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Boston Marathon History: 1951-1955


55th Boston Marathon - Thursday, April 19, 1951

Japan’s 19-year-old Shigeki Tanaka upset his favored countrymen and Greek national champion Athanasios Ragazos to win. One of the race’s youngest winners, Tanaka - a Hiroshima native - provided an exciting and swift run over the Newton hills to finish three minutes, 30 seconds ahead of American John Lafferty (2:31:15).

1. Shigeki Tanaka (JPN) 2:27:45
2. John Lafferty (MA) 2:31:15
3. Athanasios Ragazos (GRE) 2:35:27
4. Louis White (NY) 2:35:53
5. Shunji Koyanagi (JPN) 2:38:36
6. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:39:09
7. Gerard A. Cote (CAN) 2:41:15
8. Yoshitaka Uchikawa (JPN) 2:41:31
9. Hiromi Haigo (JPN) 2:42:23
10. Jesse H. Van Zant (MA) 2:43:35


56th Boston Marathon - Saturday, April 19, 1952

On a scorching, 88-degree day, Indian runner Doroteo Flores of Guatemala survived the wretched conditions to win by almost five minutes in 2:31:53. Flores, a laborer in a Guatemala mill, took the lead from countryman Luis Velasquez near the 10-mile mark in Natick. Appearing undaunted by the oppressive heat and humidity, Flores breezed through the remainder of the route to finish ahead of American Victor Dyrgall.

1. Doroteo Flores (GUA) 2:31:53
2. Victor Dyrgall (NY) 2:36:40
3. Luis Velasquez (GUA) 2:40:08
4. Thomas Jones (PA) 2:43:29
5. Norman Tamamaha (HI) 2:51:55
6. Theodore Corbitt (NY) 2:53:31
7. Sevki Koru (TUR) 2:54:15
8. Edo Romognoli (NY) 2:57:28
9. Louis White (NY) 2:58:24
10. Arnold Briggs (NY) 2:58:46


57th Boston Marathon - Monday, April 20, 1953

Once again, the course record fell - this time to the lightest champion in race history. Japan’s Keizo Yamada, who weighed just 108 pounds and stood only five feet, two inches, shed the leaders on Heartbreak Hill and finished 28 seconds ahead of Finland’s Veikko Karvonen. Sweden’s Karl Gosta Leandersson, the 1949 winner, provided a record-setting pace for the first 19 miles with Karvonen and Yamada giving chase. The race marked the emergence of John J. Kelley, a Boston University trackster, who secretly wore the B.A.A. unicorn and colors. The “Younger” Kelley (no relation to John A. “The Elder” Kelley) finished fifth in 2:28:19.

1. Keizo Yamada (JPN) 2:18:51*
2. Veikko Karvonen (FIN) 2:19:19
3. Karl Gosta Leandersson (SWE) 2:19:36
4. Katsua Nishida (JPN) 2:21:35
5. John J. Kelley (CT) 2:28:19
6. Hideo Hamamura (JPN) 2:32:30
7. John A. Kelley (MA) 2:32:46
8. Kurau Hiroshima (JPN) 2:33:33
9. John Lafferty (MA) 2:38:04
10. Norman Tamamaha (HI) 2:38:38


58th Boston Marathon - Monday, April 19, 1954

Runner-up the previous year, Finland’s Veikko Karvonen upset a stellar field that included world record-holder James H. Peters of England, Japanese champion Kurau Hiroshima, Finnish champion Erkki Puolakka, and American AAU champion John J. Kelley. Peters forged a strong pace during the middle third of the race with Karvonen closely following. As Peters’s effort was hampered by severe leg cramps in West Newton, Karvonen carried the lead over the final miles to win by just over two minutes in 2:20:39. Olympic champion Delfo Cabreara-Gomez of Argentina finished sixth.

1. Veikko Karvonen (FIN) 2:20:39
2. James H. Peters (GBR) 2:22:40
3. Erkki Puolakka (FIN) 2:24:25
4. Kurau Hiroshima (JPN) 2:25:30
5. Katsua Nishida (JPN) 2:27:35
6. Delfo Cabreara-Gomez (ARG) 2:27:50
7. John J. Kelley (CT) 2:28:51
8. Ezequiel Busamante (ARG) 2:33:40
9. Nicholas Costes (MA) 2:35:17
10. Nobuyoshi Sadanaga (JPN) 2:37:19


59th Boston Marathon - Tuesday, April 19, 1955

Hideo Hamamura, a Japanese speedster, staged a great run over the second half of the course to lower the course record once again. Hamamura came from 10th position to take the lead from American Nick Costes just over three miles from the finish. Hamamura finished in 2:18:22 - 29 seconds better than the old record set by countryman Keizo Yamada in 1953.

1. Hideo Hamamura (JPN) 2:18:22*
2. Eino Pulkkinen (FIN) 2:19:23
3. Nicholas Costes (MA) 2:19:57
4. Paavo E. Kotila (FIN) 2:20:16
5. Reinaldo Berto Gorno (ARG) 2:20:28
6. Gustaf Jansson (SWE) 2:21:40
7. Yoshitaka Uchikawa (JPN) 2:22:40
8. Tadaaki Tanabe (JPN) 2:26:08
9. Ezequiel Busamante (ARG) 2:27:51
10. Rodolfo Mendez, Jr. (NY) 2:28:30


*Course Record


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.