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Boston Marathon History: Boston Marathon Milestones

Timeline of Events

Tuesday, March 15, 1887
The Boston Athletic Association was established, and construction began soon after on the B.A.A. Clubhouse at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets.

Friday, April 10, 1896
The marathon race at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 served as the inspiration for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon, which was held the following spring.

Monday, April 19, 1897
The Boston Marathon was originally called the American Marathon and was the final event of the B.A.A. Games. The first running of the race commenced at the site of Metcalf's Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts, and finished at the Irvington Street Oval near Copley Square. John J. McDermott, of New York, emerged from a 15-member starting field to capture the inaugural Boston Marathon.

Tuesday, April 19, 1898
In its second running, the Boston Marathon welcomed its first foreign champion when 22-year-old Boston College student Ronald J. MacDonald, of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, won the race in 2:42:00. MacDonald's accomplishment foreshadowed the international appeal the race would later attract. Today, 24 countries can claim a Boston Marathon champion. The United States leads the list with 52 triumphs.

Wednesday, April 19, 1911
The legendary Clarence H. DeMar of Melrose, Massachusetts won his first of seven Boston Marathon titles. However, on the advice of medical experts, DeMar initially "retired" from the sport following his first title. He later won six titles between 1922 and 1930, including three consecutive from 1922 through 1924. DeMar was 41 years old when he won his final title in 1930.

Friday, April 19, 1918
Due to American involvement in World War I, the traditional Patriots' Day race underwent a change of format. A 10-man military relay race was contested on the course, and the team from Camp Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, bested the field in 2:24:53.

Saturday, April 19, 1924
The course was lengthened to 26 miles, 385 yards to conform to the Olympic standard, and the starting line was moved west from Ashland to Hopkinton.

Thursday, April 19, 1928
John A. "The Elder" Kelley made his Boston Marathon debut. Kelley, who won the race in 1935 and again in 1945, has the record for most Boston Marathons started (61) and finished (58). His final race came in 1992 at the age of 84.

Monday, April 20, 1936
The last of Newton's hills was given the nickname "Heartbreak Hill" by Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason. When John A. Kelley caught eventual champion Ellison "Tarzan" Brown on the Newton hills, Kelley made a friendly gesture of tapping Brown on the shoulder. Brown responded by regaining the lead on the final hill, and as Nason reported, "breaking Kelley's heart."

Saturday, April 19, 1941
Leslie Pawson of Pawtucket, Rhode Island joined Clarence DeMar as the only champion to win the men's open race three times or more. Pawson first won the race in 1933 and added a second title in 1938. The pair has since been joined by Gerard Cote, Bill Rodgers, Eino Oksanen, Ibrahim Hussein, and Cosmas Ndeti on the men's side. On the women's side, Rosa Mota, Uta Pippig, Fatuma Roba, Catherine Ndereba, and Rita Jeptoo have all won three or more times.

Saturday, April 19, 1947
For the only time in the history of the men's open race, a world-best was established at the Boston Marathon when Korean Yun Bok Suh turned in a 2:25:39 performance.

Saturday, April 20, 1957
John J. Kelley became the first and currently lone B.A.A. club member to win the Boston Marathon. In addition, from 1946 to 1967, Kelley was the only American to win the race.

Tuesday, April 19, 1966
Although not an official entrant, Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Joining the starting field shortly after the gun had been fired, Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb again claimed the "unofficial" title in 1967 and 1968.

Wednesday, April 19, 1967
By signing her entry form "K. V. Switzer," Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to receive a number in the Boston Marathon. By her own estimate, Switzer finished in 4:20:00.

Monday, April 20, 1970
Qualifying standards were introduced. The official B.A.A. entry form stated, "A runner must submit the certification...that he has trained sufficiently to finish the course in less than four hours…"

Monday, April 17, 1972
Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon, and Nina Kuscsik, from New York, emerged from an eight-member starting field to win the race in 3:10:26.

Monday, April 21, 1975
A trio of stories emerged from this race, as Bill Rodgers collected his first of four titles, Bob Hall became the first officially recognized participant to complete the course in a wheelchair, and Liane Winter of West Germany established a women's world-best of 2:42:24. Hall was granted permission to enter the race provided that he covered the distance in under three hours. Hall finished in 2:58:00, signaling the start of the wheelchair division in the race.

Monday, April 19, 1982
Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley became the first two runners to break 2:09:00 in the same race after dueling one another for first place over the final nine miles. Salazar emerged victorious from the thrilling final sprint to the finish, with Beardsley just two seconds behind in 2:08:54.

Monday, April 18, 1983
Joan Benoit won her second Boston Marathon in a world-best time of 2:22:43. Benoit, who won the Olympic Marathon the following summer, became the first person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons.

Monday, April 15, 1985
Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach, who placed fourth at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 U.S. Olympic trials, ran uncontested to win the women's race in 2:34:06 and remains the last female American champion at Boston.

