Giving You the Inside Track to the Marathon in Boston
Congratulations on arriving in Boston to participate in one of the world's most prestigious marathons! This race is the event of a lifetime—something you'll remember for the rest of your days.
The race brought you here, but allow Boston's attractions to wow and awe you. Here you'll find the best seafood of your life, history stretching back to the earliest days of our nation, and entertainment around every corner. Do some shopping at Faneuil Hall Marketplace or the Prudential Center, walk the inspiring Freedom Trail, visit the legendary Mike's Pastries or Carmelina's Italian restaurant, ride a ferry, swan, or duck boat in one of the many stunning parks, check out world-class museums, and more!
There are excellent food, lodging and attractions for every type of runner. To help you experience the best that Boston has to offer—with the least amount of stress and strain—we've called upon our Racertrips™ Boston Ambassadors to answer your marathon FAQs and to recommend their favorite sites, their top restaurants and their go-to hotel accommodations.
This is your custom-tailored Marathon Travel Guide for Boston. Your Racecation™ Starts Here.
And come race day, best of luck to you! We'll be out there rooting for you!
Boston Marathon FAQs
The more you know about the race ahead of time, the more you can just focus on your running on race day. These are the things our Boston Racertrips Ambassadors thought you should know...
- Are there crowds the entire way? No. If the weather is really bad like 2018 you can expect very light crowds especially in Hopkinton and Ashland.
- Is it mostly downhill until Newton? No. "When I first ran in 2003 I was shocked to see a hill just after the Welcome to
Framingham sign. It's not a huge hill, but when you are not expecting a hill for many more miles it can make you question what else you do not know about or are prepared for." - RacerTrips Ambassador Andrew.
- The weather during the Boston Marathon varies widely. In 2012, runners experienced high humidity and temperatures close to 90 degrees, while 2018 brought rain and wind with temperatures in the high 30s! When you're packing for your trip, include a wide range of clothing to accommodate unpredictable New England weather.
- The porta potty lines can take 45 minutes to get through, so make this a priority.
- The Boston Marathon is extremely well run. Beverages and snacks are provided at the start so runners can remain fueled and hydrated while waiting for their wave to begin. Water, Gatorade and CLIF Energy Gels are provided almost every mile along the course. Medical tents are prevalent as well.
- As long as you read the information you receive with your bib number, you should be in good shape. The Boston Athletic Association is great about making sure they have all questions answered.
- Though crowded from start to finish, the expo runs smoothly and attracts top vendors. The expo is open to the public, so bring your whole group and plan to stay for several hours. That being said, the expo is not ideal for young children or strollers because of the crowds.
- Be sure to book travel, lodging and reservations early. The Boston Marathon is a top—if not THE top—bucket list marathon for a reason. Some hotels and Airbnb's fill a full year in advance. To ensure the best options, try booking before registration begins in September.
- Boston's metro system (also known as the "T") by MBTA is extensive and can get you just about anywhere. The "T" is easily accessible and better than parking in most areas when navigating Boston.
- Consider buying a CharlieTicket for public transportation once you arrive in Boston. These are paper cards onto which you can download transportation money, including one-day and seven-day passes that are valid for unlimited travel on the MBTA Local Bus, subway, Commuter Rail Zone 1A, and Charlestown Ferry. You can buy a CharlieTicket in any subway station.
- The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots' Day every year, a state holiday in Massachusetts and Maine. 'Marathon Monday' has become the main event of this three-day weekend, especially for those in Boston. The crowds are fantastic, energetic and committed to keeping you pumped up. From the Scream Tunnel in Wellesley (Mile 13) to the local superfans at Heartbreak Hill Running Company (Mile 20), you won't be bored along the course.
- How did Heartbreak Hill get its name? Heartbreak Hill is considered the toughest part of the course. After several hilly miles, runners come to Heartbreak Hill at Mile 20.
- If you are running the half marathon, you need to finish in 3 hours. If you are running the 10k, it's 2 hours. And the 5k is 1 hour. There is water throughout the course and it's easy to get to start line if you leave with a good amount of time. Our Ambassadors love running Boston and so will you!
If you're flying into Boston, you'll be landing at Boston Logan International Aiport, which has several excellent transportation options.
The comfortable "Logan Express" offers non-stop bus service from the airport to the Back Bay neighborhood in downtown Boston (its only stop downtown). This is probably the easiest way to get to the Copley Square area (near the race finish line). The cost is $7.50 one way (or $3 with an MBTA pass), and the shuttle picks up from Terminals A, B, C and E at the Arrivals level. Stops in Boston include Copley Square (St. James Avenue) and Hynes Convention Center (900 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02115).
Returning to the airport, you can pick up the shuttle at Hynes Convention Center and the Copley T Station (Boylston Street and Darthmouth Street near the Boston Public Library).
