Boston Marathon: 4 Reasons It's a Thrilling Experience for All

Before witnessing the Boston Marathon in person, I thought that the day earned its worth from everything leading up to the race rather than the race itself. 

I still don’t think I’m entirely wrong...

  • The months and years of work that go into making it to the starting line count for more than the results of any one day. 
  • The effort it takes to secure a qualifying time with enough buffer room to make the potential cutoff.
  • The next round of training it takes to get ready in time for the Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day warrants a standing ovation before the clock even starts ticking. 
  • No matter what happens on the course, runners deserve to remember the value of all the steps along the way.  

But it turns out that there is something incredibly special about the day itself.

The Boston Marathon is more than just the sum of its parts. 

That doesn’t just apply to runners, either. Simply being in the vicinity of the marathon brings you into the fold. 

The environment wraps you up in a tight hug, and there’s no stopping the spark from spreading. 

Every race comes with its own atmosphere.

  • Some are small and intimate.
  • Others are big and impersonal.
  • A select few manage to find the intersection between both. 

Boston falls into that last category.

Over 25,000 people toed the starting line this year.

That count doesn’t make it one of the largest races out there. But tens of thousands of runners in one place isn’t anything to scoff at either. 

The sheer number of runners could easily make this race feel chaotic and cold. 

In spite of that, the Boston Marathon turned out to be one of the warmest, closest, most supportive race environments that I’ve ever been a part of. 

Here’s why...

The Boston Marathon draws an estimated 25,000 runners and more than 500,000 spectators.

1. Appreciation

The Boston course is undeniably hard...

  • From the infamous Newton and Heartbreak Hills on the back end of the race...
  • To the deceptively challenging descent that tires out your legs right at the onset...
  • To the straights that don’t offer much of a break if you’re hoping to make up some time between climbs...

Each step of the way presents just as much of a challenge as the next.

But the difficulty both BEFORE and DURING is what stimulates such a high level of enthusiasm for this race.

  • Runners know that they worked incredibly hard to earn their place. 
  • They respect the race’s reputation
  • They appreciate the challenge lying ahead, and...
  • They know it deserves their best efforts. 

Thinking about running a marathon?

There’s no better time or place to test your limits than the Boston Marathon.

With 126 years of practice, Boston Marathon organizers have thought of every little detail to create the race and experience for runners and fans.

2. Organization

Runners feel safe enough to push the envelope on such a special occasion because of how well the race flows. 

Everything at the Boston Marathon was arranged to a T...

Pre-race logistics

  • Buses. Buses carried runners from two different parking areas to the Athletes’ Village 0.7 miles from the starting line. 
  • Waves. The entire group of runners was broken into four different waves with separate start times 25 minutes apart. 
  • Corrals. The waves were then further divided into smaller groups, called corrals, which were released from the Athletes’ Village in sets of five minutes within the starting time range. 
  • Bib numbers. Each runner’s wave and corral number was printed boldly on their bib to help race organizers direct runners to the right place at the right time. 
  • Open space. The timing reduced transportation clogs on the road and on foot throughout the morning before the race, and created more space for runners on the course once they got started...
  • No bottelnecks. The result = no tripping over each other’s heels or staring down a stranger’s back the entire time! 
When you run the Boston Marathon, you'll need to catch a bus to the starting line, find your Corral, and know your start time. It's perfectly organized to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone.

On-course support

  • Aid stations. Once on the course, runners could count on 25 water and aid stations along the way. Such a high frequency of opportunities for assistance gave runners the confidence to push their limits, backed by the knowledge that they’d never have to go too far before reaching a helping hand if they needed it. 
  • Volunteers and medical experts had specific jobs at every stopping point, so that there was never any confusion about how runners would get exactly what they needed and then get on their way. 

Finish-line planning

  • The end of the course funneled runners down the street where they could pick up space blankets and medals on their way to the designated meeting area.
  • Last-name sections. The meeting areas were divided into sections by last name so that spectators could find their runners. We all know the intense brain fog that settles in as soon as you stop moving after a hard run… 
  • Beware of brain fog. In that state, it’s hard enough to put one foot in front of the other, let alone navigate a bustling city and find your people among countless strangers. 

The finish line funnel took all that confusion out of the equation to make sure that runners didn’t have to think about anything except their own well-being while slowly peeling back their race blinders. 

Race-structure genius

The race structure essentially addressed every detail and need that runners could ask for, before they even knew to ask. 

There weren’t any questions left up in the air that could distract them from their best intentions…including one of the biggest potential distractors: an enthusiastic audience. 

Crowd support

It would be easy for everyone on the sidelines to get caught up in the fervor and end up adding to the chaos trying to support their runners and follow them through the city.

