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Boston Marathon History: 1976-1980

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The race was almost over before it began. America's Bicentennial year provided the hottest race conditions ever at Boston. The "run for the hoses"- as the race became known - was held in 100-plus-degree temperatures and forced more than 40 percent of the 1,898 starters to exit prematurely. Jack Fultz, a 27-year-old undergraduate at Georgetown University, survived the oppressive conditions to finish first in 2:20:19. Kim Merritt from Racine, Wisconsin, led the women in 2:47:10.


Canadian Jerome Drayton, third in the 1974 race, hooked up early in a duel with 1975 champion Bill Rodgers. However, as the 77-degree heat began to take its toll on Rodgers, Drayton pulled away past Wellesley Hills and went on to defeat a record field of 2,810 in 2:14:46. This was Drayton's fifth Boston attempt as he became the first Canadian to win Boston since the 1948 triumph of Cote. Miki Gorman led the women once again as she finished ahead of the largest women's field in 2:48:44. The wheelchair division was established on a permanent basis, and Bob Hall established a world best 2:40:10, while Sharon Rahn became the first women's wheelchair division champion in 3:48:51.


Bill Rodgers was back in fine form, but he had to hold off a fast-closing Jeff Wells to win by two seconds. Rodgers finished in 2:10:13, with Wells at 2:10:15, in the race's closest finish to date. Television sportscaster Gayle Barron led the women's field in 2:44:52. The race was the fastest mass finish at Boston (and perhaps anywhere) as 2,076 runners broke the three-hour barrier: a mark that would be shattered the following year.


Win No. 3 for Bill Rodgers came amongst a record field of 7,897, and resulted in a course and American record of 2:09:27, which also stood as the fourth fastest marathon ever run. Rodgers ran away from Japan's Toshihiko Seko on Heartbreak Hill. Bob Hodge, a Greater Boston Track Club teammate of Rodgers, finished third in 2:12:30 as the GBTC placed four runners in the top 10. Bowdoin College student Joan Benoit (Samuelson) led the women's field with a surprising American women's record performance of 2:35:15. A record 3,031 runners broke 3:00:00; 282 broke 2:30:00; and 51 broke 2:20:00. Sheryl Bair posted a world best 3:27:56 to take the women's wheelchair division title.


Bill Rodgers made it three straight, but he had to contend with an arch-nemesis - soaring temperatures that reached into the high 70's. Rodgers' time of 2:12:11 was over a minute ahead of Italy's Marco Marchei (2:13:20), while American Ron Tabb (2:14:48) was third. Apparent women's winner Canadian Jacqueline Gareau crossed the line in 2:34:28 only to find another women on the victory podium. It was later revealed that Rosie Ruiz had entered the race just after Kenmore Square, and Gareau was rightfully awarded the title seven days later. Curt Brinkman, who became the first wheelchair racer to complete the Boston course in under two hours, posted a world best 1:55:00.

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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.