The Boston Marathon is one of, if not THE, premiere races in the world. Most runners qualify to run the race by completing another marathon with a certain finishing time and others pay big bucks to run for a charity. The level of runners in the field is much higher for that reason. However, one downside to the focus on the runner is that there is little or no focus on the spectators. It seems as though the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) has made provisions to provide information to the runners, but not to all of those people out there who help these runners through thick and thin! After all, without all of those millions of people standing along every road on the course, those runners would be awfully lonely, uninspired and unmotivated.
I was in charge of planning for a team of spectators that included me, my parents, my husband's parents, his brothers and our two year old son. I was very disappointed with how little information is available online for spectators. Because of the lack of information, I was forced to get a bit creative. I spent the days before leaving for Boston online looking at maps, train schedules, the race layout, and any other bits of information that I could get my hands on. I decided that the best plan of attack would be to create three groups of spectators in order to increase the likelihood that my husband would see someone during the race. Unless you have inside knowledge on the city or can run the race yourself, the train schedules do not allow for pedestrian spectators to take in more than one viewing spot along the race route.
Equipment: I split the family up into three groups: I would go with my parents and my son out to Wellesley by commuter train. My mother-in-law and one brother-in-law would watch the race from mile 16.8, which was accessible from the T-train. And my father-in-law and other brother-in-law would meet up with the racers around mile 21 near Boston College. Fortunately for us (and my husband), everyone got to see him in their assigned spots. Thanks to a tip from a Boston local, Team 2 actually caught him again just before the finish, when it turned out that my husband needed some support the most. It is a real shame that the BAA doesn't provide more ways for spectators to get around the city. They should take a lesson from the organizers of the Chicago Marathon who really go out of their way to provide information and support to spectators!
If you are a spectator, I highly recommend doing your research before you leave for the race. Do not expect the BAA to provide any different information or maps than what they give to the runners. The map designed by the BAA is rudementary and not complete. Use google maps or another mapping tool online to create a complete race route. Look at train schedules and ticket prices to see what works best. Pay attention to the weather. We had unseasonably cold weather and the two previous years saw unseasonably hot weather. Dress in layers and make sure you have rain gear available.
Whether you are ambitous enough to run or would prefer to relax and spectate, everyone is sure to enjoy the huge event that is the annual Boston Marathon. Run each April on Patriot's Day, a holiday that only Massachusetts celebrates, the marathon is an annual area event. And, with 110 years of experience, there is nothing else that can compare!
If you want to run, you have to qualify (see the webpage for details) or run with a charity. If you want to watch and soak up the atmosphere, pick a spot along the 26 mile route and prepare for an incredible scene!
It's really amazing to see folks run the marathon; especially those who are handicapped and complete the race via a wheelchair. The marathon is held every April on Patriot's Day. The wheelchair racers start prior to the runners and so if you do plan to attend make sure you get an early start. The crowds are pretty deep at the finish line, and many streets are blocked off. Earlier in the route (such as mile 25 near Fenway Park) the crowds can still be deep, though not so bad that one can't find a spot.
Equipment: Depending on how hot it is, bring some water. As mentioned above, the crowds downtown can be large, so if you want to see the last 100 yards make sure you get an early start.
The Boston Marathon, held every year on Patriot's Day (a holiday only in Massachusetts where everything closes down on the third Monday of April). What are we supposed to celebrate on Patriot's Day? Who knows, but we do it by getting wasted and watching people who are more fit than I could ever be run from Hopkinton to Copley square.
I would recommend Coolidge Corner as a viewing area. I've always done Kenmore Square, which is probably the worst place in the world to watch it from unless you work for City Gym. Check out
for some honest and good tips on the marathon.