For The Love of Running: The Boston Marathon
The 26.2 mile 119th Boston Marathon is fast approaching and the excitement is starting to build up. The 2 winners in the male and female main event each get $150,000 in cash prizes plus other prizes. The 2016 Boston Marathon for April has been scheduled April 20, Monday. It is a major marathon event and one of the world’s most popular marathon events with 30,000 participants and thousands of spectators. It is open to anyone who qualify under simple criteria, namely,
- The runner must be at least 18 years old
- The runner must have completed a certified standard marathon affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federation 18 months before the Boston Marathon
- Runners must have finished with a time of 3:35 or faster in the previous marathon
- Women up to 34 years old only can run for this 2016 event
The only exception to the rules on time and last event participated in is if the runner is affiliated with a charity group.
Boston Marathon Organisation
In charge of the Boston Marathon is the nonprofit Boston Athletic Association (BAA) which maintains a running club and hosts other marathons like the Mayor’s Cup and the BAA Half Marathon held every October. Helping BAA is long time supporter, John Hancock Financial Services who is the major sponsor for the event.
A Quick Historical Overview of the Boston Marathon
New England’s most famous sporting event is the Boston Marathon. This annual marathon has a long history having begun way back in 1897 or over 118 years ago. It was inspired by the 1896 Summer Olympics when the first men’s marathon was introduced as part of the Athletics program as a special event. The first Boston Marathon was an all men’s event with a distance of 25 miles. It attracted only 18 entries. It was launched only 5 months after the first foot race in American history, the Buffalo Turkey Trot. The Boston Marathon is now the oldest active annual marathon event in the world.
The Boston Marathon used to be on Patriot’s Day but this was changed in 1969 to the third Monday of April, thus earning the moniker, “Marathon Monday.”
Prior to 1980, the winners received just the olive wreaths as prizes. The olive wreaths given to the winners come from Greece. Gilded wreaths were given out in 2010 as part of the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon and BAA brought them back for the 2014 and 2015 races.
After 1980, the marathon began to get cash prize sponsors as the organizers wanted to attract professional runners. The first year that cash prizes were given out was in 1986.
The Boston Marathon is not without its share of controversies. A few of these include:
- In 1951, no Koreans were allowed to join the marathon out of respect for the American soldiers fighting in the Korean War.
- In 1972, the first woman to be officially allowed to join and run the entire course was Bobbi Gibb. Before her official entry, she was a bandit runner like all other women who were allowed to run unofficially for part of the course. Last year, 46% of the marathon’s participants were women.
- In 1975, a wheelchair category was added. Also added were categories for the visually impaired and the mobility impaired.
- In 1980 a woman, Rosie Ruiz finished first in the women’s category but was disqualified after officials confirmed that she only joined the race a mile before the finish line.
- In 2011, a Kenyan, Geoffrey Mutai finished with the fastest time ever for this marathon but his achievement was not deemed eligible by the association because it did not meet their rules on start/finish separation and elevation drop.
- In 2013, the Boston Marathon became the scene of 2 bombings that killed 3 spectators and injured around 260. The race was stopped and those who were not able to finish were allowed to join the following year through automatic entry.
- In 2014, the female winner, Rita Jeptoo from Kenya, was disqualified by Athletics Kenya after being tested positive for taking a banned substance. She also won in 2013. She is now facing a 2 year ban from competition. Previous titles and the prize money worth $500,000 that should have gone to her coming from the World Marathon Majors has not been awarded pending the disqualification case and may be given to the next top finisher. Her case is under appeal but if she loses, she will be banned for life.
Interesting Trivia about the Boston Marathon
The Boston Marathon, like other major marathons, has its share of bandit runners. These are the unregistered runners who are normally treated with humor and graciousness. However, in 2014, the so-called bandits were not allowed primarily because of the 2013 bombings. Police were pulling out race bandits not because they want to put a damper on the day’s events but because it caused a security and logistical nightmare for the organizers since they have to account for everything based on the number of participants like drinks for the runners, number of security staff, awards for finishers, and crowd control among runners.
Another interesting fact about the Boston Marathon is that at any time of the year, anyone can go to see start and finish lines and see it because they’re painted. On race day, BAA applies a non-slip sticker decal on top of the painted lines. The painted lines were introduced by Jack LeDuc, a local from Hopkinton and marathon committee member some 30 years ago.
The Boston Marathon Route
The course has been described as windy although it only has 5 major turns. It starts on Main Street in Hopkinton and runs through Route 135 to route 16. Along the way, you pass through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley before reaching Newton Lower Falls and Commonwealth Avenue to Route 30. From Commonwealth, runners will go through Newton Hills to the reservoir then to Chestnut Hill Avenue and Cleveland Circle, Beacon Street and back to Commonwealth Avenue, Hereford Street and Boylston Street. The race finishes in Copley Square near the John Hancock Tower.
The course has less than 2 miles inside Boston City. Some of the key attractions during the course is the Scream Tunnel which is a 400 meter line of students screaming and offering kisses to the participants. This Scream Tunnel is about less than a mile from the course’s halfway point.
Official Boston Marathon Route Map
Also, at the final mile, the crowd from Fenway Park stream out into Kenmore Square at approximately 11:05 to cheer the runners. This tradition began in 1903 and has become part of the thrill of racing in the marathon.
The marathon follows a staggered start with the Mobility Impaired starting the day’s event at 8:50 am followed by the Wheelchair division at 9:17 am then the Hand-cycled runners at 9:22 am. They are followed by the Elite Women at 9:32 am then the Elite Men and the first wave at 10 am. There will be 3 other waves starting at 10:25, 10:50, and 11:15 am respectively.
How to Sign Up for the Boston Marathon
Registration for the marathon usually starts in September of the preceding year. However, if you fail to make the cut-off or you miss the deadline, you still have a chance to sign up by going through one of the marathon’s official charities like the American Red Cross, Miles for Miracles, Run for Research, Melanoma Foundation New England, and some 26 other charity organizations.
For the 2016 Boston Marathon, there are only 30,000 slots available for regular participants and BAA expects to attract up to a million spectators.
Everyone will be subject to a strict security protocol that includes all personal items to be carried in a plastic see-thru bag. No backpacks, coolers, or other large bags will be allowed into the race and spectator areas.
Registration and other information about the 2016 Boston Marathon can be found at the organizer’s website at http://www.baa.org/.