• Spectator Tips for the Boston Marathon

    April 13, 2011

    If you’re a long-time reader of Carrots ‘N’ Cake, you know that Marathon Monday is my favorite day of the whole year. It’s really the best day to be in Boston, especially if you live here year-round.


    In the winter, Boston can be a miserable place as you’ve seen on CNC many, many, many times in the past. So, in my mind, a random day off in the middle of April, when the weather is finally getting warm, is the official end of winter and start of spring for me. I swear everyone in Boston is in a good mood on marathon day!

    One of the things that makes the Boston Marathon so special for me is the energy of the day. I’ve never run the Boston Marathon, but I’ve spectated for 8 years in a row now. The enthusiasm and support provided by the crowds is amazing— it’s like no other race I’ve attended.


    Even though I’ve been on both sides of the fence for a marathon, I have to say that I’m a much better spectator than a marathoner. Here are my tips for watching the Boston Marathon.

    Please note: I’ve only ever watched the marathon in the city, so I’m not sure what happens out in Hopkinton (aka the start of the race) and along the rest of the marathon route. These tips mostly apply to spectating from Boston College through Brookline to the finish line in Copley Square.

    Rise & Shine

    The Boston Marathon doesn’t officially start until 9:00 AM, but if you’re going to spectate, you need to get an early start. The roads close in Hopkinton at 7:00 AM, Newton at 9:00 AM, and Brookline at 9:30 AM. So, if you plan to drive into the city, you need to make sure you plan accordingly. Plus, the elite runners start finishing a little before noon, so if you want a good spot to cheer on the runners, be sure to get there early!


    Getting Around

    Driving & Parking

    In general, driving and parking in Boston is a pain in the butt, so it’s even more difficult on Marathon Monday. Unless you know someone, who lives within walking distance of the race route and has somewhere for you to park, it’ll be tough to find a parking spot. Since it’s Patriot’s Day, metered spots on the street are free, but they’ll be hard to come by. The Boston Marathon website mentions the Garage @ 100 Clarendon as a parking option. It’s located one block from the finish line, but get there early. It will fill up!

    Also important to note if you drive: Even if you find a parking spot downtown near the finish line, you might not be able to leave until almost all of the runners have finished the marathon! As I mentioned above, there are a lot of race day road closures, so the majority of the streets in Back Bay are closed.

    Public Transportation

    Public transportation is a much better option for getting around on race day. The MBTA actually “enhances” service on Marathon Monday to accommodate all of the travelers, so getting to the marathon via public transportation shouldn’t be a problem.

    • Blue, Orange, Red and Green line service will operate on its regular weekday schedule with extra service before and after the marathon.
    • Commuter rail trains will operate on its regular weekday schedule.
    • All buses and trackless trolleys will operate on a Saturday schedule.

    If you’re heading to the finish line, just a heads up that Copley Station will be closed all day. However, you can take the Green Line to Hynes Convention Center or Arlington and walk to the finish.

    For more information about pre-marathon and race day public transportation, check out this post from the MBTA.


    Where to Watch

    There’s really not a bad place on the Boston Marathon course to watch as a spectator. Typically, I pick one spot and stay there for the entire day, which is why it’s so important for me to select the perfect spectating location.


    I know some people try to move along the route to see their loved ones on the course at multiples points. But, to me, this seems like a lot of work because your only real option for getting to different spots is walking (or biking). Parking is a nightmare, and when the race is in progress, you can walk faster than the Green Line. And, of course, there is no guarantee you’ll see the person you are looking for. I’d much rather stay put and keep my eyes peeled for certain runners. (Ok, the truth is that I’m lazy and just want to drink beer.)

    I’ve always watched the marathon in Newton or Brookline, so these are the areas that I recommend for spectating:

    • Heartbreak Hill: Great location to watch and cheer. Falls between Mile 20-21. Inspiring and not very crowded.
    • Boston College: Upbeat. Lots of enthusiastic BC students. Not very crowded.
    • Washington Square: Where I watched last year. Good crowds, but not overwhelming.
    • Coolidge Corner: Fun and lively! Lots of energy. Pretty crowded.
    • Boylston: Near the finish (Mass Ave. to Boylston). Huge crowds, so it’s often tough to see runners.
    • Copley Square: Finish line! Very exciting! Massive crowds of people.


    My new favorite place to watch the marathon is American Craft on Beacon Street. I almost feel like it’s a hidden gem on marathon day.

    Last year, Mal and I woke up bright and early to drive to American Craft. We had no problem finding a parking spot right on Beacon Street. We also scored a table on the patio! Mal and I had a great time relaxing, spectating, and sipping beers outside in the sunshine.


