There is no other marathon in the world that has the history, the prestige, and has been run every year since the genesis of our sport. There are races with more scenic courses, higher enrollment and more prize money. But the BAA Marathon in Boston is a legend and continues to be the top draw among serious marathoners around the world.
In 1896, the first marathon race was run from the plain of Marathon to Athens, to close out the first edition of the Modern Olympic Games. The concept of the event was powerful and many cities wanted to replicate this. New York held one race in the Fall of 1896, but did not continue. Boston waited until about one year after the Athens race to hold their first race in 1897. The history of Paul Revere's ride got tangled up in the story somewhere, and the Massachusetts “Patriot's Day holiday became the day (3rd Monday in April). But the concept was the same as the Original Olympic race: start 25 miles outside the city and finish in the historic city center. Just as many of the governmental guarantees of freedom were debated in the agora of Athens in 490 BC, the origins of the American spirit can be traced to Boston.
There is no better weekend experience for a runner than that leading up to Patriot's day each year. The feeling of mutual respect is similar to that experienced at the Olympics: each person had to achieve a high standard to enroll in this race and a feeling of excellence permeates the race activities, the clinics, the restaurants, the lineup and the race itself.
Throughout history, many countries have used the Boston Marathon to select their Olympic teams. Until prize money was offered in the late 1970's, Boston was the unofficial world championship each year. Today there are several top races with deep world class fields, but none has surpassed the bragging rights of winning the Boston Marathon.
Boston families and groups of friends have established their territories along the race route and pack the race route even in the rain. I've never experienced a more passionate group of spectators than those along the course.
Most find a journey to qualify, requiring sacrifice, fatigue, aches, pains and frustrations. But I've never heard anyone say that it wasn't worth the struggle.