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Boston Marathon History: 1897-1900

First Boston Marathon - Monday, April 19, 1897

John J. McDermott, representing the Pastime Athletic Club from New York City, captured the victory in the first running of the Boston Marathon, then known as the American Marathon. Fifteen runners started the first race with 10 finishing the 24.5-mile trek from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts, to the finish line at the Oval on Irvington Street in downtown Boston. McDermott, who had won the only other marathon on U.S. soil the previous October in New York, took the lead from Harvard athlete Richard Grant over the hills in Newton. Although McDermott walked several times during the final miles, he still won by a comfortable six-minute, 52-second margin in 2:55:10.

1. John J. McDermott (NY) 2:55:10
2. James J. Kiernan (NY) 3:02:02
3. Edward P. Rhell (MA) 3:06:02
4. Hamilton Gray (NY) 3:11:37
5. H. D. Eggleston (NY) 3:17:50
6. John Mason (NY) 3:31:00
7. W. Ryan (MA) 3:41:25
8. Lawrence Brignolia (MA) 4:06:12
9. Harry Franklin (MA) 4:08:00
10. A. T. Howe (MA) 4:10:00


Second Boston Marathon - Tuesday, April 19, 1898

The second running of the American Marathon attracted 21 starters and witnessed 15 runners successfully completing the distance. Canadian Ronald J. MacDonald, a 22-year-old Boston College student, who donned bicycle shoes for his first marathon attempt, overtook New York cross-country champion Hamilton Gray with just over two miles remaining, before crossing the line in a triumphant 2:42:00. His time was considered a world-best performance for the marathon at the time. Defending champion John J. McDermott was fourth (2:54:17), while pre-race favorite Louis Liebgold of Gotham, New Jersey, wearing bib No. 1, dropped out of the race.

1. Ronald J. MacDonald (CAN) 2:42:00
2. Hamilton Gray (NY) 2:45:00
3. Robert A. McLennon (MA) 2:48:02
4. John J. McDermott (NY) 2:54:17
5. Lawrence Brignolia (MA) 2:55:49
6. Eugene Estoppey, Jr. (NY) 2:58:49
7. D. J. Grant (NY) 3:08:55
8. John Mason (NY) 3:09:30
9. D. Harrigan (MA) 3:09:30
10. J. E. Enwright (NY) 3:16:20


Third Boston Marathon - Wednesday, April 19, 1899

At 173 pounds, Cambridge blacksmith Lawrence Brignolia was the heaviest runner ever to win the Boston Marathon. Brignolia, who seemed suited to tackle the strong, gale-like winds that hampered runners the entire way, caught Harvard alumnus Richard Grant on the Newton hills, and finished in 2:54:38. The strength of the winds reportedly caused Brignolia to step on a loose stone and fall during his approach to Kenmore Square. Stopping to regain his footing, Brignolia walked and ran the remaining distance to the new finish line on Exeter Street, in front of the B.A.A. clubhouse.

1. Lawrence Brignolia (MA) 2:54:38
2. Richard Grant (MA) 2:57:46
3. B. F. Sullivan (MA) 3:02:01
4. John B. Maguire (MA) 3:02:29
5. R. F. Hallen (NY) 3:04:59
6. Eugene Estoppey, Jr. (NY) 3:18:34
 7. D. J. Sullivan (MA) 3:21:30
8. J. O. Lynch (NY) 3:23:55
9. J. H. Kelly (NY) 3:30:12
10. J. E. Enwright (NY) 3:39:15


Fourth Boston Marathon - Thursday, April 19, 1900

Following the success of Ronald J. MacDonald in 1898, Canadian runners began to establish themselves in the marathon. Led by John P. Caffery of Hamilton, Ontario, the Canadian runners finished 1-2-3 as countrymen Bill Sheering and Fred Hughson followed Caffery across the finish line. Caffery finished in 2:39:44 after overtaking Sheering in Auburndale, 16 miles into the race. The race was marked by the only false start in event history, as Canadian John Barnard “jumped the gun” and the runners had to be reassembled at the start.

1. John P. Caffery (CAN) 2:39:44
2. William Sheering (CAN) 2:41:31
3. Fred Hughson (CAN) 2:49:08
4. John B. Maguire (MA) 2:51:36
5. James Fay (MA) 2:55:07
6. Thomas J. Hicks (MA). 3:07:19
7. B. F. Sullivan (MA) 3:13:20
8. Richard Grant (MA) 3:13:57
9. E. G. Russell, Jr. (NY) Unknown
10. Chester Torrance (NY). Unknown


B.A.A. Moment 2

1935 John A. Kelley

Born in West Medford, Massachusetts as one of ten children, Kelley ran track and cross-country at Arlington High School in Massachusetts. He did not finish his first Boston Marathon in 1928, but eventually competed in a record 61 Boston Marathons. A legend of the marathon, Kelley won the 1935 and 1945 runnings of the Boston Marathon. He finished in second place at Boston a record seven times. Between 1934 to 1950, he finished in the top five 15 times at Boston, consistently running in the 2:30s. He ran his last full marathon at Boston in 1992 at the age of 84, his 61st start and 58th finish there.