    American Craft is located on the opposite side of the street as the marathon, so it wasn’t super crowded, but we could easily see the runners and cross over to get a closer look.

    What to Wear

    The weather on Marathon Monday is always unpredictable. I remember years when I wore a tank top and other years when I sported my winter coat. You never know what to expect!

    My best advice is to dress in layers. I spectate all day long, so the weather changes quite a bit from morning to late afternoon. I usually wear multiple layers (and sunblock!) and bring a big purse/bag to carry the layers that I remove throughout the day.


    Where to Grab Lunch (or a Beer)

    There are lots of great places to grab lunch or a beer during or after the marathon!

    All of the restaurants listed below will be packed on Marathon Monday, but if you get there early, you can probably snag at spot. A number of these establishments open early to accommodate early bird spectators. Cambridge, 1. and Audobon Circle, for instance, open at 9:00 AM.


    For more information about any of these restaurants, click the corresponding link for my review and/or the business website.


    I hope my post helps you have the best Marathon Monday ever! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do my best to answer them! It’s my favorite day of the year after all!

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    { 103 comments… read them below or add one }

    Chicago Cuisine Critique April 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    This is one of the major things I miss about Boston. Enjoy Marathon Monday. :)


    Kelley April 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Awe, this post made me so happy! I ran the Boston Marathon last year, and it was awesome! Good luck to all the runners on Monday!


    Justeen @ Blissful Baking April 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    You are a pro spectator! The Boston Marathon looks like so much fun – I definitely want to spectate one day!


    The Teenage Taste April 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I’ve never watched a marathon before, but now I want to! I have watched a 10K before and it was so fun! I hope to run one one day! 😀


    Samantha @ Mama Notes April 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Do you know anything about if it is on TV?


    Kate (What Kate is Cooking) April 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I would love to spectate a big marathon- especially Boston! I like to stick around after my races and cheer on everyone else- especially if I’m doing a half and can watch the full marathoners finish!


    Mary (Sisters Running the Kitchen) April 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    thanks for the helpful information!! i’m running in it and i can’t wait!!!!!!!


    Emily @ Savory and Savage April 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Have fun watching the marathon!

    I watched it every year when I lived in Boston :-)


    Pure2Raw Twins April 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Tina thank you thank you so much for posting this! As we are coming to Boston for the marathon weekend for the fist time! We are excited too see all the runners :)


    Molly April 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    I just want to visit Boston any day of the year!
    Red Sox > Yankees if anyone’s keeping track.


    Hilary April 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Wish I could be there! So cool to be a part of it all!


    Heather @ Dietitian on the Run April 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    What a helpful post!! I hope to be *running* this next year, but either way I’m bookmarking this as a go-to for planning :)


    Carol April 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Just wondering…why haven’t you run this race?
    Hope you have a great time watching!


    Erin April 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    As a Boston College student, I feel I should warn spectators to distance themselves from the BC area on Marathon Monday if they’ll feel uncomfortable around hundreds of drunk college students. Marathon Monday is the biggest drinking party day of the year at this school and a lot of times putting drunk kids in crowds can be disasterous.


    tiffinie April 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    thank you so much for the tips!! My husband is running the marathon, so I will be spectating by my lonesome from out of town!! Hopefully I can not look too much like a tourist! :)


    Emily @ Comfortable Home Life April 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Ohh I am so jealous! Adopt me so I can spectate too?


    Heidi April 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    marathon monday was always my favorite day of the year when i was in college :) Love the tips!


    Heidi April 13, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    haha, that’s such a cute picture of you and your husband…but there’s a disapproving photobomber in the background!


    Laura (Starloz) April 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    oh boy, what a day


    Ali @SeeAliEatSeeAliRun April 14, 2011 at 12:47 am

    I will be spectating cheering on my boyfriend in his first BM-we are flying all the way from Montana! I want to see him at 2 places during the run-where would you suggest based on easiest for me to get to and navigate/places he might need me during the run?? We won’t have a car!


    Steph April 14, 2011 at 1:04 am

    It was one year ago when I ran Boston and my frown Danielle told me about your blog!!! We are both running it again! I am considering wearing a spider girl costume so look for that!!!


    Amy April 14, 2011 at 1:57 am

    Ohh my goodness. Yesterday I was telling my boyfriend about how “this blog I read…” (which is how a lot of sentences start) about American Craft and how if we went early we might be able to snag a patio seat! So funny how you did a post on this today!


    Katherine: Unemployed April 14, 2011 at 6:45 am

    the best spectators are runners! they really know what to say/do!


    Emma (Namaste Everyday) April 14, 2011 at 6:59 am

    sounds like such a fun day! I’ve never really even thought about spectating a race if I don’t know anyone running, but it seems like a fun, free, weekend (or Monday) activity!


