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.

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.

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.

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 19682 12061 7621
    2007 20338 12364 7974
    2008 21948 13019 8928
    2009 22843 13545 9298
    2010 22540 13072 9468
    2011 23913 13839 10074
    2012 21616 12621 8995
    2013 17600 10649 6951
    2014 31925 17582 14343
    2015 26598 14580 12018
    2016 26629 14463 12166

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

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