125 years of Boston Marathon: The legend lives on

More than 28,000 runners from 120 nations compete in the 126th Boston Marathon. The attack nine years ago failed to stop the oldest non-Olympic marathon.

Athletes and spectators experience the worst moment in the 125-year history of the Boston Marathon in 2013. Two bombs explode on the side of the race course, killing three people and injuring hundreds.

A year later, more runners and spectators come than ever before to make one thing clear: the legend continues, the oldest marathon outside the Olympic Games continues to make history.

It started with 15 runners

“The majority of the first American Olympic team came from the Boston Athletic Society,” says marathon historian Tom Grilk in a TED Talk. That was in Athens in 1896, at the first modern Olympic Games. The athletes from the USA are so enthusiastic that they organize the first marathon in Boston a year later: with 15 participants, ten of whom finish.

This turns into a spectacular big event. “The event flushes 200 million dollars into the local economy, 40 million in donations are raised,” says Grilk.

There are many stories from these 125 years. For example, that one is not sure whether runners can survive such a distance. After all, the original marathon runner also died around 2,500 years ago: “Every runner got a cyclist at his side to accompany him if he should collapse.”

Women are only allowed later

Women were only allowed to run in 1972, ie 50 years ago. But Bobbi Gibb made her protest a success as early as 1966: She hid in the bushes at the start, just ran along and managed the whole distance. “For me, running was the quintessence of life,” she later says in a video. The next year, stewards try to force Kathrine Switzer off the track.

And then there is this woman: She appeared out of nowhere in 1980 and won the marathon in what was then a sensational two hours and 31 minutes. But Rosi Ruiz cheated – she secretly went out on the track with less than two kilometers to go.

Survivor of the attack runs again

Back to 2013. One of the survivors of the bombing is dancer Adrianne Haslet. She lost a leg. This year she will run the Boston Marathon with the support of Olympic runner Shalane Flanagan. “Even more than a race, it’s a celebration of life and the human spirit,” she says.

No runners from Russia and Belarus

Registered runners from Russia and Belarus will not take part. They were expelled after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russians and Belarusians living abroad are allowed to participate – but without the respective national flag.


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