The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual city marathon in the world, run for the first time in 1897. It was inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The first Boston Marathon had only 18 runners, but the number of participants has increased steadily since then. The largest field of runners so far was in 1996, when over 35,000 people finished the 100th Boston Marathon. Also, women were not allowed to enter the Boston Marathon officially until 1972.
The Boston Marathon ranks as one of the most prestigious running events in the world, one of the five members of World Marathon Majors. This honorable position is attained thanks to the long history of the race, the challenging course and the fact that you have to qualify to register as an official participant. To qualify, a runner must first complete a standard marathon course certified by a national governing body affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon. Other than the Olympic trials and the Olympic marathons, Boston is the only major American marathon that requires a qualifying time. The qualifying standard is high enough to make qualifying for Boston – also known as ‘to BQ’ – quite an achievement in itself.
The legendary course of the Boston Marathon has been the same throughout most of the history of the race. The route follows 26.2 miles of winding roads from rural Hopkinton to urban Boston, and it is renowned for its level of difficulty. Shortly after the 16 mile mark, the road starts going up a series of hills, named the Newton Hills.
The last of the four hills is known as Heartbreak Hill. This hill does not, as one may think, get its name from the many runners being heartbroken from the fact that they have to conquer yet another ascent, but the name does originate in the Boston Marathon. In the 1936 race defending champion, John A. Kelley, caught up with race leader, Ellison ‘Tarzan’ Brown, giving him a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed him. This overbearing gesture apparently gave Tarzan supernatural strength, and he went on to win the race in front of Kelley. In the words of a local journalist, the outcome of this act of nemesis ‘broke Kelley’s heart’.
The Boston Marathon, which will be held on March 19th, 2010, offers more than just men’s and women’s running divisions. In 1975, a tradition of offering racing opportunities to those with disabilities and impairments began when one wheelchair racer decided to take the challenge and complete the entire distance of the marathon. Since then, three new divisions have emerged, including a push rim wheelchair division, a visually impaired/blind division, and a mobility impaired division. For more information, please visit the Boston Marathon website.
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