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As runners reach the top, they can see downtown Boston for the first time, four miles in the distance. After running through Brookline, the course enters Boston where it finishes on historic Boylston Street.

Inspired by their experience at the 1896 Olympic Games, several members of the Boston Athletic Association founded their own marathon in 1897. The race has been run every year since (though the 1918 edition featured a military relay rather than an individual race) and is now the world's oldest annual marathon.

Both the start and finish lines have been moved over the years, but much of the original course remains exactly as it was originally designed. Since 1924 the race has begun in the town of Hopkinton, and from there the point-to-point course descends through Ashland, Framingham, Natick and Wellesley. Upon entering Newton, the course gradually rises to the famous Heartbreak Hill. As runners reach the top, they can see downtown Boston for the first time, four miles in the distance. After running through Brookline, the course enters Boston where it finishes on historic Boylston Street.

John J McDermott wins the first ever Boston Marathon

Runners must qualify for entry by meeting time standards corresponding to gender and age, which is another aspect – besides its course and longevity – unique to the Boston Marathon.

Inaugural running

1897

Recent participation

Year Finishers Male Female
2006 19,682 12,061 7,621
2007 20,338 12,364 7,974
2008 21,948 13,019 8,928
2009 22,843 13,545 9,298
2010 22,540 13,072 9,468
2011 23,913 13,839 10,074
2012 21,616 12,621 8,995
2013 17,600 10,649 6,951
2014 31,925 17,582 14,343
2015 26,598 14,580 12,018
2016 26,629 14,463 12,166
2017 26,411 14,438 11,973

Course records

Men 2:03:02 (Geoffrey Mutai, KEN, 2011)
Women 2:19:59 (Buzunesh Deba, ETH, 2014)
Men's Wheelchair 1:18:04 (Marcel Hug, SUI, 2017)
Women's Wheelchair 1:28:17 (Manuela Schar, SUI, 2017)

PRIZE PURSE

US$830,500 (US$150,000 for male & female champions)

Wheelchair prize purse: US$84,500 (US$20,000 for male & female champions)

TIME & RECORD BONUSES

US$150,000 (US$50,000 world best; US$25,000 course record)

Wheelchair time & record bonus: US$35,000 (US$10,000 world best; US$7,500 course record)

Largest field

35,868 finishers (1996)

Estimated spectators

500,000

Charity impact (2018)

$36.6 million ($333 million total since 1989)

Highlights