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Boston Marathon: A Race for the Masses?


This article is published in collaboration with Statista 

by Felix Richter


Tens of thousands of runners and running enthusiasts from around the world descended on Massachusetts this weekend in anticipation of the 128th Boston Marathon, which takes place on Monday, April 15. The Boston Marathon stands as one of the most iconic and prestigious road racing events globally, boasting a rich history dating back to 1897. Held annually on Patriots' Day, the race draws elite athletes and amateur runners alike to tackle the historic yet challenging 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston.


Coming from humble beginnings with just 18 participants in 1897, the Boston Marathon has evolved into a huge event for both professional and amateur runners, with its growth mirroring the rise of marathon racing as a mass phenomenon. For many casual runners, finishing a marathon has become a must-cross-off bucket list item, explaining the growth of events like the Boston Marathon. Especially over the past two decades, completing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles has become a symbol of endurance, perseverance and fighting spirit, its meaning extending far beyond pure athleticism.


According to data from the Boston Athletic Association, the number of finishers of the Boston Marathon has grown nearly 15-fold since 1975, as the number of female runners finishing the race has grown more than 400-fold from just 28 in 1975 to more than 11,000 last year. With the exceptions of 2020, when no actual race was held due to the pandemic, and 2021, when the number of participants of the postponed race was lower for the same reason, the Boston Marathon has averaged slightly more than 25,000 finishers over the past decade. That’s up from roughly 5,000 through the 1980s, 10,000 in the 1990s and around 18,000 in the 2000s.


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