World’s Strangest

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The Quick 10: Boston Marathon Facts


I’m out again next week, and once again, the lovely Adrienne Crezo will be keeping you entertained and educated. I know – it’s awfully close to my last vacation, but it’s actually just a trip postponed from last year. My sister-in-law ran her first Boston Marathon in 2010, you see, but I was too pregnant to go. So there’s no way I’m missing it this year. I’ve been researching it just so I know what to expect – here are some of the interesting tidbits I found out.

1. It’s not really called “The Boston Marathon.” That’s just a nickname. Its official name is the Boston Athletic Association Marathon. And way back when the race was in its infancy, medals referred to the 26.2-mile journey as the “American Marathon.”

2. Whereas most races post pretty straightforward mile markers such as “Mile 1″ and “Mile 15,” until the 1970s, Boston had a long-standing tradition of seemingly-strange checkpoints. “19 7/8 miles to go!” was a famous one. It wasn’t just for quirk’s sake though – the checkpoints were chosen because they were close to railway stations so officials could easily get from checkpoint to checkpoint.

3. An average of half a million spectators show up to watch 20,000+ runners every year. I’m very glad to be spectating, myself.

4. Even if you’re not a hardcore runner, you’ve likely heard of Heartbreak Hill. It’s the point that the race gets the best of many people – somewhere between 20 and 21 miles, the hill near Boston College isn’t actually that bad. The problems are that it comes late in the race when runners are tired and muscles are sore and it’s the last of several hills in a pretty short span. When John Kelley lost the race due to Heartbreak Hill in 1936, a Boston Globe reporter coined the term… and it stuck.

5. Boston’s a pretty serious marathon to run, you know – you have to qualify by completing a Boston-qualifying marathon beforehand. So unlike other races that admit so-so celebrity runners (no disrespect… I myself am a so-so runner), celebs who run Boston have to be pretty good. Or they have to be running for a charity, in which case they need to be able to finish in six hours or less. Here are a few of the non-running celebrities who can add crossing the Beantown finish line to their list of accomplishments: Valerie Bertinelli (for charity in 2010), Michael Dukakis (1951), Will Ferrell (charity, 2003), Mario Lopez (charity, 2002), Lance Armstrong (2008) and Lisa Ling (charity, 2001).

6. You’d think Olympic champions would have an edge over breaking the tape at Boston, but they really don’t. In fact, for nearly a century, it didn’t happen at all. Finally, in 1990, both the male and female winners also had gold medals sitting at home from the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

7. At the 25-mile mark of any marathon, most of the runners are probably looking a little rough. So when Rosie Ruiz appeared out of nowhere just a little over a mile from the finish line looking fresh as a daisy, that should have been the first clue that something was amiss. She also couldn’t remember things about the run that most runners would know – intervals and splits. When people asked her what she thought about various things on the route, such as the famous crowd at Wellesley College, she just didn’t know. About a week after her “win,” Ruiz was stripped of the title. As of 2007, she still maintained that she ran the whole thing.

8. Up until 1969, the marathon happened on Patriots’ Day, April 19, no matter what day of the week it happened to be. Not to be confused with 9/11 (Patriot Day), Patriots’ Day is a civic holiday commemorating the American Revolution Battles of Lexington and Concord. Perhaps tired of the randomness, the third Monday of April was officially declared as the holiday in 1969, setting the Boston Marathon schedule as well. Lots of locals refer to the day as “”Marathon Monday.”

9. The BoSox do their part to support runners: for decades, the Sox have held a home game in the morning. When the game ends, fans and players alike find themselves in Kenmore Square, cheering runners on in the last mile.

10. The Boston Marathon is largely run outside of Boston. Before hitting Boston proper, runners take a scenic route through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Wellesley Hills, Newton and Brookline. Runners don’t hit Boston until about 24.5 miles.

Look for more Boston fun facts this week. If you’re interested in the play-by-play, I’ll be Tweeting!

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