Peek at the Past: Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon began its trek through the streets of the city in 1897, making it the oldest annual marathon in the world. Though the race originally started in Ashland, in 1925, it was moved to the corner of Ash Street and East Main Street in Hopkinton in order to conform to new Olympic standards set by Queen Alexandria and King Edward VII.
Over the years, many notable runners have conquered the challenging course. Nina Kuscisik became the first woman to legitimately complete the Boston Marathon in 1971, though there were stealth entrants before her: Roberta Gibb ran without an official entry in 1966, and Katherine Switzer registered under the ambiguous name of “K.V. Switzer” and ran without anyone realizing she was a woman until the race had begun, at which point the BAA attempted to physically remove her from the race. Rosie Ruiz jumped into the race a mile before the finish in 1980 to become the winner, a title which was later revoked and given to Jacqueline Gareau after officials had looked over the surveillance tapes.
John A. Kelley and John J. Kelley—unrelated, and distinguished as “The Elder” and “The Younger”—were also beloved repeat-runners, the former competing in the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, and the latter being the only runner to win both the Boston Marathon and the Mount Washington Road Race. A statue of Johnny the Elder resides in Newton about a mile from Heartbreak Hill, so named because of his neck-and-neck race against Ellison “Tarzan” Brown in 1936. Tarzan won the race after overtaking Kelley on what was then “Newton Hill,” later renamed by a reporter because Tarzan “broke Kelley’s heart.” Tarzan Brown is probably best known for jumping into Lake Cochituate mid-race in 1938, though he was also the first to best the two-and-a-half-hour precedent when he won in 1939.
The Boston Marathon was the first marathon to include a wheelchair division, and in 1975, Bob Hall became the first wheelchair competitor to finish the race, paving the path for many more to come. In terms of modern-day Marathon staples, Team Hoyt is certainly the most ubiquitous and probably the most beloved duo. Team Hoyt is made up of Rick Hoyt, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and his father Dick. After Dick discovered that Rick had a passion for sports, he entered them into the Boston Marathon for the first time in 1982, pushing his son along the 26-mile, 385-yard track. Every year since then, they have participated in the race. Dick, now 73, has said the 2014 Boston Marathon will be the last for him and his son, who is now 51.
The 2014 Boston Marathon is solidifying its own place in the history books with an expanded field of runners—up to 36,000 from last year’s 27,000. However, the record still belongs to the 1996 100th Boston Marathon, which drew 38,708 entrants.