You can also use the "T" to get to your hotel from the airport. If you want to go to the Copley Square area (the area near the finish line of the race) or Back Bay, follow these steps:
- At all terminals, board the free Massport Shuttle Buses (Route 22, 33, or 55 to "MBTA Blue Line"). These will take you to the Blue Line station.
- Take the Blue Line.
- At State Street Station, transfer to the Orange Line.
- Exit at the Back Bay Station.
- Walk the rest of the distance to your hotel.
If you're near Boston Common, you'll do a bus+subway combo. First, take the Silver Line SL1. This is a free rapid bus service to South Station, where you can transfer to the Red Line Subway for free. Take the Red Line to Park Street Station to exit at Boston Common.
If you'll be using public transportation for more than one day on your trip, consider buying the seven-day LinkPass, which gives you unlimited travel on all subway lines, local buses, Commuter Rail Zone 1A lines, and Inner Harbor Ferries. Start by buying a CharlieTicket at the self-serve ticket machines available in the airport terminals (or at any Boston subway station). Then you can add value to the ticket or purchase the one-day or seven-day passes.
To get more detailed information, check out the airport's transportation website.
By Charter Bus or Limo
Review this list, compiled by Boston Logan International Airport, of shuttle and limo companies whom you can call ahead of time to organize a pickup for yourself or a large group.
Lyft and Uber just recently began service to and from Boston Logan, and as with many airports, they both have designated locations where they can pick up passengers. Exit on the Arrivals floor, request your ride on the app, and then go to the AppRide/TNC pickup lot.
You can find a taxi on each terminal on the Arrivals level, curbside.
Getting to and from Logan Airport by water shuttle or water taxi is convenient and scenic, and there's year-round service. From the airport, you can take scheduled and on-call vessels to downtown Boston, as well as popular waterfront destinations in Inner Harbor, Hingham and Hull on the South Shore. If you're staying near Copley Square, this might not be as convenient as taking the "T," but you'll get to see the Aquarium, the North End and the Financial District.
To take a water shuttle, head to the Logan Dock at the airport. Read more about it here.
Heartbreak Hill Running CompanyThis local favorite has 3 convenient locations and offers group runs in the days before and after the race. Locally owned and operated, the staff and regulars at Heartbreak are excited to welcome you to Boston and give you the inside scoop on whatever you need. The Newton location is at Mile 20 on the marathon course.
- Cambridge: 294 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA, 02139
- Newton: 638 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton MA, 02459
- Boston: 652 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118
Marathon SportsWith the Boston location just yards from the finish line, Marathon Sports is buzzing with marathon energy.
- Boston: 671 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
- Cambridge: 1654 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
- Brookline: 1638 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02445
If at all possible, we recommend going early on Friday to avoid the crowds, to avoid traffic, to save your legs and to get the best selection of goods from the vendors.
- John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center | Hynes Convention Center
(Just steps from the finish line!)
- Map it! 900 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02115
- Friday, April 12, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Saturday, April 13, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Sunday, April 14, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
How to Get There — Avoid Driving
Due to the number of people attending the expo and the difficulty and expense of parking in downtown Boston, you should avoid driving if at all possible. If you must drive, the parking garage at the Prudential Center is probably your best bet for parking. The Prudential Center Garage has entrances on Huntington Avenue, Belvidere Street, East Ring Road, Dalton Street, Exeter Street and from the Mass Pike. If you put "Prudential Center" into your GPS, you're sure to find one of the entrances.
The "T" (metro)
If you'd like to save energy and avoid traffic, the "T" is the way to go. The convention center has its own stop on the Green Line. Take Green Line trains "B", "C" or "D" directly to the Hynes Convention Center stop.
How to Get There — By Cab, Lyft/Uber
Uber, Lyft, and cabs are a relatively inexpensive option for getting to the expo. Expect traffic coming and going if you plan to use a ride service.
How to Get There — Bluebikes
If you aren't worried about expending energy, Boston has Bluebikes located throughout the city and surrounding towns, with five stations within a few blocks of the convention center.
Walking is also an option. Boston is a walkable city and the Hynes Convention Center is centrally located. If you're staying in Boston Proper, you're probably within 1.5 miles of the convention center.
The Boston Marathon runs in a line, west to east, starting 26.2 miles outside of downtown in the town of Hopkinton.
While not notoriously rugged, there are a few moderately hilly parts on an overall mostly-flat course. That is, until you get to the Newton Hills—four impressively big hills starting at Mile 17, the most challenging of which is aptly named "Heartbreak Hill."
After winding through Boston's most charming neighborhoods during the final stretch, the marathon concludes in the heart of downtown in Copley Square.
