weekend. Since 2009, the weekend has started off with the BAA 5K on the Saturday morning. This just so happens to be my favorite race to run each year, I was so sad to not be running it on Saturday for the first time in 12 years. It’s a great race to get the marathon runners family members involved in the weekend. The first few years it was run, it started and ended at the finish line in Copley Square. As the race got more popular and the field expanded, they changed the start and finish line to the Boston Common. You still get to run through the marathon finish line which is so much fun. There’s something about making the right on Hereford, left on Boylston and then seeing that finish line. After the 5K they also host the BAA Invitational Mile for some of the top school aged runners in Massachusetts.
The Boston Red Sox play a part in the Patriots Day activities. Each year, they have their game that Monday with a start time of 11:05am. They timed it so that when the game finishes, the fans are heading out into Kenmore Square, which is a mile from the finish line, right when the bulk of the runners are running through the area.
The Boston Marathon is a great race if you can qualify for it. If not there are numerous charities that have bibs available for the race. Even if you aren’t running the marathon, visiting Boston during this time is highly recommended. The city is alive and spectating the marathon is quite the experience. From the highly competitive runners to the ones finishing their first ever marathon to the ones out there in costume having fun, it’s a great experience to cheer on all these hard working runners. Fingers crossed things improved so runners can take to the streets from Hopkinton to Copley this September for the postponed 124th race! Enjoy the below photos of runners on course from years past and Stay Boston Strong!