Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the 2010 Boston Marathon in a course record of 2:05:5, marking the 37th improvement in the men’s course record in the 114-year history of the race.
From 1897 to 1924, the race followed a course starting at Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland and finishing 24.5 miles later at the Oval on Irving Street in downtown Boston. In 1924, the start of the course was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton course to lengthen it to 26.2 miles, the standard distance of the marathon established at the Olympic Games in 1908. Measurement of the course in 1926, however, found it 197 yards short, a discrepancy corrected for the 1927 race.
In 1956, the first four finishers, led by Antti Viskari of Finland, bettered the previous record. The results led to questions about the actual distance of the course, measurement of the course revealed it was 1,183 yards short. Changes in the route due to road work, since 1951, had reduced the length of the course.
Since 1957, the course has been maintained at the official distance.
Yun Bok Suh, of Korea, established a “world record” of 2:25:39 at Boston in 1947. The world record status of Suh’s performance is questionable, as it may have been run over a short course, 25.54 miles. Moreover, Boston Marathon performances are not eligible for world record consideration because, as a point-to-point course, it does not meet International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) standards for road race configuration. According to the IAAF, “The start and finish points of a course,” according the IAAF, “measured along a theoretical straight line between them, shall not be further apart than 50% of the race distance.” Additionally, Boston’s downhill character exceeds the IAAF’s standard of 1 meter per kilometer for the decrease in elevation between the start and finish.
1897: 2:55:10 – John J. McDermott (USA-New York)
McDermott of the Pastime Athletic Club won the first Boston Marathon, known then as the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) Road Race. Fifteen runners started the race, but only ten finished, with McDermott over six minutes ahead of them.
1898: 2:42:00 – Ronald J. MacDonald (Canada)
MacDonald, a student at Boston College, clipped more than 12 minutes from the course record. He defeated Hamilton Gray, the New York cross-country champion by three minutes. McDermott, the defending champion finished in fourth place, posting 2:54:17.
1900: 2:39:44 – John Caffrey (Canada)
In addition to setting a course record, Caffrey led a Canadian sweep of the top three places, as Bill Sherring and Frank Hughson followed him across the finish line.
1901: 2:29:23 – John Caffrey (Canada)
The first runner to defend his title at Boston, Caffrey took more than 10 minutes off the record he established in the previous year.
1907: 2:24:24 – Thomas Longboat (Canada)
Longboat, a member of the Onandaga Indian tribe in Ontario, established the course record in his first and only appearance at Boston.
1911: 2:21:39 – Clarence DeMar (Massachusetts)
DeMar won the first of seven Boston Marathons in course record time.
1912: 2:21:18 – Michael Ryan (New York)
Trimming 21 seconds off the course record established by DeMar the previous year, Ryan finished 34 seconds ahead of Andrew Sockalexis, who would finish fourth in the marathon at the Olympic Games later that year.
1921: 2:18:57 – Frank Zuna (New York)
A plumber by trade, Zuna improved the course record by over two minutes.
1922: 2:18:10 – Clarence DeMar (Massachusetts)
Winning for a second time at Boston, DeMar clipped 47 seconds off the course record established by Zuna in the previous year. It remains the fastest time run over the 24.5 mile course as the BAA adopted the standard 26.2 mile distance in 1924.
1924: 2:29:40 – Clarence DeMar (Massachusetts)
This race marked DeMar’s fourth win at Boston as well as his third consecutive victory. Over what was thought to be the standard 26.2 mile distance was later discover to be 197 yards short after measurement in 1926. Later that year, he would finish third in the marathon at the Olympic Games.
1926: 2:25:40 – John C. Miles (Canada)
Miles knocked four minutes off the course record on the way to upending the 1924 Olympic marathon champion, Albin Stenroos of Finland, and four-time Boston champion Clarence DeMar.
1927: 2:40:22 – Clarence DeMar (Massachusetts)
In the first race truly contested over 26.2 miles, DeMar won for a fifth time, overcoming temperatures of around 82 degrees more than any runners.
1928: 2:37:07 – Clarence DeMar (Massachusetts)
Once more posting back-to-back wins, DeMar clipped more than two minutes off the course record he established the previous year. later that year, he would represent the United States in the Olympic Games.
