Boston Marathon

Boston's Famous Patriots' Day Race

Boston April Events
Meb Keflezighi, prior Boston Marathon winner of the Men's Elite division, and the first American to win the Marathon since 1983.  The photo shows him at roughly Mile 20, in Newton, where he already had a huge lead.  The next Men's Elite runners didn't appear until minutes later.

Each year, runners from all over the world compete in the famous Boston Marathon, held on the third Monday in April.

The Marathon is New England's most widely viewed sporting event.  

Even if you're not among the 36,000+ official participants expected for the 119th event in 2015, watching the runners is an awe-inspiring experience. 

Every one of the elite athletes from around the world who participates in this famous race is a winner.  

While some runners compete for the fastest finish times, many others run to raise money for charities, and still others simply want to do their personal best.

The Marathon is managed by the Boston Athletic Association, a non-profit group formed in 1887 to promote a healthy lifestyle through sports, especially running, and to manage athletic events.

Be warned: Boston hotels fill up quickly for Marathon Weekend.  To be sure of getting reservations, you should decide where to stay as far in advance as possible. 

Find out about different Boston hotel options for runners and watchers.

Boston Marathon
Kenya's Wesley Korir, Boston Marathon previous winner, near the beginning of Heartbreak Hill.   At this point, he was in fifth or sixth position and seemed significantly behind the leading runners, but we all noticed his amazing kick as he streaked by, seeming to barely touch the pavement
Winning time: 2 hours, 12 minutes, 41 seconds


The Marathon Route

The 26 mile, 385 yard race starts in the town of Hopkinton, located southwest of Boston.

The Marathon finishes across from the Boston Public Library and Old South Church in Boston's Copley Square, located in the Back Bay neighborhood near Downtown.

You can find a mile-by-mile discription of the route and a map here.


The Infamous Heartbreak Hill

Boston Marathon
Near the beginning of Heartbreak Hill in Newton
Unlike marathons held in flatter locations, hills characterize the Marathon route.  Runners particularly dread "Heartbreak Hill" located between Mile 20 and 21 in Newton.

Heartbreak Hill is the last of 4 hills in Newton which begin at Mile 16.  Heartbreak Hill is not the steepest or highest hill along the course - in fact, it makes only an 88 foot ascent over a .4 mile stretch near Boston College. 

However, runners consider Heartbreak Hill to be the most challenging stretch of the course because it occurs so far along in the race, at a point when their energy and stamina is almost depleted.

Questions about the Boston Marathon?  Check out what others have asked - or ask your own question.


Boston Marathon Race Times

Boston Marathon start times are staggered and are based on the participant's division. 

The Mobility Impaired Division starts at 9:00 am.  The Elite Women's Division starts at 9:32. Elite Men and Wave 1 start at 10:00, and Wave 2 starts at 10:30.  Please note that BAA labels these times as "tentative."

The fastest runners finish in just over 2 hours.  In other words, they reach the finish line at Copley Square shortly past noon.  However, the race continues well into the afternoon. 

In keeping with the democratic spirit, you'll see unofficial participants also running at least part of the race, even though this isn't technically allowed.  Some people do this just to see if they can.  Still others do it just for fun. 

One reason for the Boston Marathon's prestige is that it is the only U.S. marathon with qualifying time standards.  Participants must meet the qualifying times in order to participate.

Curious to know if you could qualify?  You can find the Marathon's qualifying times here.


Best Places to Watch the Boston Marathon

Depending on the weather, 500,000 or more people turn out to watch the race.  Boston Marathon weather varies dramatically based on the year - find out more here

Our experience is that any viewing location along the route will let you experience the excitement of the race. 

If you want to be near the finish line in Copley Square, be warned: crowds get huge and intense.  Because of the massive number of viewers packed into a relatively small space, you will have only a slim chance of actually seeing the winners cross the finish line.

Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon runners, fans,  and an unofficial participant

If you want to simply watch the runners, your best bet in the city is west of Kenmore Square. 

Lots of boisterous crowds gather around Boston University, but plenty of more mellow venues can be found around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir near Boston College.

We usually head for Commonwealth Ave (Route 3) in Newton, which offers plenty of good viewing spots.  That's the location shown in many of the photos on this page. 

Find out more about best viewing locations along the Boston Marathon Route.


Getting to the Marathon

If you're planning to watch the Boston Marathon anywhere near the finish line, do not try to drive into the city.  Many roads will be closed, traffic will be quite congested, and parking will be a nightmare.

Public transportation on the T (Boston's subway) is the only sane solution - but you'll need to do some careful planning.

The closest T station to the finish line is the Copley station on the Green Line - but it will be closed for the day. 

The other closest options to the finish line on the Green Line are Arlington (next to Boston Common, so walk west to reach Copley Square) and Hynes, down near Mass Ave.  To the south of Boylston, Green Line E/Prudential and Orange Line/Back Bay are good choices. 