Most racers will be staying downtown and need to get 26 miles outside the city to the starting line in Hopkinton, MA. Boston is a wonderfully accessible (and busy!) city, so we recommend utilizing hotel shuttles and public transportation on race morning, rather than trying to drive yourself anywhere.
Here's what our Racertrips Ambassadors recommend:
The City of Boston does not guarantee any method of transportation to the starting line, except for the official shuttle buses. If you're staying downtown Boston, you will want to catch the official B.A.A. shuttle buses by going to Charles Street between the Public Garden and Boston Common. The shuttles begin loading at 6 am on race morning, and bus loading is done according to the wave you've been assigned to. The shuttles will take racers to the Athletes' Village in Hopkinton.
RacerTrips Ambassador Andrew comments, "Take the buses to Hopkinton. Don't even think about driving! Whatever you bring to Hopkinton with you either you carry back to Boston or it gets left behind. The BAA no longer takes runner's drop bags back to Boston. It's a major pain in the butt!"
Note: These shuttles are for race participants only—no friends or family.
This might be the most convenient way to get to the starting line in the morning if you are staying close enough to justify the cost. Instead of booking a car the second you need it, however, make sure to do an early booking on your Lyft or Uber app. This way, you can ensure you will have a ride in the morning.
If you need to drive to the starting line, note that parking in Hopkinton is extremely limited. The roads in Hopkinton will close at 7 am, and there is no street parking. Limited parking for athletes only is available at the South Street parking lot (52 South Street, Hopkinton, MA), and you can take a shuttle from there to the Athletes' Village. On race morning, shuttle buses will run about every 10 minutes from 6 am to 11 am.
There is parking for volunteers and spectators (not racers) at Hopkinton State Park on Route 85, and there is a shuttle service to a location near the starting line. Racers: If you take the shuttle service from here, it does not stop at the Athletes' Village. You'll have to walk 1 mile from the drop-off point to the Village.
By "T" (Metro)
While the MBTA provides access to much of the marathon course, runners are advised to take the "T" to the official shuttle bus pick-up area and then take the shuttle buses to the starting line. See more at the MBTA's transportation tips site.
Want more details? Read the Boston Marathon's official transportation tips.
Traveling with family and friends who want to cheer you on? Here are our Racertrips Ambassadors' tips for the best places to spectate on race day.
- Tell your runners ahead of time where you'll be watching for them, such as near major intersections or mile markers, and on which side of the street you'll be standing.
- If you want to meet up with your runner right after the race, take into consideration the time it will take to get back to the Family Meetup Area when you're deciding how far out to go.
NOT Miles 1-5
The excitement of the beginning of the race means that you might have to contend with crowds so thick that you won't be able to see your supporters. Racertrips Ambassador Andrew recommends waiting till at least Mile 10 to cheer on your runners.
Mile 8 - Natick
Racertrips Ambassador Brianna suggests giving runners some love earlier in the race, instead of holding out until the last 6 miles. There is a decent little cheer crew that hangs out in Natick, so you'll be in good company.
Miles 17 & 18 - Newton Hills
Why does Racertrips Ambassador Andrew like Newton Hills? Easy! Food vendors! What better way to pass the time waiting for your runner than snacking on a tasty local specialty.
Mile 19.5 - The Reservoir
Racertrips™ Ambassador Kristen loves the Boston College area near the Reservoir. At the Reservoir, racers bear right at Chestnut Hill Avenue to Beacon Street right by Boston College. Easy access by the "T" on the Green Line. There's plenty of space for spectators and great motivation for runners!
Miles 20.8 - Heartbreak Hill
Perhaps the most iconic section of the Boston Marathon is Heartbreak Hill in Newton. Heartbreak Hill peaks at mile 20.8 and is the perfect spot to give your runner a little extra support. There are several ways to reach Heartbreak Hill. By public transit, take the Green Line's "B" train outbound to the Boston College stop. From here, you will need to walk about three-quarters of a mile along the course until you reach the top of Heartbreak Hill. The Green Line is notoriously slow, so allow for extra time.
Racertrips™ Ambassador Whitney likes that once you cheer on your runner here, you may have time to take the Green Line back toward the finish line. It will depend on your runner's pace. Riding to Kenmore Station will allow you to catch your runner on Commonwealth Avenue, about a mile from the finish. Riding one more stop to Hynes will allow you to watch your runner make the final turn onto Boylston Street, where they will be within sight of the finish line.
Another option for reaching Heartbreak Hill is by bike. Boston is a very bike friendly city with several options for bike rentals. Due to crowding, especially near the finish line, bikes may not be allowed in all areas. Be sure to bring a lock in the event you need to leave your bike unattended.
Racertrips Ambassador Andrew warns, though, that everyone loves Heartbreak Hill, and you might be in a crowd 10-people thick while you cheer on your runner.
