On this day in 1897, the first Boston Marathon was run from Ashland, Massachusetts, to Boston. Winner John J. McDermott ran the course in two hours, 55 minutes and ten seconds. A few years later, the start would be moved to the town of Hopkinton--in order to conform to the newly established international distance for the marathon.
Interstingly, the distance has varied wildly throughout the history of the event. The first modern Olympics in 1896 had a marathon distance of 24.85 miles. Then, over the course of the next seven Olympic games, there were six different marathon distances. The marathon at the 1908 Olympic Games in London began at Windsor Castle. The planned course was extended by 385 yards from its set 26 miles so that the runners would cross the finish line directly in front of the Royal family's viewing box in the Olympic arena. Thus, the length became 26 miles 385 yards (which is why many marathoners to this day shout out "God save the Queen" when they pass the 26 mile mark). In 1921, the International Amature Athletic Federation (IAAF) set the official distance by the Queen's standard, and so it has remained ever since.
Inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and still ranks as one of the world's most prestigious road racing events.