BOSTON – Boston has numerous claims to fame. It is rich with history. It is one of the best cities in which to spend time outdoors, often named one of the best walking cities in the country. It is also one of the few places in the world that runners vie for a chance to compete. That is because of the marathon that bears the city’s name. Boston is one of eight towns and cities through which the Boston Marathon snakes, and it is the only one that holds the finish line.

The Boston Marathon, one of the six World Marathon Majors, is a grueling 26 miles and 385 yards. Less than four of these miles lie within the city itself. It is the oldest annual marathon on the planet. Only 18 people competed in the first race in 1897. Now, roughly 30,000 people run on Patriot’s Day every year. As for spectators, there are about half-a-million annually, many of those crammed into those final few miles.

Participants run down Boylston Street toward the finish line during the 114th Boston Marathon. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Participants run down Boylston Street toward the finish line during the 114th Boston Marathon. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The city’s planning for the marathon is a year-round task. Everyone who completes the race is going to finish within city limits, so it is important to be ready, but Boston does a lot more than just make sure the race is logistically possible. Some of the best traditions of the Boston Marathon happen in the city, like the Runners’ Expo and annual carb-loading dinner. Spectators in Boston are there for the last miles these runners race and they make sure the runners have their support.

One of the best ways Boston salutes the marathon runners is by coordinating the timing of the annual Patriot’s Day Red Sox game. Fenway Park empties out just as the bulk of the runners are headed through Kenmore Square and up to the finish line. This has been happening for more than a century and always results in a throng of sports fans urging the runners on as they run the last mile of their arduous journey.

The Boston Athletic Association is the non-profit organization responsible for the entire marathon. In 2014, the B.A.A. will have a team running to raise money for the One Fund, the charity established after the 2013 bombings. The people of Boston have gathered around the B.A.A. and its team to help raise money for victims and their families.

Every year, Boston has to close off the roughly four-mile route to traffic, re-direct that traffic, deal with the influx of drivers and pedestrians and its businesses have to accommodate the runners and spectators who stay in the city before and after the race. It is a major undertaking that all locations along the route must manage. This is in addition to helping provide the usual security measures. In 2014, those security measures will be increased.

It would be hard to imagine a Boston Marathon without the support of Boston’s government, residents and businesses. There is no doubt that numerous organizations, such as the B.A.A., race sponsor John Hancock, and the Red Cross come together to make it happen, but there are only eight hosts and each of these host communities is gracious. This hospitality and camaraderie are among the things that make the Boston Marathon such a special event.

Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at


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