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Boston Marathon and the Nationwide Marathon Craze: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1897, marathons rose in popularity starting with the Boston Marathon. This guide provides access to materials related to "Boston Marathon and the Nationwide Marathon Craze” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Crowd waiting for marathon finish." June 12, 1909. The Washington Times (Washington, DC), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Running through dust, rain, snow and mud, Thomas Longboat pulls ahead of his competitors, easily winning the Boston Marathon in April, 1907, and smashing the current record by more than five minutes despite the terrible weather conditions. In the next few years the marathon craze would move outside of Boston to sweep across the country with races run "in nearly every big city," turning the ancient Greek tradition into an American phenomenon. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


April 1897 J.J. McDermott is the winner of the first Boston Marathon, held on Patriots’ Day.
April 1898 Ronald J. McDonald is the winner of the second Boston Marathon.
April 1907 Thomas Longboat is the first Native American to win the Boston Marathon.
1908-1909 Success of the Boston Marathon sparks a nationwide interest in marathon running..