Thursday, April 17, 2008

Boston Marathon Monday Preview: II. For Spectators

The 112th Boston Marathon will be run on Monday, April 21st -- Patriot's Day. Yesterday I gave a runner's perspective of the race. Tomorrow will be a preview of the U.S. Olympics Team Time Trials -- Women's Marathon -- on Sunday, April 20th.

The Boston Marathon usually draws a crowd of between 500,000 and 1 million people, which means that there are people lined up (several deep) along virtually the entire route. Race organizers claim it to be the largest attendance for any annual sporting event. Young children often enjoy the event, even if they don't quite understand it yet.

Hey, Old Timers -- Here Are Recent Changes to the Event:
  1. Main race now starts at 10:00 am (not noon)!
  2. Wheelchair Start: 35 minutes earlier than the main field (i.e., 9:25 am)
  3. Elite Women's Start: 25 minutes earlier than the main field (i.e., 9:35 am)
  4. Main field broken into two start times:
    • Elite Men + main field wave 1 at 10:00am
    • Main field wave 2 at 10:30 am

Where is the best place to view the race?

The course passes through Brighton for miles 21.4 (BC Green Line T Station) to 22.3 (Cleveland Circle). Both of those are popular places to view the race. Cleveland Circle has occasionally witnessed wheelchair crashes when crossing the train tracks -- unless they need medical attention, please do not assist the wheelchair athletes back onto their chairs, or else they will be disqualified!

Another great place to watch is at the beginning of Heartbreak Hill in Newton -- approximately mile 20.2 on the course -- at the corner of Comm. Ave and Grant Ave (500 Commonwealth Ave, Newton). You'll see the wheelchair racers making their move and breaking free from each other as they go up the hill. Lots of runners will need cheers to carry on up the hill.

Course map can be found here (PDF).

Good viewing places further from Brighton include:
  • Starting line (Hopkinton), where the runners are crowded together and wheelchairs have been known to collide. Just don't try to drive anywhere near to Hopkinton... it's a total zoo.
  • Natick town center (mile 10.1); the runners are not too tired yet.
  • Wellesley college, where the Wellesley women scream like girls (mile 12.2 or so), especially if a cute runner jumps out into the lead -- as Brad Pitt look-alike Josh Cox did in 2001.
  • Heartbreak Hill, the last of the Four Hills of Newton (begins at mile 20.3)
  • Anywhere from Kenmore Square (mile 25.2) to the finish at Copley, although expect it to be very crowded
Note that the course will be completely closed off at least a few minutes before the first competitors (wheelchairs) arrive (around 10:30 am), and will stay closed to vehicular traffic until runners on a six-hour pace pass through (around 3:30 pm for wave 2).

When will the athletes be arriving in Brighton?

The 35-K (21.75 mile) mark is near the intersection of Comm Ave and Wade Street / Foster Street, i.e., halfway between the BC T station and Cleveland Circle.

Here are expected arrival times for the lead competitors in each category:


and the last official competitors to come through should be at 3:29 pm (who started at 10:30 am and are on a pace of 13:45/mi to finish in exactly six hours).

The biggest pack of runners will be coming through 12:30 - 2:00 pm.

Everything is approximately 10 minutes earlier at the beginning of Heartbreak Hill (20.2 mile mark).

What could I do to help out runners?

Bananas, cut in half, are perfect for the runners right after they deplete their glycogen stores and hit the wall (mile 20). Petroleum jelly (for chafing) is a popular handout, but wear latex gloves.

Oh, and cheer, too. A lot.

Image by Paul Keleher under Creative Commons license.

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