Neil Cusack, the 1974 Boston Marathon Champion and the only athlete from Ireland to ever win the world-famous race, served as one of the official race starters for the 2024 event.

Cusack was the official race starter for the professional men's division today, April 15, 50 years after he won the 1974 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:13:39.

Now 72, Cusack is the only athlete from Ireland to have ever won the Boston Marathon.

On Monday, nearly 300 Irish citizens were set to compete in the race.

Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia won the men's open division with a time of 2:06:17 and Hellen Obiri of Kenya won the women's open division with a time of 2:22:37, meaning Cusack's claim to fame as the only Irish winner of the Boston Marathon remains in tact.

Cusack's illustrious running career had a novel start in his native Co Limerick. As a child, he would be sent to the local shop to pick up cigarettes for his dad - he would run as fast as he could during commercial breaks to get back to the television in time.

Cusack went on to train at Limerick Athletics Club and St. Munchin’s College before receiving an athletic scholarship to East Tennesse State University (ETSU) when he was 17. While at ETSU, he became the NCAA Men's Cross Country National Champion in 1972. That same year, he represented Ireland at the Olympics.

In 1974, Cusack, regarded as an "unknown entity," entered the Boston Marathon. Reigning New York City Marathon champion Tom Fleming, the 1973 Boston runner-up, was favored to win.

Cusack, however, was undaunted. Speaking with the Irish Independent, he recently recalled thinking about Fleming ahead of the race: "You are in your f*****g arse going to win it."

The Limerick native told Irish Runner in 2014 that he "was determined to run the race wearing an emblem of my country," even though ETSU had paid for his airfare to Boston.

"That is why I decided to sew on the shamrock to the front of my vest."

Donning shamrocks on his chest, Cusack cruised to a 2:13:39 victory at the 1974 Boston Marathon. (Behind him was Fleming, who finished in second with a time of 2:14:26.)

Neil Cusack (Limerick, IRL) was a student at East Tennessee State University when he won the 1974 Boston Marathon in a...

Posted by Boston Marathon on Monday, March 17, 2014

Champion Cusack and his Irish charm became a media sensation.

As the Irish Times notes, when asked by Walter Cronkite live on CBS Evening News how he was going to celebrate, Cusack replied: “By drinking lashings of porter."

Cusack was splashed on the cover of the New York Times the day after the win.

“I suppose the gun was put to my head,” Cusack told the newspaper.

“The Irish trials are being held in May, and I'll still be in school here in this country.

"They said run a good tithe, or finish in the top three and you'll be selected guess I've done it, haven't I?”

He admitted: “I had no race plan."

Cusack's win at the Boston Marathon became the toast of Irish and Irish Americans across the US.

"Every day for about a month the mail kept arriving for me at ETSU," he told Irish Runner.

"My Boston win seemed to mean a lot to some Irish immigrants and second-generation Irish Americans and I received some lovely letters and cards at the time, most of them with some dollars included to buy me the celebratory few beers that I had mentioned in the post-race press conference in Boston."

Cusack went on to again represent Ireland at the Olympics in 1976 and win the Dublin Marathon in 1981, though it's his Boston win that he seems to savor the most.

Speaking with the Boston Globe ahead of this year's Marathon, he recalled bumping into two Americans in Ireland last year.

“These two guys were up at the bar with Boston Marathon T-shirts on them. So I went up and said, ‘Hey lads, I like your T-shirts. You ran the Boston Marathon?’

“They said they did and were talking times.

“I told them I’d run it a few times, and they looked at me and said, ‘How’d you do?’

"I said, ‘I won it, actually.’”