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Boston Marathon History: 1936-1940

40th Boston Marathon - Monday, April 20, 1936

So fast was the early pace set by Ellison M. “Tarzan” Brown, that he beat the press vehicles and writers to the first checkpoint in Framingham. Brown, a Narragansett Native American from Alton, Rhode Island, held the lead through the Newton hills where he was caught by a charging Johnny Kelley, who put on a swift rush over the hills. As Kelley prepared to pass Brown, he patted him on the backside. The gesture seemed to inspire Brown, who surged to victory in 2:33:40, while 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.

1. Ellison M. Brown (RI) 2:33:40
2. William F. McMahon (MA) 2:35:27
3. Mel Porter (NY) 2:36:48
4. Leo Giard (MA) 2:37:16
5. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:38:49
6. Alex Burnside (CAN) 2:39:05
7. Earle L. Collins (MA) 2:39:49
8. Anthony J. Paskell (MA) 2:40:07
9. Vic Callard (CAN) 2:40:25
10. James M. Shaw (CAN) 2:42:38


41st Boston Marathon - Monday, April 19, 1937

An unemployed snowshoe racer from Quebec, Walter Young, battled Johnny 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.

1. Walter Young (CAN) 2:33:20
2. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:39:02
3. Leslie S. Pawson (RI) 2:41:46
4. Fred Ward, Jr. (NY) 2:42:59
5. Duncan McCallum (CAN) 2:43:16
6. Hugo Kauppinen (NY) 2:46:06
7. Gerard A. Cote (CAN) 2:46:46
8. Joseph W. Plouffe (MA) 2:46:53
9. John D. (Jock) Semple (MA) 2:48:13
10. Leo Giard (MA) 2:48:13


42nd Boston Marathon - Tuesday, April 19, 1938

Leslie S. 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 Johnny 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.

1. Leslie S. Pawson (RI) 2:35:34
2. Pat Dengis (NY) 2:36:40
3. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:37:34
4. Mel Porter (NY) 2:39:55
5. Paul Donato (MA) 2:42:05
6. Mike Mansulla (MA) 2:42:30
7. Clarence H. DeMar (NH) 2:43:30
8. Gerard A. Cote (CAN) 2:44:01
9. Walter Hornby (CAN) 2:44:39
10. Fred Ward, Jr. (NY) 2:47:14


43rd Boston Marathon - Wednesday, April 19, 1939

Ellison M. Brown, the 1936 winner, registered his second win in a course-best 2:28:51. Brown shattered Leslie S. Pawson’s former mark of 2:31:01 and became the first American marathoner to run in under two hours, 30 minutes. Brown allowed Pawson and 1937 winner Walter Young to force the early pace, before commandeering the race at the 17-mile mark, and breaking every existing checkpoint record.

1. Ellison M. Brown (RI) 2:28:51*
2. Don Heinicke (MD) 2:31:24
3. Walter Young (CAN) 2:32:41
4. Pat Dengis (NY) 2:33:22
5. Leslie S. Pawson (RI) 2:33:57
6. Paul Donato (MA) 2:34:25
7. Walter Hornby (CAN) 2:37:11
8. Gerard A. Cote (CAN) 2:37:43
9. Frederick Bristow (CAN) 2:38:44
10. Andre J. Brunelle (MA) 2:39:09


44th Boston Marathon - Friday, April 19, 1940

This was the first of Gerard A. Cote’s four Boston wins in the 1940s. 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, Johnny Kelley. Cote outran Kelley to the finish in 2:28:28, breaking Ellison M. Brown’s year-old record by 23 seconds.

1. Gerard A. Cote (CAN) 2:28:28*
2. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:32:03
3. Don Heinicke (MD) 2:32:21
4. Leslie S. Pawson (RI) 2:33:09
5. Paul Donato (MA) 2:34:54
6. Andre J. Brunelle (MA) 2:35:20
7. Robert S. Rankine (CAN) 2:37:44
8. Fred A. McGlone (MA) 2:37:49
9. George L. Durgin (MA) 2:38:21
10. Frank M. Darrah (MA) 2:43:38


*Course Record


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.