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Boston Marathon

From Academic Kids

The 100th running of the Boston Marathon, 1996
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The 100th running of the Boston Marathon, 1996

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon sporting event hosted by the city of Boston, Massachusetts on Patriot's Day, the third Monday of April each year. Begun in 1897 and inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, it has become one of the oldest and most popular professional marathon races in the world. Professional runners from all over of the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly New England terrain and unpredictable weather to take part in the race.

It begins at noon (wheelchair race begins at 11:45 AM, and the elite women at 11:31 AM) at the official starting point in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The course runs through 42.195 km - 26.2 miles of winding Massachusetts roads, into the center of Boston, where the official finish line is located at Copley Square, just beyond the Boston Public Library.

The Marathon attracts an average of about 20,000 registered participants each year. In the 100th running of the Boston Marathon in 1996, the number of participants reached 38,000. While there is a cash prize awarded to the winners of the marathon, most of the runners take part in the race just to prove that they can run the Boston Marathon.

Anyone may run in the Marathon if he or she meets the qualification for the race. To qualify, a runner must first complete an official "qualifying" marathon course within a required period of time. Qualifying marathon events are held at various times of the year.

For most of its history, the 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.

The Boston Marathon is considered to be one of the more difficult marathon courses because of the infamous Newton, Massachusetts hills along Commonwealth Ave., which culminate in Heartbreak Hill near Boston College. Only once has a world record time for marathon running been set in Boston, in 1947. The record time then was 2:25:39. In 1975, the women's world record was set in Boston at 2:42:24. Ironically, the course is now considered invalid for international records because the finish is substantially lower in elevation than the start.

The race's organizers keep a standard time clock for all entries, though official timekeeping ceases after the six hour mark.

Massachusetts residents are proud of the Marathon, and a yearly tradition among the towns lining the race course has emerged. The local residents gladly welcome the Marathon participants with open arms, and they do their best to provide a supportive, encouraging, friendly atmosphere for the race itself. Along the entire 42.195 km - 26-mile+ stretch of the race, thousands of fans and well-wishers line up along the sides of the race course to cheer the runners on, encourage them, and provide free water and snacks to any and all of the runners. The crowds are even more encouraging for the amateur runners and neophytes taking part in the Marathon for the first time.

Every year, the Boston Red Sox play a home game at Fenway Park, starting at 11:05 a.m. When the game ends, the crowd empties into Kenmore Square to cheer as the runners near the 40 km - 25-mile marker.

Scandal came to the Marathon in 1980 when amateur runner Rosie Ruiz came from out of nowhere to win the women's race. Marathon officials became suspicious when it was found Ruiz didn't appear in race videotapes until near the end of the race. A subsequent investigation stated (though Ruiz never admitted to cheating) that the apparent winner had skipped most of the race and blended into the crowd about one mile from the finish line, where she then ran to her apparent victory. Ruiz was officially disqualified from the race, and the winner was proclaimed to be Canadian Jacqueline Gareau.

The Boston Marathon was originally a local event, but its fame and status has attracted runners from all over the world. In recent years, critics of America's professional sports leagues have pointed to the dominance of foreign-born atheletes in the Marathon (especially runners from Kenya) to back their arguments that American professional running is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of producing quality atheletes.

Course records for the Boston Marathon



Field Name Country Time Year
Men's Open Cosmas Ndeti Kenya 2:07:15 1994
Women's Open Margaret Okayo Kenya 2:20:43 2002
Men's Masters John Campbell New Zealand 2:11:04 1990
Women's Masters Firaya Sultanova-Zhdanova Russia 2:27:58 2002
Men's Wheelchair Ernst Van Dyk South Africa 1:18:27 2004
Women's Wheelchair Jean Driscoll United States 1:34:22 1994

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