Friday, April 15, 2016

Boston Strong and the Marathon Tradition

It is time again for the annual running of the Boston Marathon—the race to be held on April 18, 2016 will mark the 120th continuous year for the world’s oldest marathon, having begun in April 1897 with its inaugural race. It holds the distinction of also being one of only four major events that was still held in the United States during the years of both World Wars (the marathon is in the varied company of the other three: the Kentucky Derby, the Rose Parade, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show!). Still unarguably the most famous marathon run today, the Boston Marathon was inspired by the successful revival of the Olympic marathon as the signature event of the first international modern-era Summer Olympic Games held in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

When the Boston Athletic Association, which still manages the marathon to this day, originated the idea of running of a marathon on the newly established Patriot’s Day, April 19 (first proclaimed as such in 1894 by Gov. Frederic Greenhalge to commemorate the date of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1776), the runner’s route was to trace the route of the battle from Concord to Lexington and on to Boston. As this route was too short at 20 miles, the decision was made to follow the tracks of the Boston and Albany Railroad 40 kilometers (24.5 miles) northwest of Boston to the starting line fixed at Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland. In 1924, the course was lengthened to the more familiar distance of 26.2 miles to commence at the now famous starting line at Hopkinton Town Green.

The State Library has a number of books that recount this long history and tradition of the Boston Marathon; highlight its famous and/or colorful participants over the years; as well as chronicle the tragedy of the 2013 bombings. The library even owns a beautiful, bilingual Greek-English “coffee table” book on history of Marathon, Greece and the history of Olympic marathon running. Listed below is a selection of titles and more can be found in our online catalog here.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services