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Boston Marathon History: 1936-1940

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So fast was the early pace set by Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, that he beat the press vehicles and writers to the first checkpoint in Framingham. Brown, a Narragansett Indian from Alton, R.I., held the lead throughout the Newton hills until he was caught by John A. Kelley, who put on a swift rush over the hills. As Kelley caught Brown, he patted him on the backside, which prompted a suddenly-inspired Brown to surge back into the lead. Brown won in 2:33:40 as Kelley faded to fifth. Noting the incident, Boston Globe Sports Editor Jerry Nason coined the term "Heartbreak Hill" as the site of Kelley's misery.


An unemployed snowshoe racer from Quebec, Walter Young, battled John A. Kelley for 23 miles on an unseasonably warm day. The lead changed hands 16 times, before Young pulled away to post the victory in 2:33:20. Kelley fell off the pace and finished second, nearly six minutes behind.


Leslie Pawson notched his second Boston win five years after setting the record in the 1933 race. The 75-degree temperature made this a race of attrition. A patient Pawson let Canada's Duncan McCallum force the early pace, and later yielded to John A. Kelley from miles eight through 15. Pawson took the lead for good through Newton Lower Falls and finished first in 2:35:34, a comfortable 66 seconds ahead of the fast-closing Pat Dengis.


Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, the 1936 winner, raced home for his second win in a record-setting 2:28:51 performance. Brown shattered Pawson's 1933 mark of 2:31:01 and became the first American marathoner to run under 2 hours, 30 minutes. Content to run behind the early pace-setting efforts of Pawson and 1937 winner Walter Young. Brown took off at the 17-mile mark and proceeded to break every checkpoint record along the way.


This was the first of Gerard Cote's four Boston wins in the 1940's. The French-Canadian ran through the halfway juncture in Wellesley tucked in 15th place. It wasn't until mile 22 on Beacon Street that he caught the leader, John A. Kelley. Cote outran Kelley to the finish in 2:28:28, breaking Tarzan Brown's one year-old record by 23 seconds.

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B.A.A. Moment 1

1920 - Ashland Start

The Boston Marathon began in Ashland, Massachusetts from 1897 through 1923 then moved to Hopkinton for the 1924 race. 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. Since then, the race has started in Hopkinton every year.