1929: 2:33:08 – John C. Miles (Canada)
Miles, who won the race in 1926, returned to championship podium, with a near four minute improvement over DeMar’s course record.
1933: 2:31:01 – Leslie S. Pawson (Rhode Island)
Pawson, who worked in a Pawtucket textile mill, won the first of three Boston Marathons, establishing the course record against a strong headwind.
1939: 2:28:51 – Ellison M. Brown (Rhode Island)
Known as “Tarzan” Brown, the Narragansett Indian won his second Boston in the course record of 2:28:51, marking the first time an American runner had finished 26.2 miles in less than 2½ hours.
1940: 2:28:28 – Gérard Côté (Canada)
In his first of four Boston victories, Cote trimmed 23 second off the course record established by Brown the previous year.
1942: 2:26:51 – Joe Smith (Massachusetts)
A milkman from nearby Medford, Smith established an American record.
1947: 2:25:39 – Yun Bok Suh (Korea)
Not only a course record, but a world record as well for Suh, who ranks as the first Asian champion of the Boston Marathon, and at 5 feet 1 inch, the shortest.
1953: 2:18:51 – Keizo Yamada (Japan)
Sweden’s Gosta Leandersson, who won Boston in 1949, established a record setting pace for the first 19 miles, with Keizo Yamada and Veikko Kervonen of Finland closely following him. After dropping both Leandersson and Kervonen on Heartbreak Hill, Yamada went on to victory in course record time.
1955: 2:18:22 – Hideo Hamamura (Japan)
Hamamura clipped 29 seconds off the record established by Yamada in 1953.
1956: 2:14:14 – Antti Viskari (Finland)
As the first four finishers bettered the previous record, questions mounted about the actual distance of the course. Measurement of the course revealed it was 1,183 yards short of the standard 26.2 mile distance. Changes in the route due to road work, since 1951, had reduced the length of the course.
1957: 2:20:05 – John J. Kelley (Connecticut)
Running over an accurately measured 26.2 mile course, Kelley posted the first win by an American since John A. “The Elder” Kelley (no relation) won in 1945. Kelley, who finished 19 second in back of Viskari in 1956, is the BAA athlete to win its cornerstone event.
1963: 2:18:58 – Aurele Vandendriessche (Belgium)
Vandendriessche, a two-time Belgian Olympian in the marathon, became the first runner to complete the course in less than 2:20.
1965: 2:16:33 – Morio Shigematsu (Japan)
In lowering the course record by more than two minutes, Shigematsu led a near Japanese sweep of the first six places, had it not been for John J. Kelley’s fourth place finish. Later that year, on June 12, Shigematsu established a world record of 2:12:00 at the Polytechnic Marathon in London.
1967: 2:15:45 – David McKenzie (New Zealand)
McKenzie took 48 seconds off the course record.
1969: 2:13:49 – Yoshiaki Unetani (Japan)
Unetani clipped nearly two minutes off the course record.
1970: 2:10:30 – Ron Hill (Great Britain)
Hill, the 1969 European champion in the marathon, chopped over three minutes off the course record.
1975: 2:09:55 – Bill Rodgers (USA/Massachusetts)
Rodgers set the course and American records in winning the first of four Boston Marathons.
1979: 2:09:27 – Bill Rodgers (Massachusetts)
Rodgers clipped 28 second of his course and American records in winning the third of four Boston titles.
1981: 2:09:26 – Toshihiko Seko (Japan)
The last Japanese runner to win Boston, Seko trimmed one second off the course record established by Rodgers.
1982: 2:08:52 – Alberto Salazar (Massachusetts)
The last American runner to win Boston, Salazar beat Dick Beardsley by two seconds.
1986: 2:07:51 – Robert de Castella (Australia)
De Castella, who won the marathon in the inaugural IAAF World Track and Field Championships in 1983, trimmed 61 seconds off the course record.
1994: 2:07:15 – Cosmas Ndeti (Kenya)
Clipping 36 seconds off the course record, Ndeti became the first African runner to claim the course record.
2006: 2:07:14 – Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (Kenya)
Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot trimmed a second off the course record established by Ndeti in 1994. Ndeti’s record stood for 12 years, the longest in race history.
2010: 2:05:52 – Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot (Kenya)
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot knocked 1:22 off the course record, for the largest improvement since de Castella’s 61 seconds in 1986.
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