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Lawrence Brignolia

The winner of the 1899 Boston Marathon, and one of the great athletes to compete in the premier event.

Lawrence Brignolia was a powerful man, arguably the strongest pure athlete to ever win the Boston Marathon. A blacksmith and sculler in addition to being a runner, Brignolia was well-served by a powerful wind on the day of the 1899 race; his smaller competitors simply couldn’t overcome the gusty East gale.

Having finished fifth the previous year, Brignolia was the co-favorite in 1899, along with Harvard alum Dick Grant. Thirty-five pounds lighter, Grant fought Brignolia and the winds for the first 18 miles and led by 400 yards with a push from Wellesley to Newton Hills.

But the powerful blacksmith, relentless in pursuit, was able to overcome Grant in Newtonville and then stretched his lead as they approached Boston College. Leading by 500 yards into Brookline, Brignolia was in control, save for a moment when he stepped on a loose stone and was knocked off balance. Recovering quickly, Brignolia was able to regain his form and finished with a three-minute victory over Grant in the world’s most famous running event.

In 2000, over a century after his victory, Brignolia was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.