Week of April 17th – Boston Marathon Trivia/FactsApril 17, 2011
The event now attracts an average of about 20,000 registered participants each year, with 26,895 people entering in 2011. The all-time record for the world’s largest marathon ever run was the Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 with 38,708 entrants. This year is the 115th running of the Boston Marathon.
The first Boston Marathon was held on April 19, 1897. Other than the quadrennial Olympic Marathon, on which it was patterned, it’s the oldest continuously run marathon race in the world.
For most of its history, the Boston Marathon was a free event, and the only prize awarded for winning the race was a wreath woven from olive branches. However, corporate-sponsored cash prizes began to be awarded in the 1980s, when professional athletes began to refuse to run the race without cash awards. The first cash prize for winning the marathon was awarded in 1986.
In terms of media coverage, the Boston Marathon is the second biggest single-day sporting event in the U.S., just behind the Super Bowl. 500,000 spectators are expected to line the course this year.
The youngest runner to win Boston was Tim Ford, who was only 18 when he won the race in 1906. His margin of victory over second-place finisher Dave Kneeland was only 6 seconds, the closest finish until 1982, when Alberto Salazar beat Dick Beardsley by only 2 seconds.
Johnny Kelley’s remarkable marathon career spanned eight decades. Beginning in 1928 and ending in 1992, he started Boston 61 times, failing to finish on only three of those occasions. He won Boston twice, took second seven times and finished in the top-10 18 times. Six of those top-10 finishes came after the age of 40, one after 50.
In 2009, the top three elite women finishers were separated only by nine hundredths of a second.
The nickname “Heartbreak Hill” originated with an event in the 1936 race. On this stretch, defending champion John A. Kelley caught race leader Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, giving Brown a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed. His competitive drive apparently stoked by this gesture, Tarzan Brown rallied, pulled away from Kelley, and went on to win—in the words of Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason, “breaking Kelley’s heart.
When Kathrine Switzer showed up to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, she wasn’t there to make a political statement about a woman’s right to compete in a men-only event. She was a 20- year-old Syracuse University junior who wanted to prove to herself and her coach she was capable of running 26.2 miles. Switzer never told Boston Athletic Association officials she was a woman, but the race application didn’t ask. In those days, the BAA assumed everyone entering its grueling event was a man. About three miles into the race, the press truck caught up to Switzer, who was running with her coach and her burly boyfriend, Tom Miller. When the photographers noticed a woman in the race with an official number, the cameras started to click. And something clicked inside a BAA official, Jock Semple, who jumped off the truck and ran at Switzer in an attempt to tear off her number. Dazed and frightened she would be pulled off the course at any moment, Switzer managed to finish between four and five hours. No one was quite sure of her time. She wore no watch and by the time she finished, all the officials had left. Ironically, Bobbie Gibb, a woman who ran the race without an official number, finished about an hour ahead of her. But it was Switzer who had made headlines the next day with dramatic photos of her encounter with Semple. In 1972, The BAA and Semple, allowed women to officially enter the race. From 1970 to 1976, Switzer competed at Boston six times, finishing second in ’75.
During his 1975 victory, Bill Rodgers stopped five times: four times for water and once to tie a shoelace at the base of Heartbreak Hill. Told his time was 2:09:55, Boston Billy remarked, “I can’t run that fast!”
Joan Benoit Samuelson often runs marathons with a cap as protection against the sun. The practice began inadvertently. She had the lead at Boston in 1979 when a spectator ran out of the crowd and offered her a Boston Red Sox cap. Taking it, she popped it on her head with the bill backwards and crossed the finish line thus adorned.
Alberto Salazar, who took few fluids during his 1982 duel with Dick Beardsley on a warm day, collapsed after winning. Medical technicians pumped 6 liters of fluid intravenously into his body within 30 minutes so he could meet the press.
The marathon was first plagued by a cheater in 1909, but the most visible and infamous impostor was Rosie Ruiz. In 1980, Ruiz appeared out of nowhere at the 25-mile mark to steal the victory from Jacqueline Gareau. After reviewing all information for 10 days, B.A.A. officials finally disqualified Ruiz and gave Gareau the laurel wreath she deserved.
This author ran the Boston Marathon 4 times. Hopefully I will get another under my belt!← Week of April 10 -Odds and Ends Week of April 24 – Easter facts →