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, and has been taking place in Boston for over 100 years.
Even if you're not among the 36,000+ official participants expected this year, 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.
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.
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.
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."
In the photo at the left, you can see previous Men's Elite Division winner, American Meb Keflezighi, at Mile 20 in Newton,
where he already had a huge lead. The next Men's Elite runners didn't appear until minutes later.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
During 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.
Best RV Camp Near the Boston Marathon - Where to Stay?
I will be traveling to Boston for the Marathon on next year, and I would like to travel by RV and camp for a few days with my young family . . .
Boston Marathon Race Day Temperature - What Should We Expect?
Is there a record of the high temperatures for each Boston Marathon? I'm planning to run in the Marathon - so I'd like to see the high temperature. . .
Boston Marathon Day Transportation Options: Cab or Subway from Back Bay to Brookline?
I will be getting off the Commuter Rail at Back Bay station on Boston Marathon Day. Will I be able to take a cab from there to . . .
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? I'm assuming you've thought of . . .