The Boston Marathon: An International Event

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Held every year on Patriot’s Day, which is always the third Monday of April, the Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by several cities in the Greater Boston area. Attracting runners and spectators from around the world, the Boston Marathon is one of the city’s biggest annual events.

The History of the Boston Marathon

Started in 1897, the Boston Marathon was developed following the success of the first modern-day marathon held as part of the 1896 Summer Olympics. Since that date, the Boston Athletic Association has managed the event, with amateur and professional runners from around the world competing each year. As the oldest annual marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon is one of the best-known road racing events in the world. Attended by 500,000 spectators each year, the Boston Marathon is also considered to be one of six World Marathon Majors and one of four major events held in the United States through both World Wars, with the others being the Rose Parade, the Kentucky Derby and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

At the first event in 1897, the Boston Marathon had just 18 participants. Today, approximately 30,000 people register to participate in the event, with 30,251 registering in 2015. The Centennial Boston Event recorded a record number of participants with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters and 35,868 finishers. Not only did this set a record for the Boston Marathon, but it was also recorded as the world’s largest marathon.

Participating in the Boston Marathon

To participate in the Boston Marathon, you must be at least 18-years-old. While the event is open to participants from any country, registrants must meet certain qualifying standards. Specifically, they must first complete a standard marathon course that has been certified by a national governing body that is affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations. Generally speaking, this marathon must have been completed within 18 months prior to the Boston Marathon. Runners must also achieve a qualifying time. As of February 15, 2011, these times were as follows:

  • Ages 18-34: 3 hours and 5 minutes (male) and 3 hours and 35 minutes (female)
  • Ages 35-29: 3 hours and 10 minutes (male) and 3 hours and 40 minutes (female)
  • Ages 40-44: 3 hours and 15 minutes (male) and 3 hours and 45 minutes (female)
  • Ages 45-49: 3 hours and 25 minutes (male) and 3 hours and 55 minutes (female)
  • Ages 50-54: 3 hours and 30 minutes (male) and 4 hours and 0 minutes (female)
  • Ages 55-59: 3 hours and 40 minutes (male) and 4 hours and 10 minutes (female)
  • Ages 60-64: 3 hours and 55 minutes (male) and 4 hours and 25 minutes (female)
  • Ages 65-69: 4 hours and 10 minutes (male) and 4 hours and 40 minutes (female)
  • Ages 70-74: 4 hours and 25 minutes (male) and 4 hours and 55 minutes (female)
  • Ages 75-79: 4 hours and 40 minutes (male) and 5 hours and 10 minutes (female)
  • 80+: 4 hours and 55 minutes (male) and 5 hours and 25 minutes (female)

There are exceptions to these qualifying times, with so many spots reserved for sponsors, vendors, charities, marketers, local running clubs and other organizations.

The Course

The Boston Marathon course follows winding roads along Route 135, Route 16, Route 30 and city streets that pass through the center of Boston. In all, the race runs through eight cities and towns, including Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston. Due to the hills in Newton, the course is considered one of the more difficult of marathon courses. One of the better known of these hills is Heartbreak Hill, which has a 0.4 mile ascent and is the last of the four Newton hills.

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