B.A.A. at 125 Years: The Colorful History of the Boston Athletic Association, the book by John Hanc, note by Larry Eder


Photo used with permission of the B.A.A. (From The B.A.A. at 125).

The B.A.A. at 125

The Official History of the Boston Athletic Association, 1887-2012

By John Hanc

Foreword by Matt Damon

Sports Publishing hardcover, also available as an ebook

On Sale: April 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61321-198-4

Price: $24.95


In American sports history, there are but a handful of athletics clubs that can date their pedigrees back into the middle and late nineteenth century. One of the most historic, and colorful, is the Boston Athletic Association. It is a fact that the B.A.A. had nine of the fourteen US athletes who competed in the 1896 Olympics, the first of the modern Olympiad. It is a fact that the B.A.A. founded the first marathon in the U.S., in 1897, and it is a fact that the start of the modern health club benefitted from B.A.A. club, then located in the Back Bay. 

The B.A.A. at 125 is much more than a book of facts. John Hanc ably describes the sports world, and the contempory world, over the 125 years of the evolution of this modern sports club. The Boston Marathon, founded by the B.A.A. is the most iconic marathon on the globe. In 1986, the B.A.A. accepted the sponsorship of the John Hancock Financial Services Company, and took the Boston Marathon, and the sport, into a new era. 

And the characters of the B.A.A.? A more colorful lot of athletes, coaches, officials would be hard to collect. John Hanc, the author, over the 114 pages and one hundred photographs, does a yeoman's job at giving the reader a real feel of the Boston Athletic Association. This is a must read for any sports fan, and especially, if one runs or follows the sport of athletics...


Pg 69: Competitors in the 1931 B.A.A. Marathon rolling down the road. Photo used with permission of the B.A.A. (From The B.A.A. at 125).

The marathon event started out as an event for a few hardy souls. The pictures tell part of the story of the famous Boston Marathon course, with some of the most amazing athletes in our sports history. From Clarence DeMar to the B.A.A.'s only Boston Marathon victor, John J. Kelley, the B.A.A. history and the history of the Boston Marathon are truly interwoven. 

Pg 88: The cover of the 1960 B.A.A. Indoor Games program saluted record-breaking performers of the past, including B.A.A. team stars Gil Dodds and John Thomas. Photo used with permission of the B.A.A. (From The B.A.A. at 125).

In many cities across the nation, in the 40s, 50s and early sixties, the local newspapers sponsored an indoor track & field meet.The B.A.A. Indoor Games, hosted by the Boston Garden , which dated back to 1888, was one of the most heralded indoor meets of the year. The B.A.A. was behind that as well. Look at some of the great athletes celebrated on the program cover, from 1960! 

In 1938, the B.A.A. Indoor Games, in fact, kept the near bankrupt B.A.A. in business! 2/3 of the 1938 budget was supplied by the profits from the indoor track meet! 


John J. Kelly, the winner of the 1957 B.A.A. Boston Marathon, was the coach of one Ambrose Burfoot, the 1968 winner of the B.A.A. Boston marathon. Amby Burfoot, one of the most renowned writers of our sport, noted with candor and kindness, the importance of the late John J. Kelly on his running and future life as a writer. John J. Kelly remains, to this day, the only B.A.A. athlete to win the Boston Marathon.  

I love the picture below. John J. Kelly, shown after his victory, was still part of that era where marathoners were few and far between. The loneliness of the long distance runner was not a joke in those days. The B.A.A. has weathered many storms, from the beginnings of amateur athletics in this country, to the realization that a major city marathon could no longer be an amateur affair to the realization that women should and could be great contributors to the sport of distance running. 

The B.A.A. at 125: A Colorful History of the Boston Athletic Association, gives the reader a lively review of the past 125 years of American sports, especially sport as seen in the wonderful city of Boston. Where will sport go and change in the future? One this for certain, the B.A.A. will be there, as part of that evolving sports landscape.


Pg 98: "An extraordinary gentleman": Intellectual, college-educated and supremely talented --John J. Kelly, represented a new breed of marathon runner. Photo used with permission of the B.A.A. (From The B.A.A. at 125). 


About the book, B.A.A. at 125, by John Hanc:

Founded in 1887 and celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2012, the Boston Athletic Association is one of the oldest sports organizations in America. It's best known today for its signature annual event, the Boston Marathon, which is the third-largest marathon and attracts tens of thousands of participants and worldwide media coverage. But the B.A.A. has also been amazingly prescient in anticipating what would become one of the major social trends of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries: the modern fitness movement. Consider some of the B.A.A.'s firsts:

  • Nine out of the fourteen members of the US team participating in the modern Olympic Games in Athens (1896) were B.A.A. athletes.
  • The B.A.A. launched the first US marathon, the Boston Marathon, in 1897.
  • The B.A.A. pioneered and actively promoted many of today's popular sports, including football and water polo.
  • The original B.A.A. club house, in the historic Back Bay section of Boston, is the precursor of today's health club.

Still, the B.A.A. story is not simply one of athletic achievements and firsts. It's also the dramatic story of people and the times in which they lived--a social history that unfolds in nineteenth-century Boston but takes readers around the world, up to the present, and includes a large and international cast of characters. A wonderfully illustrated history,B.A.A. at 125 highlights the Boston Athletic Association's important role in American sports history.

About John Hanc, the author:

John Hanc is a regular contributor to Newsday and Runner's World magazines. His work has also appeared in the New York TimesSmithsonianMen's Fitness, the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and Yoga Journal. Previous books include his award-winning memoir, The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon, as well as the bestselling how-to books Running for Dummies and The Essential Runner.Hanc is an associate professor of journalism at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury.

To purchase the book, or learn more about the book, please click on B.A.A. at 125.

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required