Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Countdown to Boston: A First-Timers Guide to the Boston Marathon

I was sick yesterday so I'm behind on writing a race report from this weekend's 10k. In the meantime, I figured I would re-post one of my helpful Boston posts from last year, with a few updates. If there's anything you think I missed or you have any questions, feel free to leave some comments!

We're now just over two weeks away from the 119th Boston Marathon so it seems like an appropriate time to start finalizing marathon weekend logistics. In this post, I'm going to give some tips for first timers (and folks who haven't done the race in a while) on everything except how to run the race itself.

The Expo

Phote credit: John Hancock
I think the Boston expo is easily one of the best--if not these best--marathon expos out there. If this is your first time running, you're probably going to want to allot yourself at least an hour to get your bib, wander through all the booths, and stock up on last minute race essentials and overpriced reasonably-priced souvenirs.

A note on the official shirt: Although you had to put down a size on your registration back in September, there's a t-shirt exchange. You can try on your shirt as soon as you get it and if it doesn't fit, swap it for one that does.

A note on the free posters: Each year at the expo, they hand out race posters courtesy of Adidas. The poster has the name of every marathon participant on it so it makes for a great, free souvenir. There's no reason not to take one.

A note on the now infamous jacket: Even if you've seen the official jacket online already and think it's the ugliest thing ever created don't particularly care for it, if this is your first Boston, you're probably going to want to buy it. My suggestion? Skip the terrible lines at the Adidas booth at the expo and head to Marathon Sports.  They've got a store on Boylston right by the finish but also have a number of other locations throughout the metro area so even if you're not staying near the finish, there's probably one near you.  If you sign up for their email newsletter, you can get a 15% coupon that works on the jacket too.(Sadly, they don't seem to be doing the monthly coupon anymore). Now you're skipping long lines and shopping local.

The Day Before

Everyone has their own pre-race rituals so somethings here may be totally irrelevant to you. Oh well!

A note on brunch/breakfast: Last year, the Sunday before the marathon fell on Easter which meant that reservations were a must for breakfast or brunch. This year, it's just a normal Sunday but with swarms of marathoners and their adoring fans in town, I still highly recommend reservations, even if you're just planning to eat at your hotel.

A note on church: This section may be irrelevant for many of you, but if you're someone who goes to church, even occasionally, the day before the race is a great day to go. Most churches in the Boston-area know what a big deal the marathon is and it's not uncommon to get a sermon or homily that's running-related. Many also do a special blessing of the runners. It's always a very cool experience!

Photo credit: BU News Service
A note on dinner: As with brunch, if you're not doing the B.A.A.'s pre-race dinner, you're going to want to have reservations (I'm assuming you already knew that). Many restaurants have special marathon menus with cleverly-named entrees or bottomless pasta. A couple quick recommendations based on past experience:

Dante (Cambridge) - Dante serves bottomless bowls of their homemade pastas on Sunday nights. The service here is great and it's never as hectic as some restaurants closer to marathon events.

DaVinci (Bay Village) - Close to the expo, DaVinci has a special pre-race menu with items like "finish line shrimp linguine" and  "Heart Breaking Chicken Pappardelle." 

Scollay Square (Beacon Hill) - If folks in your group are looking for more than red sauce Italian, Scollay Square is a decent choice. In years past they've had a special pre-marathon menu but their regular menu is wide-ranging with options that could please anyone.

Maggiano's (Back Bay) - Maggiano's may be a national chain but if you're looking for giant family-sized portions of pasta, it's a great place to go. They have plenty of spaces for larger parties too which makes it great if you're traveling in a group.

Papa Razzi (Multiple Locations) - A New England chain with a location on Newbury Street near the expo and finish, Papa Razzi serves up oak-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and other Italian fare. This year they're doing a special deal for marathoners: sign-up online and get $5 off your first visit, $10 off your second visit, and $15 off your third visit between now and May 15th.

The Morning Of

Photo credit: The Lakefront Trail
I'll keep this short: TAKE THE OFFICIAL TRANSPORTATION. Hopkinton is a small town with narrow streets. It gets extremely crowded on race day and if you're not on a B.A.A. vehicle (or a charity bus), there's a good chance you won't be able to get anywhere near the start.

A note on bag check: Yes, it's a bummer that you can no longer bring a bag with you to Hopkinton, but it's not the end of the world. If you're staying far from the finish and/or won't have family and/or friends meeting you after, you may want to check a bag. The question to ask yourself is whether the Common is more convenient than wherever else you could get a change of clothes. You will get an insulated waterproof poncho at the end which should buy you a little bit of time before really needing to change. Regardless of what you decided to do, I recommend dressing warmly in multiple layers for the wait in the Athlete's Village.

A note on lines in the Common:  If you're taking one of the buses from the Common, don't be alarmed if you see what look like massive lines when you show up. Each bus has its own line and they move surprisingly fast. The B.A.A. may not have been running buses for all 118 years of the marathon, but they've got plenty of practice. What you'll experience is a well-oiled machine.

A note on when to catch your bus: Get to the Common at your designated time. Buses get backed up as you approach Hopkinton and you don't want to miss being called to your wave because you took a later bus. The Athlete's Village is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the start and you're probably going to want to use the bathroom too. Allow yourself plenty of time.

Okay, those are my tips for now. I'll be back with a post on course strategy as we get closer to the race.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome tips!! Can't wait for your tips on race strategy ;)