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The Boston Globe

Magazine

Marathon Special Issue

A victory from defeat

How Boston Athletic Association athletes’ poor showing in one event in the 1896 Olympics inspired them to create America’s most beloved footrace.

Article excerpted with permission from The B.A.A. at 125: The Official History of the Boston Athletic Association, 1887-2012, by John Hanc. Copyright © 2013, Sports Publishing, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing Inc.

BY 1896, most everyone in American athletic circles had heard about the plan to revive the ancient Greek Olympic competitions. The idea had been promulgated by an energetic Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin who believed in the integration of intellectual discipline with athletic activity. As is often the case with bold new ideas, Coubertin’s plan for the Olympics was met with puzzlement and derision when he proposed it at the Sorbonne in 1892. But he was tireless in promoting his vision, and by January 1896, the first modern Games were taking shape in Athens for that April.

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