25,000 runners translates to many times that in the crowd, and there’s nothing like an overeager bystander when it comes to getting underfoot.

But Boston took steps to keep the sidelines as clean as the course...

  • Discounted train tickets made it easy to catch a ride from one milestone to another without getting caught in race day traffic, and maps posted throughout the city helped orient the crowds. 
  • Volunteers and clearly marked barriers separated racers from spectators all along the course, to prevent any accidental flow from the sidewalks into the streets. 
  • Long detours around the race streets were definitely a nuisance in the moment, but worth the certainty that I wouldn’t accidentally step off the curb and cause a pileup. 
  • The race even comes with its own app, B.A.A. Racing, that lets you track runners with updates nearly every other mile plus data on pace and estimated finish time. 
Cheered on by WeeViews Ambassador Lucie Hanes, Boston Marathon runner Lina Davis finished the 26.2-mile race in 3:12:51, setting an 11-minute PR.

3. Collaboration

All that being said, Boston put as much effort into helping the crowds as the runners because both sides play a part in pulling off the day. 

Everyone in the area had their own job to do and cooperate to make the whole thing run like a well-oiled machine. 

  • Runners had a pretty obvious one: put their training to the test and max out their potential. But they wouldn’t be able to narrow their focus without the collaboration of the whole race team. 
  • The race team includes the standard race crew — organizers, volunteers, medics, sponsors — but the circle of support expands even wider. 
  • Spectators, media outlets, transportation systems, and local businesses all contribute in their own way. Crowds deliver the energy. Admins steer that energy in the right direction. Medics keep everyone safe while they’re riding the line. Businesses feed the masses. And the media documents it all to kindle an even stronger fire for the future. 

When so many little pieces actually come together, it seems like a miracle.

But it’s a coordinated effort – not luck – that makes it all function properly. 

There’s really no such thing as “the sidelines” because everyone contributes to the bigger picture. 

Run or watch the Boston Marathon, everybody who shows up celebrates this event, the hard work on the course, and the months of training long before race day.

4. Celebration

Boston honors its hallmark race in style. 

The winning combination of a daunting challenge, smart organization, and effective teamwork fuels a citywide celebration. 

The marathon has been held on Patriot’s Day, a Massachusetts holiday, since 1897 so that no one misses out on the festivities. 

  • Everyone takes advantage of the chance to celebrate. 
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re a running enthusiast or have no knowledge of the sport whatsoever.
  • If you’re a Boston native or a first-time visitor, if you’ve got stakes in the game or are just there to party, it's everybody's race.

Everyone is Boston Strong on Marathon Monday.

Boston Marathon runner Michael Given finished the 26.2-mile race in 2:45:43, setting a 3-minute PR.

Experience the Boston Marathon

“I have run 112 marathons and this was the best race of my life.

The race had the most encouraging crowds I have ever experienced.

I think what also made it special was simply being able to be there and knowing what this marathon meant, especially for all the women running the marathon for the 50th year anniversary of the women’s field.

It was like a celebration.”

—Jocelyn Rivas, runner (World Record for the youngest person and youngest Latina to run 100+ marathons)

“After years of waiting, Boston was my first road race back and wow, was it worth the wait. It was a hard course - the hills got me - but it was so rewarding.”

—Lina Davis, runner

“I really can’t believe the wheels didn’t fall off. That shouldn’t have happened.

But you have to give yourself the opportunity to have a good day. I gave myself a chance and it paid off.”

—Michael Given, runner

“Boston always makes for an incredible race experience, but this year managed to feel extra-special.

Boston served up some perfect running weather, and the marathon made its triumphant return to Patriots’ Day.

You couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere.”

—Chris Gombeski, runner

“It’s true that ‘No one runs Boston alone’.

Between the crowds and the runners, the energy is just so positive, and absolutely electric.

Not one point of the course didn’t have throngs of people cheering you on.

Not to mention the whole time in Boston, everybody is telling you congratulations or have a great run.

The course is tough, but I can’t wait to do it again! It’s so very special.”

—Alexis Taladay, runner

“It’s all quite overwhelming… the crowds, but also the amount of support for the runners and turnout of people that want to cheer everyone on.”

—Joel Simpson, spectator

“It’s a lot easier to watch at the finish line than to run to the finish line.

I’ll always remember how hard that race is.

But that’s what makes me so excited to be here and support the people taking it on. They deserve it.”

—Paul Given, spectator

Do you have a Boston Marathon experience? Tell us about it...

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Lucie Hanes 244
Ambassador
Eagle, CO

Ultrarunner, rock climber, occasional artist, fond of good wordplay. Small human on big adventures with big goals and big feelings.

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