With all eyes on the Boston Marathon after the tragedy of the bombings two years ago, many people have started to notice an entirely different sort of marathon. The wheelchair race of the Boston Marathon is getting more popular each year and has a rich history.
All participants have one man to thank: Bob Hall, the winner of the very Boston Marathon wheelchair race. That was 40 years ago… and while the wheelchairs and safety precautions have evolved since then, the desire for wheelchair athletes to compete is as strong as ever. While a few others had gone before him, it was Hall’s victory that got the attention of the Boston Athletic Association, helping them make the decision to finally recognize those in wheelchairs as official entrants.
Hall was 23-years-old when he crossed the finish line at a mark of two hours and fifty-eight minutes. As remarkable as this is, Hall is actually not the first person to finish the marathon in a wheelchair. That accomplishment goes to a Vietnam vet named Eugene Roberts, even though he was not recognized as an actual participant.
Hall had approached the association before the race, asking permission to take part. He was given permission and also told that if he could finish in under three hours, he’d receive a medal. Because of this show of sportsmanship, Boston became the first city that put on a marathon that allowed wheelchair athletes to compete.
Since then, the wheelchair race has seen more milestones, including inclusion of female racers. At first, female racers were forced to begin the race in the middle of the pack of racers but that did not last very long when it became apparent that they did not need such safety precautions, as they are just as competitive as the males.
This year saw more prize money for entrants, showing that the interest and the value of the competitors continues to grow.