John J. McDermott, winner of the first Boston Marathon
First Boston Marathon
The first Boston Marathon took place on this day in 1897, making it the world's oldest annual marathon.
It was inspired by the then recently-revived 1896 Athens Summer Olympics (see 2017-04-06 post). The inaugural run featured fifteen participants running a distance of 24.5 miles / 39.4 km - a bit shorter than the standard distance, which was lengthened in 1924.
The event has traditionally been held on Patriots' Day, regardless of what day of the week it fell on. In 1969, it was decided the holiday (and therefore, the race) would fall on the third Monday of April.
Women were officially allowed to enter starting in 1972, though they'd surreptitiously started running years earlier. Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run and finish the run with a race number in 1967, though she was also famously chased by a marathon official who tried to rip off her bib. She ran again, fifty years later, in Monday's marathon!
In 1975, the Boston Marathon became the first major marathon to include a wheelchair division competition.
Photo of 1897 Boston Marathon winner John J. McDermott of New York.