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Boston Marathon History: 1971-1975

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The field dipped to 887 starters this year as the B.A.A. lowered the qualifying standard to 3 hours, 30 minutes. The race turned out to be one of the closest finishes ever as Colombian Alvaro Mejia and Pat McMahon, a Mass. resident and Ireland native, dueled almost the entire way before Mejia pulled away within 150 yards form the finish. Mejia was clocked in 2:18:45, just five seconds ahead of McMahon. The unofficial women entrants were again led by Sara Mae Berman who finished in 3:08:30.


The women received official recognition this year and New Yorker Nina Kuscsik became the first official women's winner at Boston with a 3:10:26 performance. On the men's side, Olavi Suomalainen, a 25-year-old student, became the first Finnish winner at Boston in 10 years. Suomalainen broke away from Colombia's Victor Mora near Boston College to finish first in 2:15:39. The qualifying standards began to take hold and became the mark toward which the marathon populace would aspire, leading to increased participation in the event.


Former Cornell University track standout Jon Anderson pulled away from defending champion Olavi Suomalainen near the 20-mile mark and won by more than a half-minute in 2:16:03. New Jersey's Tom Fleming closed fast over the final miles to grab the runner-up spot from Suomalainen. This was the first of Fleming's two second-place finishes at Boston. Jacqueline Hansen, of California, took the women's title in 3:05:59.


The presence of the collegiate speedboys in the marathon was felt at Boston. Ireland's Neil Cusack, a student at East Tennessee State University, ran away with a convincing 2:13:39 victory, the second fastest winning time to this point, while New Jersey's Tom Fleming was second again, 46 seconds back. Michiko "Miki" Gorman, 38, from Los Angeles, led the women's field with a record 2:47:11 performance, marking the first time a woman had run under the three-hour mark at Boston.


Boston's Bill Rodgers, "The People's Choice" and the runner most responsible for popularizing the marathon boom, stunned the largest field to date (2,041) with a course and American record of 2:09:55. What made Rodgers' record run even more impressive was that he stopped five times - four times for water and once to tie a shoe lace. West German Liane Winter established a world best performance for women, bettering Miki Gorman's course record in 2:42:24. The wheelchair division can trace its roots to this year, as Bob Hall successfully completed the course in 2:58:00. Race Director Will Cloney promised to sponsor this division in future years.

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B.A.A. Moment 4

1972 - Women Official Entrants in Marathon

Although Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1966, it was not until the 1972 Boston Marathon that women could become official entrants due to a change in AAU rules. Pictured (left to right) above are seven of the eight women who participanted in the first official women's field of the Boston Marathon - Nina Kusciak, Katherine Switzer, Elaine Pederson, Ginny Collins, Pat Barrett, Frances Morrison, Sara Mae Berman (not pictured - Valerie Rogosheske).