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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > the inaugural ashland half-marathon, the historic original boston start

The Inaugural Ashland Half-Marathon, the Historic Original Boston Start
Step up to an historic, original half-marathon--and 5K--challenge that only this legendary starting line can provide. Enjoy a wonderful running experience in a unique fashion in Ashland, Massachusetts. This is where it all began - one of the first Marathons in the United States and the starting line for the famed Boston Marathon for the first 27 years. The historic starting line lies at Marathon Park, perhaps the future home to a museum dedicated to distance running.

The Inaugural Ashland Half-Marathon, the Historic Original Boston Start

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By Traci Joy
Posted Monday, 22 October, 2012

Celebrate the history of distance running and make your mark at this inaugural event with both a half marathon and 5K. This one-of-a-kind event will take place on Sunday, October 28, 2012 in historic Ashland, Massachusetts. You must do this first one. What a great way to combine your personal fitness goals with a run through history. What terrifically interesting parallels this event provides—the unique connection between the distance challenge of this half marathon, including some of the original Boston course, and the early starting line, the original foundation of the marathon in the USA.

The races will blast off at 10:30 a.m. from the original Boston starting line. Late October is the ideal time for distance running in Massachusetts, both for comfort and for foliage views. Anticipation and excitement are building for this event.

The Inaugural—Enjoyable and Historic
Join the excitement of this special inaugural half-marathon. The course is moderately hilly but definitely challenging. Starting at Marathon Park, the race travels through scenic neighborhoods as runners make their way on the original Boston course. The Half Marathon traverses the current Boston course twice on figure eight loops—between miles one and two, and again from just beyond mile seven to 9.7. The first loop is a clockwise run to the south (first nine), followed by a counter-clockwise loop north and back to High Street/Pleasant Street only a few meters from the start. Both are pleasant, moderately rolling, foliage and tree-lined loops through mostly residential areas. You don’t have to run the Boston Marathon to experience this historic setting!

The course runs near the Sudbury River, Ashland Reservoir, Reservoir #2, and Ashland State Park in addition to the village.

Proceeds from the event will be used to expand and refurbish Marathon Park and reestablish its rightful place in the history of distance running. It is sponsored and administered by the Ashland Redevelopment Authority and directed by J.J. Larner of Squanto Productions (developers of the popular Half of Quincy road race).

One reason Ashland was chosen originally was the proximity to the railroad from and to Boston. The station was near the start line and runners, support crew, and spectators of all stripes used the rails to get to the start and return to Boston for the finish. The course ran parallel to the railroad. Today the Ashland MBTA Commuter Rail Station is only steps from the historic start, and many runners will use this to get to and from the race.

Registration and Pickup
Get your registration in as soon as possible for this first-time event. Packet pickup will be available on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the VFW hall, 375 Pleasant Street, Ashland, which is adjacent to Marathon Park. Pickup will also be available on race morning at the VFW, along with late registration, beginning at 8:00 a.m. There will also be a bag drop provided, which will be especially helpful for those arriving on the MBTA rails.

Boston Billy Rodgers Will Run and Help with Awards
That’s right, one of the most famous Boston Marathon runners of all time (four-time winner as well as four-time winner of New York and two-time Olympian), Bill Rodgers will be running the half marathon with you. He will also help give out the Awards, the top two given to the fastest female and male in the field, whose names will be engraved on the Bill Rodgers Cup Trophy. Age group awards will be provided three deep in 10-year categories.

Post-Race Party
The post race party will include a real BBQ and refreshments at the VFW, and there will be live music featuring the IT Band (nice name for a musical group at a distance run).

Useful and Informative Website
Please visit the race website at for all the required information on registration, T-shirts, awards, race details, course info and maps, number pickup, directions and parking, photos and videos of the course, post-race party details, race news, training, volunteer opportunities, info on Bill Rodgers, a nearby overnight lodging opportunity with race-day transportation to and from Marathon Park included, MBTA schedule, and much more.

Origins of the Boston Athletic Association Marathon and Ashland Starting Line
One of the earliest marathons in the United States and around the world, the Boston Athletic Association Marathon (the oldest continuously run marathon), started in Ashland, a small Massachusetts village at the time. One of the earliest marathons of the modern era, it was modeled after the original marathon created for the 1896 Olympics. The B.A.A. made up the bulk of the track and field team dispatched to Athens for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and the team returned from Greece determined to create a race similar to that crowning, defining race of the Olympics, which ran from the village of Marathon to the Herodes Atticus Stadium in Athens and its 333.33-meter track. That race, of course, was symbolic of the distance run by messengers to Athens to spread the word of the improbable Athenian victory over the invading Persians on the Plains of Marathon in 490 B.C. The 1896 40-kilometer Marathon Run at the Olympics, won by Spyridon Louis of Greece, made a huge impression on all athletes attending the games, including the contingent from the Boston Athletic Association.

The American Marathon, the original name, and soon after the Boston Athletic Association Marathon, was first run a year and nine days after the1896 Olympic Marathon. Next year, 2013, will bring its 117th running.

Ashland was chosen as the ‘Marathon” start, substituting for the village of Marathon because the distance and topography of the route from there to the B.A.A. facilities in Boston closely resembled the course in Greece. At that time the marathon distance was variable, but around 24.5 to 25 miles.

The B.A.A.’s Tom Burke, Olympic Champion in the 100 meters and 400 meters, was chosen as the official starter of the marathon. The first start line was scratched in the dirt road by Burke, using his heel, across Pleasant Street in Ashland. Almost all roads and streets were dirt in those days, including 23 of the 24.5 miles from Ashland to the finish on the B.A.A. track in Boston, the Irvington Street Oval. This start line was adjacent to Metcalf’s Mill on Pleasant Street where the Ashland Half Marathon and 5K will start this October 28. For the first 27 years the start remained in Ashland, although there were at least three different start locations because the finish line in Boston was changed.

The first start was on Pleasant Street where Marathon Park is now located, the old Metcalf’s Mill site. The mill itself manufactured shoe boxes and burned in the mid 1930’s. When the finish was moved to the new B.A.A. Clubhouse on the corner of Boylston and Exeter Streets, the start was moved back along Pleasant to High Street and the railroad bridge. When the field grew to over 100 they moved again to Union Street at Steven’s Corner; but the start remained in Ashland for the first 27 years.

The B.A.A. chose to adjust the course in 1924 to the Olympic distance, which was established for the 1908 London Olympics, and moved the start to Hopkinton. When finally adopted by the B.A.A. Marathon, 26 miles 385 yards became the official, standard marathon distance worldwide.

The B.A.A. was reluctant to change the distance and move to Hopkinton because of its established traditions of racing from Ashland to Boston over the first 27 years—including records and convenient rail transport. There was some initial resistance. That is why the start remained in Ashland long after other marathons had adopted 26.2 miles.

Yes, Do It
If you are looking for an amazing running challenge, one that will define your personal best--along with the chance to make your mark in an inaugural event--the Ashland Half Marathon is a race not to be missed. Not up to the half marathon distance? The 5K offers the same historic start and finish on a separate loop.

There will also be awards for the top three 5K finishers as well as the top three Age Group winners.

Register Now
Even if you have never run a half marathon, this is the perfect time to take on the challenge. Whether you are just trying to stay in great running shape, discover your personal best, or attempt a distance that you didn’t think possible, running through history adds something extra to the experience and will keep you enthusiastic and pumped throughout your run.

The first 750 to register will also get a great T-shirt, so act now. Please visit the race website for more race details at and enjoy planning and preparing for this unique event in what is, arguably, the cradle of today's worldwide running boom.



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