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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Towns On The Boston Marathon Route

April 1, 2013 6:00 AM

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The bottom of Heartbreak Hill in Newton  (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

The bottom of Heartbreak Hill in Newton (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

The oldest and most revered marathon in the country runs through eight towns and cities. Most locals can name them: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and of course Boston. But here are five things you didn’t know about the communities along the marathon route.
George Brown statue in Hopkinton.

George Brown statue in Hopkinton.

1. Hopkinton & Ashland

A statue stands a few feet away from the starting line in Hopkinton honoring George V. Brown, the BAA governor and athletic director from 1905-1937, and the man in charge of the starting gun during that time. The interesting note is that for the first 27 years, runners never set foot in Hopkinton. The race, which was 25 miles at the time, went from Ashland to Boston. Brown, a Hopkinton native, is credited with helping to extend the race by bringing the start line to his hometown.

The Framingham Train Station. (WBZ/Peg Rusconi)

The Framingham Train Station. (WBZ/Peg Rusconi)

2. Framingham

A funny thing happened in Framingham during the 1907 Boston Marathon… well, funny if you weren’t among the 118 runners who wound up having to take an unexpected mid-race pit stop in Framingham. The lead pack of six runners managed to race past a railroad crossing in Framingham just before a freight train rolled through. The freight train ended up blocking the path of the remaining 118 runners for a full two minutes. Officials ended up marking the time it took for the train to pass, but in sleet and driving rain, the stranded runners didn’t stand much of a chance of making up ground. Canadian Onandaga Indian Tom Longboat, who was in that lead pack of six, went on to win the race.

3. Natick & Wellesley

We’ve all heard the story of Rosie Ruiz, but apparently she’s not the first participant to jump into the race part-way through the course. According to historic accounts in the Boston Globe, in 1901, the Boston Marathon saw two participants join the race at different points. One “young clad man” hopped into second place. “He slid in from one of the side streets, and completely fooled all the people along the route. He dropped out again as mysteriously as he entered, and probably would have been in bad odor had the officials unearthed him.” The other unwelcome participant in that race hopped onto the course somewhere between Natick and Wellesley. It was a runaway horse that bolted down the course.

The bottom of Heartbreak Hill in Newton. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

The bottom of Heartbreak Hill in Newton (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

4. Newton

In 1936, Defending Boston Marathon champion Johnny Kelly raced up the Newton Hills in second place, managing to catch leader Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, a Narragansett Indian from Alton, R.I. As he went to pass Brown, Kelly figured that was it for Tarzan, and in a show of questionable sportsmanship, he gave Brown a pat on the shoulder as if to say “good race, I’ll take it from here.” Brown responded by overtaking Kelly and going on to win. In honor of Kelly’s misery, the term “Heartbreak Hill” was coined in a newspaper article the following day.

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. (Photo by Jay Borselle)

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. (Photo by Jay Borselle)

5. Brookline

Unless we missed someone, it appears that Brookline native Michael Dukakis is the only Massachusetts governor to ever run the Boston Marathon. At age 17, while a senior at Brookline High School, Dukakis ran a 3:31:00, placing him 57th out of 191 runners.

And speaking of area politicians running the Boston Marathon, Secretary of State John Kerry says he ran the race back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, but we’re guessing he must have been a bandit, because there’s no official record of it.

Bonus — Boston

In 1900, Canadian John Caffery was first to cross the finish line in Boston. Cafferty dominated the race. But because of the massive crowds, he initially failed to cross the finish line, running straight into the BAA clubhouse. Five minutes later, upon realizing his mistake, Caffery turned around, went back outside and crossed the finish line… ahead of the second place finisher. In that same race, a Canadian contender who vowed never to return to his home country if he didn’t win was forced to drop out. He kept his word, sending for his belongings the next day, and living the remainder of his life in Boston.

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