Boston Marathon Action in Natick: 1925
The Boston Marathon has been big news for almost 125 years.
In 1925 there was some crowd-pleasing action in Natick as the runners swept through, braving almost wintry weather. There were no Natick men in the race, but that wasn’t a shocker in 1925.
A crowd favorite, Clarence DeMar of Melrose, was in second place when the lead runners thrilled the cheering crowds as they moved east on Central Street with 16 miles to go. DeMar almost notched his fifth victory in the classic event.
The April 23, 1925, issue of The Natick Herald made the marathon the lead story on the sports page. The sportswriter didn’t hide his disappointment about DeMar’s second place finish. Due credit was given to the winner, Charles “Chuck” Mellor of Illinois. (The full text of the Herald’s eyewitness account appears below in bold italic text).
Both the Herald and the Boston Daily Globe praised the “big crowds” that lined the route despite the bad weather, with “cold wind and occasional snowflakes,” that made rough going for the runners.
The lead athletes (only men competed in 1925) were greeted by an uproar when they pounded past Natick Common with Victor McAuley of Nova Scotia setting the pace.
McAULEY LEADS MARATHONERS THROUGH NATICK
By Herald Staff Correspondent
Victor McAuley, number 100, who hails from Windsor, N. S., led the field of Marathoners to Natick in the annual classic last Monday. He was closely followed by Clarence H. DeMar of Melrose, four time winner; Schon Christensen of Chicago, Charles “Chuck” Mellor, who won this year’s race; “Whitey” Michelsen [sic] of Port Chester, N. Y., fourth in 1923, and Frank E. Wendling of Buffalo, N. Y., third in last year’s contest. The time to Natick was 52 minutes and 51 seconds, a new record for the new course which now starts in Hopkinton.
In 1924 the Boston Athletic Association, which has sponsored and organized the marathon since 1897, recalibrated the route to the Olympic standard—26 miles, 385 yards—and moved the starting line from Ashland to Hopkinton (the current start point). The Natick Common is approximately at mile 10 on the course route, and the midpoint is in Wellesley.
The 1925 marathon was staged on Monday, April 20, because Patriot’s Day (April 19) was on a Sunday that year. The race was run every year on April 19 (except years when that date was a Sunday) until 1969, when the Patriot’s Day holiday was officially set as the third Monday in April.
At Wellesley Hills McAuley still held a scant lead, followed closely by DeMar, Mellor, Michelson [sic], Christensen and Wendling.
At University Heights, Boston College, “Chuck” Mellor, the winner, had opened up a 50-yd. gap over the indomitable Demar [sic], which he held to the finish, some five miles distant. Michelson [sic], McAuley, Frank Zuna who was eighth passing through Natick, Willie Kyronen and Carl Koski, a New Yorker, passed this point in the order named. The last two had to do some fine running to get into the select group as they were some distance back, passing through Natick. At this point, “Jack” Ryder, the B. C. track coach, “Jinx” Donovan and the writer stated, that in view of the fact that DeMar seemed to be laboring, that Mellor looked like a sure winner. Mr. Ryder’s dope turned out to be correct.
[The Herald’s typesetter had a little trouble with spelling a couple last names. In the 1920s, “dope” was a familiar slang word meaning “good information.”]
The headline on the Globe story was “DeMar Finishes Second After Brave Fight to Retain Laurels.” DeMar was first acclaimed as a marathon winner in 1911, and later he beat the field three years in a row, 1922-1924. He was trying to earn his fifth win in 1925.
The Globe told its readers that race day weather was “chilly,” and “it snowed, the flurrying kind, and all in all, it was a treacherous day.”
Conditions for Monday’s race were surely bad, but in spite of the inclement weather a huge crowd viewed the contest. This is the first time for a good many years that Natick has not had a representative in America’s greatest long distance jaunt.
The Natick Herald, April 23, 1925
It might seem strange to read that there were no Natick runners in the 1925 marathon, until we take note that only 121 men competed that year. It wasn’t until 1968 that more than 1,000 men lined up to run from Hopkinton to Boston. Beginning in 1972, women were officially permitted to register for the race. Participation slowly increased: 7,927 runners in 1979, and 38,708 runners celebrated the Boston Marathon’s centennial in 1996. Only 10,471 competitors signed up in 1997, and thereafter total registrations were less than 30,000 until 2014.
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Clarence H. DeMar, the Massachusetts runner who got special attention from the Herald and the Globe, holds the Boston Marathon record for the most wins. He crossed the finish line first in seven races: 1911, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1927, 1928, and 1930. In his first outing as a young man, his time in the 1911 race was 2 hours, 21 minutes, and 39 seconds. That was only a few minutes longer than his best recorded time in the 1922 event: 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 10 seconds.
The current course record for the Boston Marathon is 2 hours, 3 minutes, and 2 seconds, held by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya (April 18, 2011).
Selected sources and additional reading:
Natick Historical Society collections.
The Natick Herald, April 23, 1925
Boston Daily Globe, April 21, 1925