Background: The first Boston Marathon was run on April 19, 1897, a year after the 1st modern Olympics. Runners traveled a 24.5 mile path through the city. The distance was changed to 26.2 miles in 1908.
The marathon was held on the 19th, which also happened to be Patriot’s Day – a regional holiday marking the start of the Revolutionary War.
In 1966, the first woman unofficially ran the Boston Marathon, but only after hiding in the bushes and starting after the race began. The following year, a woman entered the race by using initials on her entry form to hide her gender. Race officials tried to remove her from the race, but friends and other runners protected her from the physical assaults. Marathon officials finally allowed women to enter the race in 1972.
How You Can Explore the Day:
- Physical Education and Diversity:
In 1975, the Boston Marathon allowed wheelchair racers to join. The first person to win this division completed the marathon in two hours, 58 minutes. The fastest foot running time of 2 hours 3 minutes 2 seconds was set by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya in 2011.
Measure a reasonable distance, grab a stopwatch (your cellphone has one) and a clipboard and set up your own track meet to compare race times. How fast can your kids run the distance? What’s the time difference if they use a scooter or a bike to race, instead? Make a chart to organize your information. Get your friends to join the fun and then you can average out times for different age groups and make a bar chart to compare who is the speediest.
- Physical Education and Coping Skills:
Read the Tortoise and the Hare, the folktale that talks about speed versus endurance. After taking a rest break and rehydrating from your previous foot race, measure a longer distance to run. Talk about why pacing yourself is important if you want to make it to the end.
Other topics to talk about include: When is racing through a task a good idea? What is confidence and why is too much confidence not a good thing? What is the difference between taking your time and dawdling?
- History and Civic Responsibility:
Roberta Gibb tells her story about why she sneaked her way into the Boston Marathon in 1966. Katherine Switzer was the first woman to officially run in the Boston Marathon. You can read a bit about her life and how she went from a wannabe cheerleader to an athletic icon at the age of 20.
Both of these women present a powerful example of what happens when you decide to break a rule that you think is unfair. Talk with your kids about rules and laws in the home and in the community. What rules apply only to children? Are they fair? What can kids do if they think they’re being treated unfairly? What about accepting consequences when they break a rule on purpose?
Look at a map and/or a globe and locate Boston. What state is it in? Locate your home state. Talk about the differences between the two locations.
Take a look at the picture above. It was taken in mid-April. What clues can you find in the picture about the type of weather Boston usually has in April? How is that weather different from the state where you live? Why do you think the weather is different?
What are you doing today to learn about the Boston Marathon?