A bit farther to the west, Green Line/Fenway is also a good choice.  If you want to be near Boston University - always a lively spot - take any of the Green Line B exits near BU, such as Blandford Street or BU East, BU Central, or BU West. 


Why is the Marathon Called the "Patriots' Day Race"?

The Boston Marathon has taken place every year since 1897.  Initially, runners ran on or just after Patriots' Day, a Massachusetts holiday that celebrates the battle on Lexington Green and Old North Bridge in Concord on April 19, 1775, marking the official beginning of the American Revolution

Here in Boston, many people continue to call the Marathon the "Patriots' Day Race."

In 1969, Patriots' Day started to be officially celebrated on the third Monday in April, and the Marathon shifted to this day as well.  

Because Patriots' Day is an official Massachusetts State holiday, most state, county, municipal offices, and schools are closed - which helps alleviate some of the commuter traffic into Boston and enables more people to watch the race.


Marathon Man Statue - John A. Kelley

The "Marathon Man" statue near the beginning of Heartbreak Hill, just north of Commonwealth Avenue at the Walnut Street intersection, commemorates Boston's legendary world-famous long distance runner, John A. Kelley, who ran 61 Boston Marathons before his death in 2004 at age 97. 

Kelley won the Boston Marathon in 1935 and 1946, and represented the U.S. at the Summer Olympics in 1936 and 1948. 

The statue depicts two smiling runners joining hands in a triumphant gesture.  On your left, as you face the statue: Johnny Kelley at age 27 after he won his first Boston Marathon.  On your right:  Kelley when he ran his last full Marathon at 84. 

At the base, a plaque explains that the statue represents "everyone who is young at heart."

Boston Marathon - statue of John Kelly
Marathon Man Statue - John A. Kelley


Insider Tips

  • If you want to be anywhere near the finish line, walk or take the T.
  • The Copley Square T station is closed on Boston Marathon Day as it is almost next to the finish line; you'll need to pick another station.
  • If you take the T, get off at a station on the side of Boylston Street where you want to watch the race.  You will not be allowed to cross Boylston Street, and underpasses will be jammed - so pick your station carefully.
  • Do not drive into Boston on Marathon Monday.  Streets are either gridlocked or closed.  Get an early start if you want to find a parking space in a T parking lot.
  • Boston hotels fill to capacity during the weekend before the Marathon, and hotel rates soar significantly higher - than usual.  To get the best deal, make your Boston hotel reservations as early as possible.  You can find Marathon hotel suggestions here, including names of hotels where you can watch the race from your room.
  • April weather in Boston is unpredictable . . . and so is Boston Marathon weather.  Neither icy rain, broiling heat, nor wind storms deter the Marathon runners - but they may greatly diminish your viewing comfort.  Dress in layers, and bring umbrellas and/or water bottles as common sense dictates.  If you're not 100% committed to watching the runners, you may want to have a "Plan B" - so try these bad-weather alternatives. 


217th Marathon - Boston Strong

Boston Strong - 217th Marathon Memorials - PhotosDuring the 217th Marathon, two bomb explosions near the finish line ripped through the heart of our most iconic Boston event. 

But despite this horrific event, Boston was not "terrorized," and we will continue to run and watch Marathon every year.

See our photos of the street Memorials - Boston Strong!


Questions about Hotels for the Boston Marathon?

We get lots of questions about the best Marathon hotels, best places to watch the runners, how to get to the race, and so forth - so check out our answers below.

Or use the following form to ask your own question.


Boston Marathon Questions

Have a question about the Boston Marathon, such as questions about hotels or where to stay? We'll do our best to answer!

When asking your question, please fill out the whole form, including lines for name and location that say "optional."

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Thanks for getting in touch, and enjoy your visit to Boston!


Other Questions about the Marathon

You can see other questions and answers here:

Boston Race Day Temperature 
Is there a record of the high temperatures for each Boston Marathon? I'd like to see what the high temperature was on each day the Boston Marathon has …

Boston Marathon Day Transportation Options: Cab or Subway available from Back Bay station to Brookline? 
I will be getting off the Commuter Rail at Back Bay station on Boston Marathon Day - Monday, April 16 around 1 pm. Will I be able to take a cab from …

How to Find a Photographer to Photograph a Boston Marathon Runner 
How can we book a photographer to take a picture of one of the runners? Thanks! ~ Bernie Hi Bernie - Great question! I'm assuming you've thought …

Best RV Camp near Boston Marathon - Where to Stay? 
I will be travelling to Boston for the Marathon on April 16th next year, and I would like to travel by RV and camp for a few days with my young family. …

Click here to write your own.

Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon runners


For more information about the Boston Marathon:  BAA Website; 617-236-1652


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