The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has organized this event since 1897, and it has been managed by DMSE Sports, Inc. since 1988. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly Massachusetts terrain and varying weather to take part in the race.
The event attracts 500,000 spectators each year, making it New England's most widely viewed sporting event. Though starting with 15 participants in 1897, the event now attracts an average of about 30,000 registered participants each year, with 30,251 people entering in 2015. The Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 established a record as the world's largest marathon with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters, and 35,868 finishers.
The Boston Marathon was first run in April 1897, having been inspired by the revival of the marathon for the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. It is the oldest continuously running marathon, and the second longest continuously running footrace in North America, having debuted five months after the Buffalo Turkey Trot.
On April 19, 1897, ten years after the establishment of the B.A.A., the association held the 24.5 miles (39.4 km) marathon to conclude its athletic competition, the B.A.A. Games. The inaugural winner was John J. "JJ" McDermott, who ran the 24.5 mile course in 2:55:10, leading a field of 15. The event was scheduled for the recently established holiday of Patriots' Day, with the race linking the Athenian and American struggles for liberty. The race, which became known as the Boston Marathon, has been held every year since then, even during the World War years, making it the world's oldest annual marathon. In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf's Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) to conform to the standard set by the 1908 Summer Olympics and codified by the IAAF in 1921.
The Boston Marathon was originally a local event, but its fame and status have attracted runners from all over the world. For most of its history, the Boston Marathon was a free event, and the only prize awarded for winning the race was a wreath woven from olive branches. However, corporate-sponsored cash prizes began to be awarded in the 1980s, when professional athletes refused to run the race unless they received a cash award. The first cash prize for winning the marathon was awarded in 1986.