Shipping up to Boston to see my Dad's wooden legs
April 7, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible or pure lunacy to try to view the Boston Marathon at two or more points by using public transportation? If possible, what viewing areas would you recommend?

My dad will be running the marathon this year and myself and other family members will be there to cheer him on. We'd love to be able to have at least two chances to see him on the course, but we'll be getting around by public transport (rental cars too pricey, bikes probably too scary for less coordinated family members).

I was thinking we could stake out an early spot somewhere along the commuter rail line, see him go by, then take a combination of commuter line and metro to a place closer to the finish. If we try to move up the course, will we just encounter thick crowds that we won't be able to get through? Will the trains be too slow to make this possible? Will the trains be ridiculously packed?

If you think this is feasible, where would you go to try to avoid massive crowds?

My dad will probably running in the 3:30 range, to give you a sense of what the race will be like by the time he passes us.
posted by otolith to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (11 answers total)
The Framingham / Worcester line of the commuter rail follows the course for a good distance. However, the 2nd wave of runners (I'm assuming your dad isn't an elite) doesn't start until 10:30AM and the next two trains leave Framingham at 11:11 and 12:20, arriving in Back Bay (close to the finish) about fifty minutes later. Both trains make several stops along the race.

Depending on how fast your dad runs you *might* be able to see him in Framingham or Natick, catch a train and see him again somewhere in Wellesley or at the finish, but everything would have to be timed perfectly and crowds get thicker and thicker the further in you go, and the finish line will be packed that late in the day. It's thin enough in Natick and Framingham where you shouldn't have any trouble seeing him but it could get tough further in.

Timing would have to be perfect for everything to work and it's not something I would count on working.

I can't speak to how packed it will be. I've taken both the T and the commuter rail home from work after the race and it's packed with spectators and sweaty tired people in Mylar blankets, but there's room. Not sure how crowded it will be heading in at that time.
posted by bondcliff at 10:41 AM on April 7, 2010

Also, it's a HUGE mass of people so if you want to see your dad at all he should know where you'll be and he needs to be looking for you. It'll work best if he has a general idea of where you'll be (Right side of the road 100 yards after the ten mile mark, near the 12th Dunkin' Donuts along the route) and you have a sign that says "HEY DAD, OVER HERE!" or something like that.

Seriously, unless he's the guy wearing the Yankees uniform and you hear the boos from a mile away, it's going to be hard to find him.
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on April 7, 2010

The "T" and city are indeed busy that day not only as a result of the Marathon, but also the traditional Patriot's Day Red Sox game (11:05 a.m.) at Fenway. BTW -- here are the B.A.A.'s Spectator Guides for watching the Marathon.
posted by ericb at 10:57 AM on April 7, 2010

Here is an idea of how busy and crowded the inner city T lines are as the race is coming to a conclusion. I met up with my wife at Boston College (mile 21) and I was able to finish the race, do all the post race nonsense and walk to our hotel (near the Arlington St T stop) before she got off the T.

As for meeting up, I ran and twittered during the race so that she knew where I was (and so that people at home could follow me). Perhaps not the ideal situation for everyone but I wasn't shooting for a fast time.
posted by mmascolino at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2010

Two years ago my husband and I watched the marathon near Kenmore station. At least two years ago, it wasn't too terrible a popular spot, and then from there we walked into Copley. We arrived at Kenmore maybe half an hour or an hour before the first wheelchair racer came through, to give you an idea. Copley station itself will most likely be shut down for a good portion of the race due to the crowding. I really wouldn't bet on taking the T there. You will most likely have to walk there from one T-stop or another.

So, for the end of the race, I recommend watching at Kenmore and then either braving the crowds walking into Copley or meeting up with your dad somewhere between the Garden and Copley or somewhere between Fenway and Copley. Better yet, if you dad can let you know which bus his stuff will be on (you know the buses that carry the runners' stuff from Chestnut Hill to downtown, right?), then I would suggest meeting up with him there might even be the best. Finding him over there may be easier than finding him in the crowds right at Copley, too.

Of course, this all depends on your dad's time and when you would expect him to finish. The crowds do begin to clear out somewhat after the first sets of runners finish.
posted by zizzle at 12:38 PM on April 7, 2010

The Copley Square T stop is closed on race day (page 3 of the spectator guide that ericb linked to).
posted by mmascolino at 12:54 PM on April 7, 2010

Yeah -- it's best to get off at the Hynes Convention Center T-stop and walk the few blocks down to Copley Square (where the finish line is).
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2010

Seconding bondcliff - not only should he know where you are, he should be wearing something unique. This will help you find him and others will also cheer him on, giving him a boost (Go guy with the clown wig!)
posted by Sukey Says at 1:35 PM on April 7, 2010

What if you split the family into two groups, who were stationed at two different points along the course? That way Dad would have two chances for support without all the transport hullabaloo.
posted by shiny blue object at 1:45 PM on April 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the input, all. It does seem like this would be pretty tough to work out. Maybe we'll just content ourselves with camping out closer to the end, when he's more likely to need the encouragement.
posted by otolith at 11:21 AM on April 8, 2010

Response by poster: In the end, we were able to do this without too much trouble. We took the Green Line "D" out to Woodland, which is right by the 17 mile mark. The train was pretty crowded on the way out, but not completely packed. We were heading out there at around 9, so that we could catch the elite runners, too. Dad passed us at around 1pm and then we went straight back to the metro. It was super crowded on the way back and there was a line to get on, but we were able to get on a train within about 10 minutes. The train got to the Kenmore stop at about 2pm and we got out and caught saw him there when he passed by at about 2:20. He was running around 9:30 miles by that point. I think if your runner was doing 8 minute miles or less, it might be a pretty close thing to try and see them twice by doing this. Then, we had a pleasant one mile walk to meet Dad at a pre-arranged spot in Boston Common. We got there before he had managed to get clear of all of the post-race stuff. Perfect. Thanks for the suggestions, all.
posted by otolith at 1:20 PM on April 26, 2010

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