In April of 1926, Johnny Miles arrived at his first Boston Marathon having never competed in a race more than ten miles long. To prepare for Boston Miles ran more than a hundred miles per week, a level his father thought necessary to compete with the runners in the world's most famous footrace.
When he arrived in Boston he knew he would be facing the formidable Clarence DeMar, the marathon winner for three consecutive years and four times overall. DeMar held the Boston course record of 2:29:40 which was also the world marathon record of the day. But he had no idea until he read the Boston newspapers that Albin Stenroos had come from Finland for the race. The fanfare over DeMar and Stenroos rivaled that leading up to a great heavyweight fight. Miles scarcely knew what to make of it.
On the day of the race, with an hour and a half to wait before the noon start, Miles sat on a curb and ate his steak while his father repeated instructions for the race. The strategy was simple. He wanted Miles to stick with DeMar or Stenroos, whichever of the two famed runners happened to be in the lead.
Miles did exactly as he was told. DeMar and Stenroos ran close together for the first five miles of the race with Miles close behind. Then Stenroos surprised him by breaking away from DeMar. With more than twenty miles to go Miles was reluctant to follow. But a few miles later, with Stenroos still pulling away and DeMar showing no sign of pursuit, Miles took off. Going through the hills Miles detected a slight change in Stenroos' pace, the gap between them narrowing without apparent effort. Miles took over the lead and at any moment he expected the bubble to burst and Stenroos, or DeMar, to go sweeping by.
A couple of miles from the end a car from the Boston Athletic Association pulled alongside and an official leaned from the door, looking Miles straight in the eye.
''You've got it, kid," he said. ''You've got it.''
He swept across the finishing line in 2:25:40 2/5, shattering DeMar's course and world record by four minutes. Stenroos held on for second, exactly four minutes behind, and DeMar struggled home third in 2:32:15, amazed at what Miles had done.