    Katie April 14, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Well If I was attending, I would know EXACTLY what to do now! Great post with good info!

    I so wish I lived close so I could go to your book signing!!!!!!! So happy for you!!!


    Nicole @ Fresh & Fit April 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for the tips! My good friend is running and I haven’t decided if I’m going to go in yet, these tips are definitely useful if I do!


    Rachael April 14, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Yay I am so excited for it too! Thanks for the awesome tips, this will be my husband and I’s first time going so it is great to know what to expect! :)


    Sarah April 14, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Great post! Where are you going to be watching from this year? If you are near the finish line you will have to text/tweet me!


    Tina April 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

    @Sarah: I’m not going this year. :(


    Christina April 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I went to Boston College, so I always watched there! If you’re not a college student though, I’d avoid that area. It’s the biggest drinking holiday at BC, so some students aren’t always entirely respectful.
    The past two years I watched after the Sox game, and at Boylston St. — I really don’t think there’s a bad place to watch!

    Have you ever watched from the finish? My sister is running and really wants us to see her finish. I know it’s super crowded, so I’m just wondering if you had any advice on what time to get there in the morning?

    ps, I remember you reading “The Long Run” from a little while ago. Matt Long is doing a book signing tomorrow at 6pm at the Runners World Booth at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo, in case you’re interested!


    Tina April 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

    @Christina: No, I’ve only ever watch from Newton or Brookline. I’d get there as early as possible. Maybe 9:00? Or even earlier! Thanks for letting me know about the book signing! :)


    Kathleen @ Kat's Health Corner April 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

    That is so cool!!! 😀


    AJ April 14, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Marathon Monday is one of the best days in Boston! Mine starts out with waking up like it’s a regular work day, heading right to the Cask N’ Flagon (if you’re not there by 9 AM – forget about it!) then to the Red Sox game. As the game ends the whole crowd makes its way to watch the runners stream into Kenmore Square. There is just something electric about the city that day…maybe, it’s the mix of drunk spectators and people delirious from running 26.2 miles.


    lea @ healthy coconut April 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

    All the pictures of Boston and the marathon have me missing visiting Boston. I love all the characters of the building and all the restaurants you can eat at while walking around…something that is hard to find here in SoCal.


    Meghan @ StruggleMuffins April 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I love this! So informative! I used to live down the street from Coolidge Corner and used to love watching the marathon from there. Audobon circle is also a great spot, and you can’t go wrong with the food at Audobon or Elephant Walk.


    Aron April 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I will be there running my first Boston this year and this post got me SO excited!!! :) thank you for spectating!! I will be passing this on to the husband as well 😉


    Kendall April 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

    I’m starting a cleanse marathon monday…the runners will inspire me to stick with it! For parking- you can park in the financial district and just walk to the race area (not far at all). The Garage At Post Ofiice Square (under the park) has 6 levels. http://www.posquare.com. Good luck runners!!!


    Lindsey @ Eat, Read, Run April 15, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I am SOOOOOO EXCITED to run BOSTON!! I just forwarded this post to my friend’s sister who is coming to spectate. I think she will find it very helpful and hopefully we can spot her somehow!!


    Ibelis April 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    I live in Ashland right off 135 arounf mile 4. Ive watched it every year on the corner. Its amazing because everyone is still looking great. Its like a sea of people coming at you there are absolutely no spaces between runners.


    Bridgid Listowel February 27, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I’m spectating New Orleans Rock N Roll this weekend. I spectated Austin Livestrong last weekend. I’m usually running these events but a hip stress fracture left me to spectating. I would love to watch Boston, and someday run!


    Maria Glazener April 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Glad I stumbled upon your blog. We are coming to Boston for the second time to see my husband run on Monday. Last year we had local friends drive us around and got to see my husband 3 times! this year my daughter and I are on our own! We will be in the city, so I am hoping to try out your spots! Thanks!


    Tina April 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Enjoy your time in Beantown! :)


    Silke April 15, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    Great tips, thank you. We are going to watch our first Boston Marathon tomorrow. :)


    Heather September 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I wanted to thank you for this post. I am going to watch my husband run the 2013 Boston Marathon (a first for both of us) and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to rent a car to get to the beginning and then the end. But now I know a few key places to “hunker down” to catch at least one pic of him running and bonus to the beer locations. Thank you! Thank you!
    – A Kansas gal


    erin April 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Great advice! I’m working on trying to figure out where my family should go on Monday so they can spot me- this gives me some more options to investigate.


    Tania January 3, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    Thank our for this write up. My husband is running in the 2015 Boston marathon coming from Australia I will be looking for a good spot by myself


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