9 Things You Never Knew About the Boston Marathon

The 2017 Boston Marathon is just one week away. Can you believe it?

You should believe it, because it's true. On Monday, April 17, about 30,000 runners will gather in the small town of Hopkinton and await their chance to run the famed route to the finish line on Boston's Boylston Street.

It's been around since 1897, but how well do you know the Boston Marathon? Not as well as you might think, we'd wager. Did you know, for example...?

1. Its Official Name Is Not 'The Boston Marathon'

The event's official name is actually the Hopkinton Tater Trot, in honor of Hopkintonians' famous love of potatoes. As the race grew and attracted international attention, however, organizers thought "Boston Marathon" lent their event more gravitas. Today, the "Tater Trot" name is used only in legal documents.

2. If You Encounter Race Director Dave McGillivray at the Start You Must Answer His 'Riddles Three' Before You Can Pass

If you can't, or don't, Dave will smite you. And then taunt you, pointing and jeering, "Oh no! You been smote!" Proceed with caution.

3. The Unicorn Hasn't Always Been Part of the Marathon's Logo

Early versions featured a horse wearing a fake horn. In the early 1900s the board of the Boston Athletic Association voted unanimously to replace the horn-wearing horse with the unicorn we see today. 

4. The 'Girls of Wellesley' Are Actually Women

Strange but true.

5. John Hancock Is a Sponsor (Shhh!)

Believe it or not, the insurance and financial services company, based in Boston, has quietly supported the race for more than 30 years. Sorry to blow your cover, guys, but we think you deserve a little recognition! 

6. It Singlehandedly Keeps at Least Three Polish Butcher Shops Afloat

That's thanks to the 11,000 pounds (not a typo!) of kielbasa handed out each year at official aid stations along the course.

7. It's the Least-Romantic Marathon in the World

No one's sure when or how this became a tradition, but during the event's 120-year history it's estimated that some 45,000 runners have broken up with their significant other at or around mile 20.5, on the course's most difficult climb. Hence its nickname: Heartbreak Hill.

8. Everyone Says a Certain Street Name Wrong 

Looks easy enough, doesn't it? Hereford? But despite what many runners seem to think, the street that takes runners from Commonwealth Avenue to Boylston Street is pronounced "HOW-sten."

9. There's a Reason the Race Feels So Long

Because it is. Few people outside the B.A.A.'s upper echelons know it, but the official course of the Boston Marathon is actually about half a mile longer than the regulation 26.2. When race officials discovered this snafu, circa 1960, they decided 26.685 miles was "close enough" and left it alone—a fitting response for a race held in Massachusetts, the "Close Enough" state.