Ashland Marathon Park
Learn About The Early Days of the Boston Marathon
Marathon Park is a small park in Ashland, Massachusetts, that is home to a historical marker that claims that "it all started here." This is because Marathon Park was the original starting line of the Boston Marathon, back in 1897.
The first Boston Marathon was organized by John J. McDermott, a sportswriter for the Boston Globe. He wanted to create a race that would commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, in which a Greek messenger ran 26 miles to Athens to deliver news of the Greek victory.
McDermott chose Marathon Park as the starting line because it was located on the town line between Ashland and Hopkinton, the two towns that would be the first two legs of the race. The race began with a shot from a cannon, and the runners set off on their journey to Boston.
The first Boston Marathon was won by John J. McDermott himself, who finished in 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds. The race was a success, and it has been held every year since then, except for during World War I, World War II, and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 1897 - 1898: Metcalf's Mill, Where the Ashland Marathon Park is located.
- 1899 - 1906: High Street Railroad Bridge. The finish line was moved backward in Boston, so a corresponding move was necessary in Ashland to a site just west of the Metcalf's Mill.
- 1907 - 1923: Stevens Corner (named for the Stevens family). With the bridge closed for repairs and the field growing annually, the start was moved to the corner of Union Street (Route 135), Oliver Street, and Frankland Street. This is where the Ashland Community Center is today.
In 1924, the starting line of the Boston Marathon was moved to Hopkinton, where it has remained ever since. However, Marathon Park still retains its historical significance as the original starting line of the race.
Fun Facts about the Early History of the Boston Marathon
- The first Boston Marathon was only open to men. Women were not allowed to participate until 1972.
- The first Boston Marathon was only 18 miles long. The race was extended to 26.2 miles in 1924.
- The first Boston Marathon was not a very well-organized event. There were no water stations along the course, and the runners had to provide their own food and supplies.
- The first Boston Marathon was not very popular. Only 15 runners finished the race.
- Despite its humble beginnings, the Boston Marathon has become one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. It is a symbol of Boston's resilience and determination, and it continues to draw runners worldwide.
Parking at Marathon Park
There is no parking lot at the Ashland Marathon Park. There are a couple of parking lots next door and across the street, but these are private lots, and cars may be subject to towing.
You can legally park at the Ashland MBTA train station or at Gryncell Park - which is located off of High Street. Keep in mind that the Ashland lot is closed during the Fall of 2023.
If you are ever in Ashland, Massachusetts, be sure to visit Marathon Park and learn about its important role in the history of the Boston Marathon.