Sunday, April 19, 2009

1 Day to Boston Marathon: Where Are You Going to Watch?

The packets have been picked up. The hotels in Boston crammed to capacity (there's one thing to stimulate the economy, haha). The Invitational Mile and B.A.A. 5K runners sprinted through the streets of Boston this morning. The runners are carbo-loading and resting up for tomorrow's big race. You get the idea: Marathon fever has hit Boston and the final hours to 2009 lift-off are ticking away.

While tomorrow's runners are aiming for some shut-eye and packing their essentials for their run, I'm thinking it's the spectators buzzing around online for information on watching the race. So to pay homage to the crowds I love coming out when I run, this one's for you.

We've outlined the towns that runners pass through from Hopkinton all the way into Boston and spectators manage to make their way into all of these towns, lining the street and providing plenty of motivation and cheers for the runners. Groups will often camp out in one location all day, bringing bowls of candy or pretzels to offer to runners, grilling out in front yards (those hot dogs smell soooo good), spilling out of the bars in between rounds or after the baseball game. There are definite spot along the course that are easier for on-lookers to reach--town centers, the intersection with highway I-95, train stops--and those that are more difficult where I have yet to see spectators in the two years I've run the race. created a great list for spots to watch the race unfold--I wish my mom had spotted this when we had to create a blind plan of attack in 2007. That same site will also tell you about the train schedule and closings you might encounter on race day to help you navigate around the city.

It may or may not be a no brainer, but if you have a car and want to go into Boston to watch, you may not want to use it. I realize this is coming from a tourist's point of view, but we suspected traffic would be horrendous anywhere near the race course--we had a rental and my parents debated driving out to a spot to watch and then driving back in. I can't speak for most of the course but I remember not seeing traffic when running over I-95 and greeting the cheering masses but being engulfed in traffic walking back to my hotel after finishing and then trying to leave the city. And this could just be me, but dealing with a drive through jammed zig-zagging one-way streets isn't fun.

Instead of using the car, you could hop on a train to reach a destination, especially if you're in the city, aiming to make it out and back over the course of the race. The commuter rails travel out to Ashland and you can see some of the stations from the marathon course. Yes, you'll be dependent on the train's schedule and have to deal with crowds and lines, but you can even catch some of the course from the train when the runners are traversing along the T tracks in the Brookline vicinity. Not that my mom is the expert, but her and my husband decided they could travel as far out as mile 16 and still make it back to Boston to watch me finish. It worked for them--even though I passed right by them while they stood there--and they probably could have traveled even further had they known I'd be far off pace that day. And they claim they saw me run by at the finish line, where they stood thick in the crowds on Boylston Street and I didn't know whether to look right or left and I focused on the finish line, all too happy to finish and end the running pain. My dad confirmed my mom's plan last year when she led him out to the mile 16-17 area, just before the Newton hills, and then back to Boston. And lucky for them, I waved as I ran by both spots--and handed off my jacket--knowing the general vicinity for where they'd be watching. This time they stood at the turn onto Boylston Street to watch me make the final turn in the race and run toward the finish line, and I could see them as I trudged up the hill. Good watching spot, Mom and Dad!

But the one thing to keep in mind is that some of the watching all comes down to luck. You can always plan to head to one location and upon arrival have to improvise, settle on another spot, because others thought that your spot looked pretty inviting too. My parents definitely admit that they never expected to find that spot at the Boylston intersection. Same goes for bleacher viewing and public transportation. The bleachers line a great viewing spot at the finish and it's always worth a shot to search for a seat there because you might just get lucky and score a seat. And with the T you could either wait forever for a train or be able to hop on right away and get back to the finish--but expect a squeeze especially as you near downtown.

As for favorite spots from the runner's vantage point? I'm a fan of the throngs of people out in Wellesley, Chestnut Hill and Brookline, mostly because the college campuses are right there and bring lots of noise and support. It also makes me second-guess my decision not to attend college in Boston (but then again I may have never become interested in marathons had that happened). Regardless, the crowds are plentiful and with a little gentle squeezing you can find a spot to watch. And remember a course map to aid in navigation.

Not making it to Boston on race day? If you're like me, there's a really easy to watch the race, especially the much anticipated elite run down. Tune into Universal Sports either online or through your cable provider to watch all the action. Good luck with the viewing either in person or over the airwaves. Photo grabbed from dsearls at flickr. Posted by Kate


  1. I'm right at the Newton firehouse! Can't wait, I'm so excited to see everyone come by!

  2. Oh cool! How was watching it this year? Was it cold or windy? Did you get to see Kara and Ryan run by in the leader packs? So exciting!! --kate :)

    ps thanks for reading/following us!



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