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Boston Marathon in the United States

The Boston Marathon is held in the city of Boston, Massachusetts on Patriot's Day, the third Monday of April. First held in 1897, it is the world's oldest annual marathon.

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It is one of the World Marathon Majors—the top six annual marathons run in major cities around the globe. The other five are held in Berlin, Chicago, London, New York City, and Tokyo.

The event has been organized and administered by the Boston Athletic Association since it was first run in 1897.

Is Boston Marathon Day a Public Holiday?

The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday of April, which is Patriot's Day in the United States. The day is a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine, where all state and local offices and schools are closed. Federal government offices in the two states and the rest of the country are open for business.

Holidays in the United States

How Is the Boston Marathon Celebrated?

The Boston Marathon is a major New England event. With 500,000 spectators every year, the Marathon is one of the most viewed events in the region. Spectators line up along the 42.195 km (26 miles and 385 yards) long course and cheer on the racers, who have to pass a rigid qualifying process to participate.

Scream Tunnel

Due to its long history, the race is steeped in tradition. One long-standing custom as old as the marathon itself is the Scream Tunnel, a 400 m (.25 miles) long stretch of the course lined with students from Wellesley College. Starting around mile 12, students from the private women's college cheer on the racers with signs and cries of encouragement. It is said that the Tunnel can be heard a mile away.

Wreaths from Greece

The Boston Marathon was inspired by the marathon held during the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece. This connection was revisited in 1984 when the Greek government made an agreement with Boston to sponsor the winners' wreaths. These wreaths, which are made of olive leaves, are placed on the heads of the female and male winners of the competition.

The Red Sox Play a Game

Every year since 1903, the city's professional baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, play a game at Fenway Park on the morning of the marathon. At the end of the game, spectators spill out into Kenmore Square to cheer on the runners.

Boston Bandits: Runners Without a Number

Until very recently, the marathon allowed bandits—unregistered runners to participate in the marathon. They were allowed on the course after the registered runners had left the start line. Since 2015, this practice has been disallowed.

What Is the Boston Marathon?

The Boston Marathon is a competitive marathon and winners are awarded money. Both female and male winners receive the same prize money.

Anyone above the age of 18 and has completed one marathon by an organization associated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within the past 18 months can apply to participate in the race.

The 42.195 km (26 miles 385 yards) long course begins in the town of Hopkinton, goes through the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and ends at Copley Square in Boston.

Heartbreak Hill

The course goes over flat and hilly parts of the state, but none is as daunting as the 600 meter (0.4 miles) incline between the 32-34km (20-21 mile) mark. Known as Heartbreak Hill, the ascent, while not significant in terms of climb, is challenging because it comes towards the end of the race, when runners are tired.

History of the Boston Marathon

The prestigious race is traditionally held on Patriot's Day. Until 1968, it fell on April 19 every year. In 1969, both the holiday and event were moved to the third Monday of April permanently.

It is the first major marathon to have a wheelchair division. In 1975, 23-year-old Bob Hall asked to compete in the marathon. The race organizers let him participate without a number. He finished the race in less than three hours and made way for the creation of the division. The marathon also has divisions for the mobility and visually impaired.

Pathbreaking Women

Women weren't officially allowed to compete in the race until 1972, though in 1966, Bobbi Gibb ran the race as a bandit. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer, who had registered for the marathon as K.V. Switzer, received bib number 261. She ran the race unrecognized until race organizer Jock Semple saw her and tried to pull her off the course. She finished the race, and the incident sparked a national conversation about women and sports.

The Boston Marathon Bombing

During the 2013 Marathon, two homemade explosive devices went off near the finish line. The explosions killed three people and injured hundreds.

Boston Marathon Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015MonApr 20Boston MarathonSporting event
2016MonApr 18Boston MarathonSporting event
2017MonApr 17Boston MarathonSporting event
2018MonApr 16Boston MarathonSporting event
2019MonApr 15Boston MarathonSporting event
2020MonApr 20Boston MarathonSporting event
2021MonApr 19Boston MarathonSporting event
2022MonApr 18Boston MarathonSporting event
2023MonApr 17Boston MarathonSporting event
2024MonApr 15Boston MarathonSporting event
2025MonApr 21Boston MarathonSporting event

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