The 10 Oldest U.S. Footraces

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The first race in history was the Palio del Drappo Verde 10K in April 1208 held in Verona, Italy. The 6.2 mile race was held every year until 1798, and then picked up again in 2008. The 599th race is set to take place on June 12.

Surprisingly enough, the next race was not started until June 1509, which was the Red Hose Run 3K in Carnwath, Scotland. This race is not scheduled for this year.

Locally, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be celebrating it’s 39th running of the race this October, making it one of the city’s oldest footraces. It’s original name, the Mayor Daley Marathon, first took place on September 25, 1977, and attracted more 4,200 runners. At the time, admission was only $5, and nearly 40 years later, the marathon is the second biggest marathon in the country, behind the Boston Marathon.

“It is among the fastest growing marathon road races in the world, due in part to its largely fast and flat course which facilitates the pursuit of personal records and world record performances,” according to the Chicago Marathon website.


While marathons have been popular for decades, several of the first ever races in the United States were actually Turkey Trots, as Americans wanted to burn the calories they would later consume during Thanksgiving dinner. By the time the United States began hosting competitive races, Europe had been running races for over 700 years.

Here is a list of the 10 oldest races in the United States, most of which are still running today. (Source: http://www.arrs.net/LongRunR.htm)

10. Lexington Patriots Day 5 Mile – April 1914: Taking place at the Birthplace of American Liberty in Lexington, Massachusetts, the five-mile race celebrates the anniversary of the first day of the American Revolution. It was originally called the “Paul Revere Marathon.” The 102nd race was on April 18, and the tradition will continue in 2017.

9. Bay to Breakers 12K – May 1912: San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race begins near San Francisco Bay, runs through the city and finishes at the Great Highway near the Pacific Coast’s Ocean Beach. The race has been a staple to the City by the Bay for 104 years, and serves as a “reflection and celebration between the breakers and the Bay.” This year’s race took place on May 15.

8. YMCA Thanksgiving Day 5 Mile – November 1908: Unfortunately this race stopped running right before it’s 100-year mark in 2007, but was a popular race in Poughkeepsie, New York on Thanksgiving morning.

7. Thanksgiving Day 10K – November 1908: Unlike the Poughkeepsie race, this Cincinnati, Ohio Thanksgiving morning race, will be celebrating it’s 107th year this November. This race is the oldest in the Midwest, and had only 21 runners compete in the 6.2 mile course the first year compared to the 13,627 in 2015.

6. Run for the Diamonds 9 Mile – November 1908: Berwick, Pennsylvania also held its first turkey-day race in 1908, and still runs today. The course starts and finishes on Market Street in Berwick, and is known for it’s steep, 1.5 mile-long hill. The title comes from the fact that winners of the race receive diamonds as part of their prize.

5. New Orleans AC Turkey Day 5 Mile – November 1907: One year ahead of the trend was the New Orleans Thanksgiving Day race, which is a five-mile run that ends in Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, New Orleans. The 109th annual race will occur this Thanksgiving, and continues to be hosted by the New Orleans Athletic Club.

4. Yonkers Marathon – September 1907: Just north of Manhattan, New York, the Yonkers Marathon is the second oldest marathon in the U.S. The loop runs alongside the Hudson River, and has a reputation for being challenging. Unfortunately, nobody has stepped up to host a 2016 race.

3. Jackson Day 9K – January 1907: Started by the same man as the Turkey Day race, the Jackson Day 9K also takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 110th anniversary of the race will take place on January 8, 2017 in City Park to Jackson Square.

2. Boston Marathon – April 1897: Unarguably the most famous race in the country, the first U.S. marathon ran in Boston, Massachusetts on April 19, 1897. It was initially organized by U.S. Olympic Team Manager John Graham, and was only 24.5 miles long. In 1924, the race was extended to 26.2 miles to conform to the Olympic standard. The annual race is held on Patriot’s Day, the third Monday in April, to commemorate the start of the Revolutionary War. The 120th race took place on April 18 and had 27,491 participants.

1. YMCA Turkey Trot 8K – November 1896: This Thanksgiving will be the 121st YMCA Turkey Trot in Buffalo, New York. The first race in the history of the United States began with just six runners competing in a five mile stretch in downtown Buffalo, and in 2015, 12,834 people raced. The race took place entirely on dirt roads, and was not run on pavement until the mid-1900’s. Women did not compete until 1972. Today, people travel from all over the country to compete, and participants from Ireland and Australia even fly overseas to embrace the history of racing.

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Holly's running career began in high school; after being bummed about not making the volleyball team her sophomore year, she decided to join some of her middle school friends on the cross country team. She also did track in the fall, where the 1600 m race was her niche. Since then, she has run several 5Ks, and completed her first half marathon in July 2015. She graduated from Illinois State University in May 2016 with a degree in journalism.