Mile 24 - Coolidge Corner in Brookline
Racertrips™ Ambassador Michael tells us, "My favorite spot to watch the Boston Marathon is in Coolidge Corner in Brookline. Coolidge Corner is approximately 2 miles from the finish line and is a great vantage point to watch runners as they begin their descent towards Copley Square. Without the hustle and bustle of the finish line, you can access the same high-energy vibes that you would closer to Copley. Typically, this area isn't too crowded with spectators so you should be able to get a spot up against the fencing without a problem.
"Additionally, there are plenty of restaurants, stores and coffee shops in the area should you need to hydrate, caffeinate, or nosh on some food while you wait for your loved one to make their way into town. I've watched the Boston Marathon religiously for the last seven years and I always make sure to get a spot in Coolidge Corner to watch the race."
Mile 25 - Fenway Park and Kenmore Square
Racertrips™ Ambassador Kristen raves, "Great place for spectators! Easy access by public transportation." There is a Red Sox game the same day as the Marathon every year, so Racertrips™ Ambassador Brianna agrees that joining the crowds spilling out of the stadium on this day make for a chaotic and crowded but enthusiastic and worthwhile experience.
Mile 25.2 - Beacon Hill (before Commonwealth Ave.)
If you prefer to stay in one spot to watch all the athletes, Racertrips™ Ambassador Whitney recommends that you consider Beacon Street just before the turn onto Commonwealth Avenue. This is approximately mile 25.2 on the course and is a great spot to watch the elites jockey toward the finish. Because the runners have thinned out a bit by this point, it's also a great place to easily spot your runner in the crowd. This area is perfect because it's easily accessible and close to the finish without being as crowded as the finish line. The best spot to watch is just before the corner on the runner's left.
Putting 560 Commonwealth Avenue into your GPS gives you a good place to start. Depending on which direction you're coming from, the race course may prevent you from getting to this side of the street. Make sure to get yourself north of Commonwealth Avenue as early as possible.
If you end up stuck on the south side of Commonwealth Avenue, your best bet is to go underground. The Kenmore "T" station has entrances and exits on both sides of the street. Simply enter the station, find the exit opposite of where you entered, and follow the exit to the correct side of Commonwealth Avenue.
If taking public transit, take any Green Line train except the "E" train to Kenmore, and exit the station on the north side (away from Fenway).
Mile 26.2 - Copley Square
Racertrips™ Ambassador Kristen goes against the gain and thinks that Copley Square at the end of the race is worth the crowds. See if you agree! Fun for spectators with a lively atmosphere.
A Note About the Start and Finish Lines
You may be surprised to learn that the starting line and the finishing line are not at the top of our list of recommended places to cheer on your runner. Between the number of runners (30,000+) and the number of spectators, both areas are extremely crowded. The chances of you seeing your runner and them seeing you are slim. Plus, at the starting line, everyone is pumped and full of excitement. Your runners won't need fan support like they will farther along in the race—after Mile 20 for sure. And because of increased security since 2013, getting around near the finish line, can be difficult and can take a lot of time.
Boston is transformed by hustle and bustle race weekend, so read these tips to help you get around and be the best cheerleader you can be!
- Due to increased security since 2013, getting around along the Boston Marathon route, especially near the finish line, can be difficult. Leave yourself plenty of time and pack lightly so that you can easily pass through checkpoints. The Boston Marathon starts in waves, which means your runner may start anytime between 9:02 and 11:15 AM. Make sure you know when your runner will be starting so you can plan where and when you will watch accordingly. The B.A.A. website can provide text and online tracking of athletes every 5 kilometers.
- The MBTA offers two all-day ride passes for marathon spectators. Depending on how much you'll be on the move on marathon day, these could be a good value for you. Learn more about the MBTA ride passes.
- Boston is a very bike friendly city with several options for bike rentals. Due to crowding, especially near the finish line, bikes may not be allowed in all areas. Be sure to bring a lock in the event you need to leave your bike unattended.
Because you likely won't see your runner cross the finish line and they'll be stuck on the other side of a barricade for a good distance, you'll want to set a meetup up spot beforehand.
The Boston Marathon provides an official runner reunite area after the finish line, about a block away. (The location is typically in your runner's information packet). The area is marked off with every letter of the alphabet, so in theory, if your last name begins with an "M," you meet near the "M" sign. However, you've just run 26.2 miles. You're mostly likely tired, sore, stiff and any number of things and may not want to walk past the first half of the alphabet. We recommend picking a letter toward the beginning of the alphabet and meeting your friends and family there.
Many runners and their supporters also choose to designate a nearby restaurant as their meeting place. There you'll have more space and (maybe) a quieter place to celebrate together away from the crowds.
Meet our Boston Ambassadors
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