Chances are that even if you aren’t a distance runner, you’ve heard about the Boston Marathon. On the third Monday of April each year, tens of thousands of runners line up in Hopkinton and run the 26.2 miles back to Boylston Street in Boston. Qualifying for Boston (also known as “getting your BQ”) is considered a major accomplishment for many runners, and is the non-elite equivalent of qualifying for the Olympic Trials. Monday, April 15 will mark the race’s 117th year; here are a few things to know if you are in the Boston-area and plan on spectating.
Friday night through Sunday night, runners will congregate at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo on Boylston Street to pick up their bib numbers and purchase marathon swag. There will also be opportunities to hear motivational talks and meet some of the elite runners. If you know anyone running the event, expect that sometime this weekend their Facebook profile picture will change to a picture of their shoes, uniform top, and race number artistically arranged. Also expect status updates about carbo-loading and tapering.
The Expo is free and open to the public, so if you’re interested in getting a glimpse of running culture at its most extreme, swing by 900 Boylston Street tomorrow 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
The B.A.A. 5k
The 5th Annual B.A.A. 5k will be held on Sunday, April 14 at 8:00 am. Consider this a bit of an appetizer for the main event on Monday. Many elite runners who are not participating in the marathon will turn out for the 5k and it is generally an exciting race to watch. It starts and ends on Boylston Street, with a loop around the Public Garden and several stretches of Commonwealth Ave. in between.
The main event kicks off with the mobility impaired, wheelchair division, and handcycles starting in waves from 9:00 am to 9:22 am, followed by the elite women at 9:32. The elite men and the first wave of runners will be underway at 10:00, wave two starts at 10:20, and wave three starts at 10:40. All runners start in Hopkinton, and then make their way along routes 135, 16, and 30 through the following towns:
There are plenty of places to watch, some more exciting than others. For example, the women of Wellesley College are infamous for their cheering section, and Heartbreak Hill makes or breaks many runners’ races. By the time the runners get to Beacon Street, they are surrounded by a wall of people on either side. Trying to find a free space along the course is part of the fun of spectating.
As with many sporting events, those on the sidelines often celebrate the occasion with copious amounts of alcohol. The bars along the course, particularly near the finish line, will be jam-packed, so your best bet is to find a friend with an apartment along the course, or make friends with someone who has an apartment along the course. Of course, we here at Life Abr do not condone reckless public intoxication, and advise you to imbibe responsibly.
Bask in the spirit of the day. Cheer on some runners – many have their names on their jerseys, and will appreciate the shout-out, especially in the final miles. Look for the folks who are having a blast out there, like the people who run in Gumby costumes or Santa suits. Don’t jump out in front of anyone. And most of all, enjoy the experience!