Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest marathon – inspired by the success of the marathon in the 1896 Summer Olympics, it was first run in 1897.  It is traditionally run on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April, and is one of the world's best-known road races.

The Boston marathon is also one of five World Marathon Majors, it's hilly course and unpredictable weather making it by far the hardest of the five races.

Each year around 20,000 participants complete the race, with a record field of around 38,000 for the 100th running in 1996.  Although the Boston marathon is open to runners, both male and female, from all over the world, you have to run an age related qualifying time to gain entry.

The course is what makes Boston so distinctive – it runs through eight Massachusetts cities and towns including Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston, before finishing at Copley Square, by the Boston Public Library.

The most well-known – and notorious – part of the course is the section through the Newton hills, culminating in Heartbreak Hill at around mile 16.  Many runners find themselves reduced to a walk up this leg sapping incline.

Ironically, despite these hills, the course actually loses elevation over the course of the 26.2 miles, but it is nonetheless one of the most difficult of the major marathons.  As a result it has seen fewer world record runs than many other races.

However, world record times have been achieved on four occasions, the first being way back in 1947 when Suh Yun-Bok of South Korea set a new record time of 2:25:39.

Women weren't officially allowed into the race until 1972 (although the first female finisher was Roberta Gibb in 1966), but in 1975 Liane Winter of West Germany set a women's world record of 2:42:24, while America's best marathon runner – 1984 Olympic gold medal winner Joan Benoit Samuelson – ran a women's world record time of 2:22:43 in 1983.  Benoit Samuelson' s time was not beaten for 11 years, and twenty eight years later remains the fastest time for an American woman as Boston.

The current course records are both held by Kenyans, with Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot running a scorching 2:05:52 in 2010, while his compatriot, Margaret Okayo, set the fastest time for the women's race – 2:20:43 – in 2002.