Earliest known photo (’04) of Boston Marathon with runner surrounded by kids, bicyclists and horse-drawn carriages twitter.com/pourmecoffee/s…
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) April 16, 2013
Erik Malinowski explains the significance of the race:
If you’ve never run in, or even merely attended, the Boston Marathon, there are some unequivocal facts you should know. First, it’s an extremely open event, in the sense that the only thing separating you — well, you and a couple hundred thousand of your fellow spectators — from the planet’s most elite runners is usually nothing. Sometimes, it’s one of those easily moveable steel police barricades, sometimes it’s a piece of race tape, sometimes it’s the stern hand of a volunteer. But sometimes it’s nothing, and people are always running from one side of the course to the other. You have to time it like you’re running across the street in Rome. Runners come by out of nowhere and you don’t want to be the guy who accidentally tripped the lead runner when he was a mile or two from history.
Secondly, it’s more or less a mammoth, citywide party. The Red Sox play their annual Patriots’ Day game at 11:05 am, timed specifically so that three hours later, when the game ends, the crowd might file out to Kenmore Square and see a huge pack of participants run by on tired legs toward Copley Square and the finish line. A lot of people have a few drinks, which often leads to jokes about how easy it would be for any old spectator, to just tackle one of the lead runners at any time. But it never happened, because who would want to mess up the Boston Marathon? It was too much fun. You wouldn’t think standing there and watching people run — I mean, think about how that sounds — could be so much damn fun, but it always was.
Alyssa describes the marathon’s historical importance:
Boston is a city particularly defined by its sports teams and sporting events, and the Boston Marathon is one of the most important of them, even if it doesn’t inspire the same local fervor as the Red Sox or the Patriots, though it does attract 500,000 spectators each year. The Boston Marathon is the oldest continuously-run annual marathon in the world, and the second-oldest footrace, inspired in its first year, 1897, by the marathon at the 1896 Olympics.