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Marathon Special Issue

Boston, by the numbers

Where was the original starting line? How many people watch it? Who, exactly, was Clarence DeMarathon? These and all your other marathon questions answered.

Clarence DeMar is the only person to have successfully defended their championship more than once.Globe file photo/Boston Globe

> The winner of the first Boston Marathon, in 1897, was John McDermott, an Irish-born New Yorker, who finished in 2:55:10 — nearly seven minutes faster than the runner-up.

> Boston is the oldest existing marathon, but the first was nine months before, from Stamford, Connecticut, to Manhattan.

> Harvard College bought the land that is now Hopkinton from its native inhabitants using a 1657 bequest from Edward Hopkins, governor of the Connecticut Colony in the mid-1600s.

> Marathon organizers once considered a course that would roughly follow Paul Revere’s famous ride (OK, William Dawes’s), but abandoned the idea in part because of traffic issues in Cambridge and Arlington.


> The original starting line was in Ashland. As the distance changed and the starting line shifted, the finish has moved from Exeter Street near the Lenox Hotel to Boylston Street.

> Until around 1960, race organizers required all participants to undergo a physical exam on the morning of the marathon.

> Runners come from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

Roberta Gibb became the first woman to win Boston unofficially in 1966. Paul J. Connell/Boston Globe/file

> Only nine Boston Marathon champions have returned to successfully defend their titles, and only one — Clarence DeMar — has done it more than once, in 1922, 1923, and 1924 and again in 1927 and 1928. DeMar ran the race 32 times in all and was given the nickname “Clarence DeMarathon.”

> Only once has the marathon changed its format: in 1918, during World War I, it was replaced by a 10-man military relay race.

> It takes 397 school buses to shuttle runners to the starting line.

> Now arguably the world’s most popular marathon, the Boston race never attracted more than 285 entrants until 1963 and didn’t break 1,000 until 1968. At the 100th running, in 1996, there were 38,708, and 26,655 in 2012.

> The first international winner was Ronald MacDonald, a Canadian student at Boston College, in 1898.


> Famous for its hills, the Boston Marathon is actually mostly a descent, from 475 feet above sea level to 16 feet above.

> Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972, but in 1966 Roberta Gibb became the first woman to win Boston unofficially.

> The city or town with the longest stretch of the marathon route is Newton: 5.74 miles.

> The other famous local icon that starts in Hopkinton and ends in Boston? The Charles River, though it takes 80 miles to get there.

> Marathon entry fees, sponsorships, and royalties fund 100 percent of the BAA’s $11 million annual budget.

> The man who ran the marathon most often was John Kelley, who started 61 times, finished 58 times, and won twice — in 1935 and 1945.

> With an estimated 500,000 spectators, the Marathon is by far New England’s best attended single-day sporting event.

> After the 1956 winner beat the world record by three minutes, officials discovered that the course had shrunk by 1,183 yards because of road straightening. It was restored to its full length the next year.

> The marathon did not award prize money until 1986. First prize was $60,000 and a Mercedes-Benz.

> Officials promised in 1975 to give wheelchair competitor Bob Hall a finisher certificate if he could complete the race in less than three hours. His time: 2:58:00. The BAA officially started a wheelchair division in 1977.



Rosie Ruiz at a press conference after the marathon.John Blanding/Globe staff

> 1909 Howard Pearce got a ride in a car after dropping out at the 8-mile mark, then was let out to run the last mile. Police pulled him off the course before he finished.

> 1916 A.F. Merchant tried something similar to Pearce, even finishing fifth, but was reported by a Boy Scout and a fellow runner.

> 1980 Rosie Ruiz, who appeared to win the women’s division in record time, was stripped of her medal when witnesses reported having seen her watching the race and no evidence could be found that she had actually run it.

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