Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Countdown to Boston: 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marthon: Part 1

For those of you who are counting, it's 5 days until the 119th Boston Marathon. My brain is currently all over the place as I try to wrap it around the fact that in roughly 120 hours, I will be toeing the line in Hopkinton. Since I'm a little scatterbrained right now, rather than providing you with a perfectly coherent post--though let's be honest, I almost never do that--I thought I would just share some random trivia about the oldest marathon in the U.S.

Today, I present the first half of 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marathon. Check back tomorrow for the second half.

1. Up until the 1960s, all runners wishing to run the Boston Marathon were required to undergo a physical by a B.A.A. physician.

2. Like the Boston Marathon, the Charles River also starts in Hopkinton and ends in Boston. The major difference? The winding Charles takes 80 miles to make the same journey that takes runners only 26.2 miles to complete.

Photo credit: Claudette Millette
4. For the first 27 years, the distance of the Boston marathon fluctuated between 24 and 25 miles, usually somewhere around 24.5.

5. The Boston Marathon start line was in Ashland until 1924, when the course was lengthened to the 26 mile, 385 yard distance first used in the 1908 Olympics and later adopted by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1921. 

6. There were three different starting lines in Ashland--Metcalf's Mill from 1897 to 1899, the middle of a railroad bridge from 1900 to 1906, and Steven's Corner from 1907 to 1923.

7. The start line moved to its current spot in Hopkinton only in 1986, eighty-nine years after the first running of the race.

8. The race has had numerous names over the years. Initially called the American Marathon, it has also variously been referred to as the B.A.A. Marathon Race, the B.A.A. Marathon, and the B.A.A. Boston Marathon.

8. In 1907 a freight train in Framingham cut off Bob Fowler from the lead pack, forcing him to stop for 1 minute, 38 seconds. He went on to finish second in that year's race

9. For most of its first century, the Boston Marathon had a series of bizarre checkpoints, such as the 6.5 mile mark. These checkpoints were chosen because they were close to railroad stations making it easy for race officials to travel from one checkpoint to the next. In 1983 the checkpoints were finally moved to coincide with each mile mark. 

10. Until 1969 Patriots' Day was always celebrated on April 19th, which meant the Boston Marathon could be run any day of the week (unless the holiday fell on a Sunday). In 1969, Massachusetts changed it so that the holiday always falls on the third Monday in April, thus the Boston Marathon has been run on a Monday ever since.

11. The B.A.A. instituted qualifying times in 1970, requiring an applicant to provide evidence that he had trained to run the race in under four hours. The times were tightened multiple times over the following decade and by 1980, men under 40 needed to run a 2:50 or better to qualify.

12. The B.A.A. has eased qualifying times in the past. In 1987 runners gained an extra 10 minutes as they did again in 1990. By that point, men under 35 needed a 3:10 to qualify and women under 35 needed a 3:30. At some point a 59 second grace period was added, though it disappeared when the B.A.A. phased in the current standards in 2013.

13. The term "Heartbreak Hill" was coined by Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason in 1936. In the Newton Hills defending champion John A. Kelley caught race leader Ellison “Tarzan” Brown and gave him a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed. Brown's competitive drive seemed return as he rallied and pulled away from Kelley, going on to win the race and "breaking Kelley's heart" in the process.

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