The short answer is 26.2 miles, but the longer answer is quite interesting
. The first race, on April 19, 1897
, was 24.5 miles, spanning from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Back Bay. John J. McDermott of New York finished in 2:55:10 — amid a starting field of 15 — to forever cement his name in Boston Marathon lore.
In 1924, the course expanded to 26 miles, 385 yards (roughly 0.2 miles), to conform to Olympic standards, and the starting line was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton.
The Boston Marathon begins in Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street, but what’s in between
? The course starts on Main Street and follows Route 135 through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley to where Route 16 joins Route 135.
It continues on Route 16, through Newton Lower Falls to Commonwealth Avenue, turning right at the fire station onto Commonwealth, which is Route 30.
It winds through those treacherous Newton Hills, bears right at the reservoir onto Chestnut Hill Avenue to Cleveland Circle, then swerves left onto Beacon Street, and eventually through Coolidge Corner.
Kenmore Square is one mile from the finish line, and Commonwealth Avenue guides the runner there. The course turns right onto Hereford Street, and then left onto Boylston Street before reaching the finish line near Copley Square.
Planning on setting a course record? Well, here’s what you have to beat
Geoffrey Mutai, of Kenya, unofficially ran the fastest marathon ever in a time of 2:03.02
in 2011. Dennis Kimetto ousted him in Berlin in 2014 for the No. 1 all-time spot, but Mutai’s Boston mark remains as the men’s open course record.
Bizunesh Deba, of Ethiopia, set the women’s course record with a mark of 2:19.59 in 2014.
The marathon is typically run on Patriots Day, which is the third Monday in April. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 race and pushed the 2021 marathon back to October. Monday marks the first time the event will be run in April since 2019. Despite all the changes in recent years, the tradition of running on a Monday is still intact.
It all stems back to the early tradition of the event. Patriots Day is a Massachusetts holiday commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were the start of the Revolutionary War. The holiday symbolizes freedom and independence, and now it’s usually synonymous with a day off from school, an early Red Sox game, and a marathon that draws runners and fans from around the world.
However, it wasn’t always this way
. For the first 71 years, the marathon was held on any given day, except for Sundays. Fifty-one years ago, for example, the marathon took place on a Friday
That same year, in 1968, Massachusetts Gov. John Volpe signed a Monday holiday bill to instill some scheduling consistency. Now, the marathon always falls on Monday.