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Boston Marathon History: Boston Marathon Facts

Facts at a Glance

Boston Athletic Association: Among the nation's oldest athletic clubs, the B.A.A. was established in 1887, and, in 1896, more than half of the U.S. Olympic Team at the first modern games was comprised of B.A.A. club members. The Olympic Games provided the inspiration for the first Boston Marathon, which culminated the B.A.A. Games on April 19, 1897. John J. McDermott emerged from a 15-member starting field to complete the course (then 24.5 miles) in a winning time of 2:55:10. The Boston Marathon has since become the world's oldest annually contested marathon. The addition of principal sponsor John Hancock in 1986 has solidified the event's success and ensures it well into the future.

Patriots' Day: Since its inception, the Boston Marathon has been held on the holiday commemorating Patriots' Day. From 1897-1968, the Boston Marathon was held on April 19, unless the 19th fell on a Sunday. Since 1969, the holiday has been officially recognized on the third Monday in April. The last non-Monday champion was current Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot, who posted a time of 2:22:17 on Friday, April 19, 1968.

Record Field Size at Boston: The all-time record for the world's largest marathon was established at the centennial race in 1996, when 35,868 finishers out of 36,748 official starters participated in the 100th running of the Boston Marathon. The Centennial Boston Marathon had 38,708 entrants and was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Four Olympic Champions Have Won Boston: Three-time women's champion Fatuma Roba (ETH) became the fourth person to win the Olympic Games Marathon and the B.A.A. Boston Marathon, when she posted a time of 2:26:23 to win the 1997 Boston Marathon. Roba, who won the 1996 Olympic Marathon, joined fellow women's champions Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won Boston in 1979 and 1983, before adding the 1984 Olympic Games title; and Rosa Mota (POR), who won a trio of Boston crowns (1987, 1988, and 1990), while adding the 1988 Olympic title. Gelindo Bordin (ITA) is the only male to have won the Olympic (1988) and Boston (1990) titles.

Most Boston Marathons: The legendary John A. Kelley started a record 61 Boston Marathons and finished 58. Kelley, who won the race in 1935 and 1945, first competed in the race in 1928, but it was not until 1933, in his third attempt, that he completed the course, placing 37th in 3:03:56. He last completed the course in 1992 at the age of 84. Kelley, who lived to be 97 (1907-2004), had a larger than life-size sculpture, entitled "Young at Heart," created in his likeness and dedicated in his name at the base of Heartbreak Hill, a landmark which had its name coined in reference to one of Kelley's seven runner-up performances. The sculpture stands in tribute to his longevity and spirit. From 1995 through 2004, Kelley, a three-time U.S. Olympian, served as the Boston Marathon's grand marshal (missing only 1999 due to illness). He preceded the race in a pace car. Kelley is a member of both the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame and the National Road Running Distance Hall of Fame. He was selected as "The Runner of the Century," by Runner's World magazine, for his contributions to the sport of running and the millions of athletes who he has inspired.

Most Consecutive Boston Marathons: The record for most consecutive Boston Marathons completed is currently held by Bennett Beach of Besthesda, MD. He set the record in 2012, when he completed his 45th consecutive Boston Marathon. This broke the record that was held by Neil Weygandt, who was on 44 straight races. However, Weygandt was not able to start the 2012 event. That year, Beach completed the grueling 26.2 miles (temperatures rose as high as 89 degrees on race day) in 5:55:22. Back in the early days of his consecutive run, he ran it in under 2:30 four times, with a best of 2:27:26 in 1981. In 2013, Beach was one of the participants who were stopped along the course due to the incidents at the finish line. However, the B.A.A. granted a waiver to all consecutive runners, therefore Beach's streak continued to 46 consecutive finishes at Boston.

Only B.A.A. Running Club Champion: The only B.A.A. Club member to win the Boston Marathon was John J. Kelley, who established a then-course record 2:20:05 to capture the 1957 race. Kelley finished second on five other occasions. A runner from the B.A.A. has finished in the runner-up spot on ten different occasions, including Patti Lyons [Dillon] in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

First to Sponsor Wheelchair Division: The Boston Marathon became the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division competition when it officially recognized Bob Hall in 1975.

Spectators: Approximately one million spectators line the 26.2-mile course annually, making the Boston Marathon New England's most widely viewed sporting event, according to estimates by police and public safety officials from the eight cities and towns along the route.

Charity Program: The Boston Marathon Charity Program enables selected charitable organizations to raise millions of dollars for worthwhile causes. In 2013, the program surpassed the $140 million mark in total funds raised since its inception in 1989. In 2014, 30 charities are expected to raise more than $13 million.

B.A.A. Moment 5

1977 - Bob Hall Becomes the First Person to Complete the Race in a Wheelchair

Shown here in 1977, Bob Hall pioneered the division when he became the first person to complete the race in a wheelchair in 1975, making good on his promise to finish in under three hours.