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 Johnny Kelley (1907-2004)
BAA Runner finally wins Boston Marathon

Saturday, April 20, 1957

1. J.J. Kelley, Groton, CT2:20:05
2. V. Karvonen, Finland2:23:54
3. C. Lim, Korea2:24:59
4. O. Manninen, Finland2:25:19
5. S. Han, Korea2:28:14

After yet another course record was set in 1956, the BAA remeasured the course and found that 1,183 yards of roadway had been skimmed from the Marathon course due to road improvements since 1951. With each year, more and more curves and bends were straightened as public works adapted the course for automobiles. This explained the multitude of world records set at the Boston Marathon since 1951.

To fix the shortage, BAA officials moved the starting line from Ashland to Hopkinton town green, the current starting point.

Returning from the 1956 Olympics, where he placed 21st, John J. Kelley trained hard to redeem his reputation in Boston. He did just that! Kelley ran alongside Finland's Victor Karvonen until the Newton hills, where Kelley lost Karvonen for good.

Finally, Jock Semple's dream of a BAA winner came to fruition. He waited with BAA Director Walter Brown, blanket in hand, just behind the finish to embrace his pupil.

From the Boston Globe, Sunday, April 21, 1957

1st American To Take Title In 12 Years
B.U. Graduate Beats Karvonen By 1200 Yards

The lead:

It took 12 years and a school teacher named John J. Kelley to teach the foreign Marathon celebrities a lesson.

Running softly, but carrying a big stick, little John of Gaelic ancestry, yesterday chased the Finns, Japanese and Koreans off the B.A.A. course to become the town's golden boy.

When the traditional wreath of laurel was perched jauntily on his yellow head at Exeter St., the 26-year-old B.U. alumnus stood adorned as America's first victor since 1945 ... when John the Elder Kelley last won the race.

The race:

In halting the foreign flood which has raged unabated during the interval, Kelley made a remarkable run of 2h. 20m. 5s. down the sunbaked roads from Hopkinton.

His clocking established a record for the historic perambulation, since this year the route was extended 1187 yards at the Hopkinton extremity to make it a valid 26 miles, 385 yards.

His judgement of pace was almost supernatural. "I feel that two hours, 20 minutes will be necessary," he ahd said at noon, just prior to striking out in his dedicated effort. "That is my plan."

Necessary? It was almost superfluous! He broke away from Korea's troublesome Sung Chul Han and Finland's Veikko Karvonen with 10 miles to run.

Karvonen-the world's greatest winner of 14 marathon races all over the globe, including this race in '54-had beaten him by 16 minutes in Melbourne's blazing beat last December.

Little John's retribution was final--because yesterday's was Karvonen's third and last run for the B.A.A.'s laurel wreath.

But yesterday out on the hot roads leading down from rural Hopkinton, Little John became a "take charge" man of the marathon.

Against the finest field, undoubtedly, ever assembled at the start-Three Koreans, three Japanese, two Finns, two Mexicans-fully aware that Karvonen was a giant among global winners. Kelley ran a to-hell with them race.

For three miles he ran behind the Koreans, the Finns, and the Japanese. At Framingham, six miles long, he joined them. At Natick he closed in on Han, Karvonen, Lim and Sadanaga of Japan and ran through the square abreast of them. At Wellesley, halfway home, only Han and Karvonen were still with him ... and he was soon to make his forceful move that muscled them right out of the Marathon picture.

From a technical point of view, Little John ran himself a flawless Marathon race ... carefully paced, fully controlled and with a subtle hoarding of his resources on a very warm (71 degrees) afternoon.