Top 10 Boston Marathon moments

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BOSTON – The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world. The first race took place in 1897 with 18 runners, following on the success of the first modern marathon at the 1896 Summer Olympics. Today, the Boston race attracts thousands or runners and with roughly 500,000 spectators each year, it is the most widely watched annual sporting event in New England.

The race is traditionally held on the third Monday in April, which the state officially commemorates as Patriot’s Day to honor the courage and sacrifice of the men of Massachusetts who stood against British troops in Lexington and Concord, igniting the American Revolution. The holiday was celebrated on April 19, but the state changed the official holiday to April’s third Monday in 1969.

Over the years, the Boston Marathon has had many memorable moments and regularly draws many of the world’s top runners. Boston’s hilly course and unpredictable weather can make the race the ultimate test even for the best marathoners. Here are some of the most iconic moments from the storied past of the race:

10.  African runners take over

In 1988, Ibrahim Hussein of Kenya won the Boston Marathon, the first African man or woman to finish first in the world’s oldest annual marathon. Less than 30 years later, African runners dominate the international field. Tanzania’s Juma Ikangaa finished just one second behind Hussein.

9.  Boston Marathon bombing victim dances across finish line

In 2015, two years after the horrific terrorist attacks on Boylston Street took her left leg from the knee down, dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis danced across the marathon finish line in a symbolic act of resilience and strength. Haslet-Davis will be on the starting line on Monday, running her first marathon ever.

8.  The first women


Officials try to pull Kathrine Switzer off the marathon course, courtesy of

Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, but she had to do it in disguise. It was 1966 and women weren’t allowed to participate, so she dressed in her brother’s Bermuda shorts and wore nurse’s shoes. She also ran undercover in 1967 and 1968, but her achievement was only recognized in 1996. Read a great interview with Gibb here. But Gibb wasn’t always the only woman in the race. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer registered as K.V. Switzer to officially enter the contest. When race officials caught on that a woman was running, they tried (unsuccessfully) to remove her from the course.

7.  Rosie Ruiz “wins” the Boston Marathon

In 1980, Rosie Ruiz was the first woman to cross the finish line, but almost immediately, something seemed fishy. Working as a television commentator, former runner Kathrine Switzer interviewed Ruiz, asking what her intervals (a term used in training for long-distance runs) had been. Rosie replied, “What’s an interval?” It turned out that she had jumped into the race at Kenmore Square, just a mile from the finish. She had qualified for the race by running the New York Marathon within the qualifying time, but she hadn’t exactly run that race either, it turned out, as she had opted instead to cover some of the 26.2 miles by subway.

6.  The Duel in the Sun

In the early 80s, Alberto Salazar, now coach of the Nike Oregon Project, was considered unbeatable in a roadrace. But on a hot Marathon Monday in 1982, underdog Dick Beardsley challenged Salazar for 26.2 miles, as they alternated running in the other’s slipstream and dropping the rest of the field behind them for the final nine miles. They both finished under 2:09 – then, the two fastest times in Boston Marathon history. Who won? Watch to find out!

5.  Bill “Boston Billy” Rodgers

Bill Rodgers

Bill Rodgers commemorative plaque, courtesy of

Bill Rodgers won his first Boston Marathon in 1975 and would go on to win in 1978, 1979 and 1980. He also won four straight New York Marathons from 1976 to 1979. Rodgers’s first Boston win is memorable for his unique race attire, which would become part of his trademark wackiness. He wore a T-shirt on which he had hand-inscribed “Boston GBTC,” for his Greater Boston Track Club, with a felt-tipped pen. He also wore painter’s gloves his brother had given him, since he was cold at the start in Hopkinton. And he wore a new pair of Nike running shoes given to him by no less than Steve Prefontaine – the equivalent of receiving glass slippers from a fairy godmother to a distance runner.

4.  Joanie


Joan Benoit Samuelson in 2008, courtesy of

You know the one we mean! Joan Benoit Samuelson set the world record for a marathon in 1983, only to have it broken by a Norwegian runner, Grete Waitz, on the eve of the ’83 Boston Marathon, which she had entered. Samuelson reclaimed the record, though, finishing the Boston race in 2 hours, 22 minutes and 43 seconds, or 2:22:43, a new world record. She beat her Norwegian rival’s time by more than two and a half minutes.

3.  Maickel Melamed finishes in just under 20 hours

While Melamed’s time may not be impressive, the fact that he finished last year’s race at all was an amazing accomplishment – the 39-year-old Venezuelan has a medical condition similar to muscular dystrophy. When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and the tanks doctors used to try to enrich his blood with oxygen were empty. He was given a week to live. But Melamed survived. He came to Boston for treatment as a child and returned to run the marathon to show “that love is more powerful than death.”

2.  Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai runs fastest marathon ever on Boston’s hills


Geoffrey Mutai in his element, courtesy of

Mutai won the 2011 race in a record time of 2:03:02 (his mark was topped by fellow Kenyan, Dennis Kimetto, who ran 2:02:57 in Berlin in 2014). Unfortunately for Mutai, Boston’s course isn’t world-record eligible, given its net-elevation loss and point-to-point course. American Ryan Hall also ran fast that day, clocking a 2:04:58, a record for an American runner. Hall placed fourth, but still beat the previous course record.

1.  Meb Keflezighi wins the Boston Marathon in 2014


Meb Keflezighi powers his way to victory; photo courtesy of

When 38-year-old Meb Keflezighi won the 2014 Boston Marathon, he was the first American man to win the race since 1983. Just one year after the deadly terrorists attacks at the finish line, Keflezighi reminded Bostonians that marathons were about courage, focus and faith.

Keflezighi broke away early on, running with Joshpat Boit. But he pulled away from Boit too, just after the halfway mark. Keflezighi’s lead over the pack of runners grew to 1 minute and 20 seconds at one point. And then, at mile 23, Wilson Chebat closed in, only 20 seconds behind. At one point, Chebat was only 6.8 seconds behind, having run the 23rd mile of the course in 4 minutes and 31 seconds to close the gap. But Keflezighi powered himself on, as he told Runner’s World magazine:

“The last two miles were a challenge. I kept thinking, ‘Save something, save something!’ I prayed a lot. And I thought about how important it is this year. ‘Boston strong, Boston strong, Meb strong, Meb strong!’ I was thinking.”

Keflezighi won that day, running the last 13.1 miles of the race six seconds faster than he ran the first half.

The Boston Marathon is still, next to the Olympics, the ultimate proving ground for elite marathoners. Keflezighi summed up its place in the pantheon of distance races this way:

“I have an Olympic medal. I won New York. Before today I felt my career was 90 percent accomplished. There was one gap. Now I’ve won Boston, and I feel 110 percent accomplished.”