The B.A.A. Boston Marathon—Nothing Like it in the World
The Marathon! The BAA Boston Marathon is the standard by which all are measured, races and marathon runners. This annual celebration of distance running is the most famous road race in the world. It is innovative and intense, vibrant and venerable, empowering and enduring, mesmerizing and memorable—it is The Boston.
Posted Tuesday, 11 December, 2007
The 112th running of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon will step off on the morning of Monday, April 21, 2008. It is simply the most prestigious annual road race in the world, and 25,000 proud runners will toe the line in historic Hopkinton on this unique Massachusetts holiday. This is the world’s oldest, most venerable annual marathon; it is tremendously enjoyable for participants and for spectators, simply because it is—The Boston.
Participants in marathons throughout the USA and around the world inevitably hear conversations including the words “qualifying time”; as in, “I qualified”, or “I was so close to qualifying”, or “I was on pace to qualify”, or thousands of similar statements. What they invariably refer to, of course, is their qualifying standard established for the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. Those standards, and the race they have been established for, measure relative success in races around the USA and the world. Some races even boast of qualifying percentage of their participants. A marathon runner qualifying for Boston has “arrived” as a legitimate distance athlete.
The legacy of the Boston Marathon continues unbroken from the founding and first running in 1897. Boston provides a living tradition and unique experience for all participants as they trek those famous hills and the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Every finisher links her or his name to the historic B.A.A., and John McDermott and those first 15 runners at the B.A.A. Games Marathon the innaugaral year. (In the first modern Olympic Games of 1896, half the 10-man track and field team came from the B.A.A.)
This year's marathon weekend will include another very important race—the U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Women's Marathon. B.A.A. Boston Marathon participants, friends and family from far and near will have the opportunity to watch this race on Sunday, April 20, running on a new loop course created specifically for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials—Women's Marathon.
Innovation Is Key to Success
Despite the historic links and venerable traditions, the B.A.A. Boston Marathon has proved to be innovative and tremendously resilient over its 112 years. For example, there are four starts: The wheelchair start will be at 9:25, followed by Elite Women at 9:35 a.m. The first wave including elite men goes at 10:00, and the second wave with about half the field will step off at 10:30 a.m. There will be an expanded athletes' village to reduce crowding. All runners will receive net time, of course.
Probably the greatest innovative impact on the world of marathons was the introduction of qualifying standards in 1970. They have been adjusted several times since in response to marathon demographics. But they remain THE standard for marathons in every corner of the earth. Qualifying times for each age group are outlined on the B.A.A. Website.
With over a century of incomparable tradition and history, the B.A.A. has made significant and innovative changes; credit Executive Director Guy Morse, incomparable Race Director Dave McGillivray, and the rest of the terrific B.A.A. crew. This event has evolved, steadily, deftly, to remain at the pinnacle of distance racing. Boston was the first marathon to officially allow wheelchair racing in 1975 with Bob Hall completing the course in just under three hours. They adopted the separate women’s elite start ahead of the main event in 2004. They were in the forefront of chip timing in 1996, and have been innovative in recording all runners every 5K, which allows friends and relatives to track each runner’s progress. The 38,708 entrants for the 100th Boston in 1996 and 35,868 finishers were all-time records (since eclipsed by ING New York); that single total was more than all entrants of all Boston races from inception through 1978. Innovative change, introduction of technology, superior planning, and attention to detail make for a tremendously enjoyable, high quality racing experience in Boston.
Boston was the original marathon to support charity programs, and has continued to build a very successful charity running program. There will be 24 official charities supported by the B.A.A. this year (guaranteed entries), and many other unofficial ones supported by dedicated qualified runners. Last year charity runners from 21 different charitable organizations earned over $7.7 million for their respective causes.
The B.A.A. is also masterful at attracting thousand of capable, knowledgeable volunteers who are integral to the tremendous success of the race. The three-day race expo near the fabled finish line, tours of the famous point-to-point course, pasta dinner, and post race party are terrific draws—all arranged and handled superbly.
The World Marathon Majors
The B.A.A. Boston Marathon is one of five members of the World Marathon Majors initiative (WMM), a long term commitment that provides a series championship based on performance in any of these events (Best four of five are scored, with at least one required in each calendar year.)
The 2006-07 World Marathon Majors series began with the B.A.A. Boston Marathon in April, 2006 and the first two-year cycle continued with Flora London, real-Berlin, and the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. The first year concluded with the ING New York City Marathon. The second year began with BAA Boston on April 16, 2007, included the World Championships Women’s and Men’s Marathons, and concluded with ING New York City in November 2007.
The World Marathon Majors awarded a $1,000,000 prize purse following ING New York in 2007. The World Marathon Majors two-year cycles overlap (2007-2008, 2008-2009, etc), keeping the two-year format, but awarding prize money each year. The WMM for 2008 includes Boston and the other four majors, plus the women’s and men’s Olympic Marathons next summer in Beijing.
Perseverance in 2007
Lidiya Grigoryeva of Russia won a stormy, close race last April with her 2:29:18, a 40-second margin over runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia. Five different countries were represented in the top five, with Madai Perez of Mexico third (2:30:16), Rita Jeptoo of Kenya fourth (2:33:08), and USA Olympic Bronze Medalist Deena Kastor fifth at 2:35:09.
Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot defended his title at 2:14:13 with a narrow 20-second victory over countryman James Kwambai. Peter Gilmore was top American with 2:16:41 in eighth place.
The Hansons-Brooks Distance Project won the women’s open team title, as did the adidas Racing Team on the men’s side. Host B.A.A. was second in both open races. The local Whirlaway Racing Team repeated as men’s masters team champs, with North Jersey Masters winning the women’s masters crown.
Fans Like No Other
The 26.2 mile course is always lined with anywhere from 500,000 to one million knowledgeable informed racing fans, and they are loud—start to finish. They encourage the last runners as enthusiastically as the first. These spectators know marathons—some of them have been cheering form the same location on the course for generations. They make Boston unique. This is one of the most watched single day sporting events in the USA. Hundreds of media outlets from around the globe testify to the significance of this event, and add to the meaningful, memorable experience of each runner.
Advancing the Sport, Continuing the Tradition
When runners participate in the 2008 B.A.A. Boston Marathon they are helping to advance the sport by running in the world’s most prestigious race; they are also part of a tradition that goes directly back to the beginning of the marathon. The B.A.A. raised funds and sent five athletes to participate in the first Olympics in Athens in 1896. The Americans won 9 of the 12 Olympic track and field events.
The B.A.A. men on returning were so impressed with the marathon, a 24.5-mile trek from the Greek village of Marathon to the stadium in Athens (three B.A.A. men ran in this race, won by Spyridon Louis of Greece), that they determined to establish a similar race in Boston—and mirror the point to point course over the hills as closely as possible. It would be in conjunction with the B.A.A. Games, set for Patriots Day, 1897. The “American Marathon” ran April 19, 1897. The 112th running on April 21, 2008 will be another chapter in this venerable legacy. And every 2008 participant will be part of this tradition, a member of a unique “club”.
The B.A.A. Boston Marathon—Nothing like it in the world. Running your absolute best at Boston is running at its very pinnacle. Can you qualify?