Next month, the eyes of the world will once again fall on Boston. The world’s oldest annual marathon is due to return to the city for its 118th year on 21 April. It will be the first time since the tragic finish line bombings stunned the world at the 2013 event, but organizers are working tirelessly to ensure this year’s event makes headlines for positive reasons.
Last year’s bombings will be remembered in an official tribute on the one year anniversary on April 15th at the Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, but commemorations will continue through the weekend and onto the day of the marathon itself. Security is due to be tightened, with runners to be barred from bringing anything more than fanny packs or energy belts to the starting line, amongst other regulations.
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The route is comprised of winding roads and city streets towards the finish line at Copley Square next to the Boston Public Library. Over the course of its 26 miles and 385 yards, it takes in eight cities of Massachusetts along the way: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and finally Boston.
Around the 20 mile mark is the famous ‘Heartbreak Hill’, an 88 feet elevation timed just as runners are likely to be hitting the wall. The nickname was coined in 1936 in the Boston Globe after Ellison Myers “Tarzan” Brown ‘broke the heart’ of reigning champion Johnny Kelley on this grueling stretch of the marathon in a story that has entered Boston Marathon legend.
Being the oldest annual marathon in the world means its not been without its controversies, including an infamous disqualification in 1980 when a female runner – Rosie Ruiz – came out of nowhere to win the women’s race. As it turned out, she really had come from nowhere, with officials judging she had only joined in for the final mile. She was disqualified, and the title was instead given to Jacqueline Gareau of Canada.
For those competing, the times to beat are two hours, three minutes and two seconds for men (set by Kenyan runner Geoffrey Mutai in 2011) and two hours 20 minutes and 43 seconds for women (set by another Kenyan athlete: Margaret Okayo in 2002.)