Monday, April 21, 1986
Through the generous support of principal sponsor John Hancock Financial Services, prize money was awarded for the first time, and Rob de Castella of Australia earned $60,000 and a Mercedes-Benz for finishing first in a course-record time of 2:07:51. On the women's side, Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway captured her first of two Boston Marathon titles in 2:24:55 (she won her second title in 1989).

Monday, April 18, 1988
Kenya's Ibrahim Hussein finished one second ahead of Tanzania's Juma Ikangaa, and became the first African to win Boston. Hussein, who also won in 1991 and 1992, established a trend in which African runners won 14 of 16 races.

Monday, April 16, 1990
Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Illinois won her first of seven consecutive push rim wheelchair division races. Men's champion Gelindo Bordin of Italy became the third person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons, and masters division champion John Campbell of New Zealand established a then world-best of 2:11:04 to finish fourth overall.

Monday, April 18, 1994
World-best performances were established in the men's and women's wheelchair divisions, while course records fell in the men's and women's open divisions. For the fifth consecutive year, Jean Driscoll posted a world-best to win the women's wheelchair division, while Heinz Frei of Switzerland set the men's world-best to mark the 12th time the record had been established at Boston. Cosmas Ndeti of Kenya lowered the course record to 2:07:15, while Uta Pippig set the women's standard at 2:21:45.

Monday, April 15, 1996
The historic 100th running of the Boston Marathon attracted 38,708 official entrants (36,748 starters; 35,868 finishers), which stands as the largest field of finishers in history. Uta Pippig overcame a 30-second deficit and severe dehydration, among other difficulties, to become the first woman of the official era to win the race in three consecutive years.

Monday, April 21, 1997
Fatuma Roba of Ethiopia became the fourth person to win the Boston and Olympic Marathons, and the first African woman to win the Boston Marathon. Two years later, she would become the second woman of the official era to win the race in three consecutive years.

Monday, April 20, 1998
The performances of Moses Tanui (2:07:34), Joseph Chebet (2:07:37), and Gert Thys (2:07:52) marked the first time in the history of the sport that three runners finished in under 2:08:00.

Monday, April 17, 2000
After seven consecutive victories (1990-1996) followed by three years as runner-up (1997-1999), Jean Driscoll won an unprecedented eighth title in the wheelchair division, moving her past legendary Hall of Famer Clarence DeMar for most all-time victories at Boston. Catherine Ndereba became the first Kenyan woman to win the Boston Marathon; Elijah Lagat, also of Kenya, was first to the finish in the men's race, marking the tenth consecutive year a runner from his country won the title. Both the men's and women's races were the closest in history.

Monday, April 16, 2001
After an unprecedented ten consecutive victories by Kenyans in the men's race, Lee Bong-Ju of Korea halted the streak with his 2:09:43 win. The last Korean winner at Boston prior to Lee was Kee Yong Ham, who was the men's race champion in 1950.

Monday, April 15, 2002
Two records were set in the women's race when Margaret Okayo of Kenya dethroned two-time defending champion Catherine Ndereba in 2:20:43 and Russian Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova broke the 14-year old masters record with her 2:27:58 victory.

Monday, April 21, 2003
For the first time, Russian women finished in first and second place at the Boston Marathon and placed four among the top seven. Svetlana Zakharova led the way in 2:25:20, beating runner-up Lyubov Denisova (2:26:51) by one minute, 31 seconds. After the race, Zakharova cited Boston champion Olga Markova as inspiration for a generation of Russian women with her two victories a decade earlier in 1992 and 1993. Also, the qualifying times were adjusted for the first time since 1990, and the maximum field size was set at 20,000 official entrants.

Monday, April 19, 2004
To better showcase the women's elite field, the B.A.A. implemented a separate start for the top female runners. In a dramatic change to race format, 35 national and international caliber women began at 11:31 a.m. (29 minutes before the rest of the field and the traditional Noon start). Also, Ernst Van Dyk, of South Africa, made history in the push rim wheelchair division when he won for the fourth consecutive year in a world record time of 1:18:27. His victory was further historically significant in that he became the first person ever to crack the 1:20:00 barrier.

Monday, April 18, 2005
The B.A.A. again implemented a separate start for the elite women, and again Catherine Ndereba emerged from the field, becoming the first four-time winner of the women's division. Ernst Van Dyk added to his record for consecutive wins in the men's push rim wheelchair division, capturing his fifth straight title. In Tallil, Iraq, 41 U.S. servicemen and women completed the first-ever Boston Marathon in Iraq on the same day.

