HOPKINTON, MA - APRIL 21: Dick Hoyt pushes Rick Hoyt as they compete in the 2008 Boston Marathon on April 21,2008 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Nearly 25,000 people participated in the race. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

13 of the Greatest Moments in Boston Marathon History

We all know that the Boston Marathon is steeped in tradition, history, and community spirit.  Which is why the Boston Marathon is the best sporting event in the world. Here’s the proof: 13 of the Greatest Moments in Boston Marathon History.

So, what is it about the Boston Marathon? Why does it captivate the world every April?

(By the way, the Boston Marathon is April 17 this year.)

The History:

The Boston Marathon is one of the oldest – the first one was in 1897 – and most prestigious marathons in the world.

The Course:

The course is one of the most challenging.  We’ve got famous hills, like Heartbreak Hill. And there’s nothing like seeing the runners fly past the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. And the people who come out and cheer the runners on? The best.

The Community Spirit:

Here’s the thing.  It’s a community event that brings people from all walks of life together. The marathon is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

The Resilience:

Yes, the Boston Marathon has faced its fair share of challenges over the years, from adverse weather conditions to the tragic bombing in 2013.

Meanwhile, the city has shown sheer determination. We come back stronger every year.

The Inspiration:

Come on. You’d have to be pulseless to not LOVE the stories behind the runners.

The marathon is an inspiration everyone. Even a couch potato. It shows what can be accomplished with hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

Patriot’s Day in Boston embodies the best of humanity: history, community, resilience, and inspiration.

The marathon continues to inspire and challenge runners from all over the world, and its history is a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and human spirit.

Here are 13 of the Greatest Moments in Boston Marathon History

  • 1. The First Marathon April 19, 1897

    Inspired by the marathon at the first modern Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Greece, the Boston Athletic Association held the first Boston Marathon. 15 runners ran, 10 finished and New Yorker John McDermott won with with a time of 2:55:10.

    Fun fact: the course was then 24.5 miles. They changed it in 1908 to 26 miles, 385 yards to keep up with Olympic standards.

     

  • 2. The Naming of Heartbreak Hill, April 20, 1936

    The fourth and final Newton hill, between miles 20 and 21, became  “Heartbreak Hill” in 1936.

    How?

    “Ellison “Tarzan” Brown had taken a big lead before Johnny Kelley caught up to him on that hill, famously patting Brown on the back before he took the lead” according to the Boston Herald.

    But Brown ended up winning the race. Kelley came fifth.  Boston Globe sports editor Jerry Nason coined the hill “Heartbreak Hill” because Brown had broken Kelley’s heart.

  • 3. Bobby Gibb's Run, April 19, 1966.

    Women weren’t allowed to run the Boston Marathon until 1972. But in 1966, Bobby Gibb hid in the bushes near the start line before the race began, and after the first wave of runners passed her, she jumped in.  She didn’t have an official bib or number, but she became the first female to finish the race. 

  • 4. Kathrine Swizter's Run, April 19, 1967

    Kathrine Switzer didn’t hide in the bushes, but she did sign her entry form “K.V. Switzer” to avoid being noticed as a woman.

     

    Though Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to officially register.

    Race official Jock Semple to remove her from the road, He was knocked to the side by Switzer’s boyfriend.

  • The First Participant Using a Wheelchair, April 21, 1975:

    Bob Hall became the first participant in a wheelchair to race. He was granted permission on the condition that he finish in less than three hours, and he crossed the line in a time of 2:58:00.

    That signaled the start of the wheelchair division, which is held every year before the foot race.

     

  • 6. Rosie Ruiz, April 21, 1980

    This one is amazing because it’s SO scandalous.

    Rosie Ruiz crossed the finish line with an outstanding time of 2:31:56, it was initially seen as not merely a Boston Marathon female record, but the third fastest marathon time by any woman on any course. Well, Ruiz had jumped onto the course in the area of Kenmore and Mass Ave. In reality, she had only run about a mile. To this day, Ruiz maintains that she ran the entire 26.2.

  • 7. Johnny Kelley's Final Race, April 20, 1992

    April 20, 1992 marked the end of an era as an 84-year-old Johnny “The Elder” Kelley who ran his 61st Marathon. Kelley won the race in 1935 and 1945 and finishing second seven times.

     

    There’s a statue of Kelley in Newton, which stands at around mile 19 on the marathon course.

    13 Great Moments in Marathon History

     

  • 8. Rain, Rain, Go Away April 16, 2018

    April 16, 2018: One of the worst weather days in Marathon history made for one of the race’s more memorable days. BUT! Des Linden finished in 2:39:54, becoming the first American woman in 33 years to win the race.

     

  • Team Hoyt, 1977

    Team Hoyt began in 1977 when Rick asked his father Dick if they could run in a race together to benefit a lacrosse player at his school who had become paralyzed.

    Team Hoyt began in 1977

    Through March 2016, the Hoyts competed in 1,130 endurance events, including 72 marathons and six Ironman Triathlons. They had run the Boston Marathon 32 times. Dick Hoyt died in 2021.

     

  • 10. Show Me the Money!

    1986: Prize money was doled out for the first time. Australia’s Rob de Castella broke the course record (2:07:51), and took home the $60,000 prize that also included a Mercedes-Benz. 

    According to the BAA, top finishers have received more than $20 million in prize money and course-record bonuses over the past 35 years.

    This year’s top prize is $150,000.

  • 11. One Second to Spare, 1988

    1988: Kenyan runner Ibrahim Hussein beat Juma Ikangaa of Tanzania by only a single second, becoming the first African to win the marathon.

  • 12. Henry Richard's Finish in Honor of His Brother, Martin, April 19, 2022

    Henry Richard, older brother of marathon bombing victim Martin Richard crossed the finish line as part of Team MR8.

    This was Henry’s first running of the Boston Marathon. He was 10 years old when his brother, age 8, was killed in the bombing.  Their younger sister, Jane, lost her left leg in the attack.

     

  • 13. Mary Shertenlieb Finishes the Race, 2018

    Mary Shertenlieb, the wife of Rich from the Toucher & Rich Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, wouldn’t give up.

    Shertenlieb was diagnosed with leukemia. She beat it, even after two relapses and a stem cell transplant. She decided to run the 2018 Boston Marathon to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

    The day of the marathon was windy, rainy and cold. But she ran the first 15.5 miles.

    “At that point, her body began to shiver uncontrollably, her lips turned purple, and because of her compromised immune system, her doctors instructed her to stop running in the rain should this happen,” her husband Rich wrote on Twitter.

    So Mary stopped at 4 p.m. in Wellesley. But she wasn’t done.

    When the rain ended, she switched to some dry clothes and finished the race with Rich.

    At 12:18 a.m. on Tuesday.

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