Monday, April 17, 2006
In one of the most significant changes in Boston Marathon history, the field was divided into two starting waves, with 10,000 runners beginning at the traditional noon starting time, and the remainder of the runners starting at 12:30 p.m. In addition to the two-wave start, the Marathon for the first time scored the event by net (chip) time. Robert K. Cheruiyot erased Cosmas Ndeti 12-year-old course record by one second, while Rita Jeptoo, Jelena Prokopcuka, and Reiko Tosa provided the women's division's closest ever 1-2-3 finish. With 19,682 finishers, 2006 was the second-largest Boston Marathon ever, trailing only the 1996 100th running.

Monday, April 16, 2007
For the second year in a row the start of the race underwent a major change, this time with the start time being rolled back to 10:00 a.m. Robert K. Cheruiyot won his second consecutive, and third total, Boston Marathon title. Lidiya Grigoryeva defeated a women's field that included the number 1, 2 and 3-ranked female marathoners from 2006 (Rita Jeptoo, Jelena Prokopcuka, and Deena Kastor). The push rim wheelchair race featured the first two Japanese champions in the history of that division, with Masazumi Soejima and Wakako Tsuchida winning the men's and women's titles, respectively. With 20,338 finishers, this was the second-largest Boston Marathon ever. The 9,525 female entrants was a new record.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won his fourth total, and third consecutive, Boston title, joining Clarence DeMar, Gerard Cote and Bill Rodgers as the only men to have won the race at least four times. In the women’s race, Dire Tune won by just two seconds over Alevtina Biktimirova.

Monday, April 20, 2009

For the second year in a row, it took a full 26.2 miles to determine the winner in the women’s race. Salina Kosgei of Kenya ran 2:32:16 and outkicked defending champion Dire Tune of Ethiopia to take the title by one second. In the men’s race, Deriba Merga of Ethiopia won Boston’s olive wreath for the first time. Americans Ryan Hall (2:09:40) and Kara Goucher (2:32:25) both led their respective fields at one point in the race, and both finished in third place. South African Ernst Van Dyk and Wakako Tsuchida of Japan continued their dominance in the men’s and women’s push rim wheelchair divisions. Van Dyk’s eighth Boston title tied him with Jean Driscoll for most all time Boston Marathon victories. The total of 10,934 female entrants and 9,298 female finishers were both Boston records.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot from Kenya set the men's course record by 82 seconds with a record time of 2:05:52. Teyba Erkesso of Ethiopia survived a late surge by Tatyana Pushkareva of Russia for a three second victory in the women’s race, finishing with a time of 2:26:11. In the men’s push rim wheelchair division, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won in 1:26:53 and became the most successful Boston Marathon competitor of all time. With his ninth title, he surpassed Jean Driscoll’s eight Boston victories. The race marked 25 years of partnership with the B.A.A. and principal sponsor John Hancock. The official charity program surpassed the $100 million mark since its inception in 1989, with $10.2 raised in 2010.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Geoffrey Mutai from Kenya set a new course record, as well as a new world’s best time of 2:03:02. The top four men all went under the old course record. Caroline Kilel of Kenya just outlasted Desiree Davila of the United States to win in 2:22:36. The push rim wheelchair division had an emotional element all its own, with both men’s and women’s victories going to Japan. This just after the earthquake that had struck that country. Masazumi Soejima finished ahead of Kurt Fearnley and Ernst Van Dyk in a winning time of 1:18:50. All three men were only separated by one second. In the women’s race, Wakako Tsuchida let from the start, and never looked back. Her finishing time of 1:34:06 set a new course record and a new world’s best. Once again records were set for female entrants (11,462) and finishers (10,074).

Monday, April 16, 2012

With weather conditions reaching almost 90 degrees along the course, once again runners from the African continent prevailed. Wesley Korir of Kenya stormed away in the final mile to win in 2:12:40, with countryman Levy Matebo second at 2:13:06. The women’s race came down to the final strides for the fifth consecutive race, with Kenya’s Sharon Cherop avenging her loss from 2011 and powering home to a 2:31:50 victory. Jemima Jelagat Sumgong was the runner-up in 2:31:52. In total, the last five years of the women’s open division has now be decided by a combined ten seconds. The heat did not affect everyone’s times, as Canada’s Joshua Cassidy pulled away early to win in 1:18:25; breaking Ernst Van Dyk’s course record by two seconds. Arizona’s Shirley Riley held off defending champion and course record holder Wakako Tsuchida to win in 1:37:36. Both the men’s and women’s open victory times were the fourth and seventh slowest in the past 35 years. Due to the warm weather forecast, anyone who decided to pick up their bib, but chose not to run the race, would be given automatic deferment to the 2013 Boston Marathon. After timing adjudication post-race, 2,160 runners became eligible for this offer. The 500,000th finisher in the 116-year history of the Boston Marathon crossed the finish line.

B.A.A. Moment 3

1966 - Bobbi Gibb

Although not an official entrant, Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Joining the starting field shortly after the gun had been fired, Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40 to place 126th overall. Gibb again claimed the “unofficial” title in 1967 and 1968.