2021 Boston Marathon Tips

2021 Boston Marathon Tips

A few tips, collected over the last 17 years on running the Boston Marathon.

The 2021 in person Boston Marathon is going to be a little different. Much of what is below is probably still relevant but there will be changes due to COVID-19 the first of these is the date, The 2021 Boston Marathon is being held October 11th. Also of note: With COVID-19 things change quickly make sure you check the BAA website regularly for updates.

COVID-19 – all runners are required to be fully vaccinated or to have a negative COVID test. The details can be found here https://www.baa.org/baa-announces-participant-health-safety-policies-125th-boston-marathon

The Boston Marathon App which can be downloaded to your phone is your best source of information.

You can also find up to date information here https://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/enter


The Expo

You must provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to pick up your bib and attend the expo. Full details are at the link above, You also need to wear a mask.

This year’s expo is in the usual location the John B. Hynes Convention Centre, 900 Boylston. It’s just up the street from the finish line and can be reached by subway on the Green line from Hynes or Copley Station.

It can be hot and crowded.  

Digital Number Pick-up Pass- This was introduced in 2019 and I would expect the same for 2021

  • an email will be sent to all participants that includes a PDF attachment and links to access your Digital Number Pick-Up Pass.
  • Please print or present the Digital Pass at the Boston Marathon Expo.
  • You may download the pass to your phone, print it, or add the pass to your Apple Wallet.

You will also need photo ID so bring your passport or driver’s license You have to pick-up your own race kit in person, This rule is enforced! 

Make sure you get a copy of the free poster. It is generally handed out by the Adidas booth. It has the names of everyone running the race on it (half on one side and half on the other). Yours will be there too!

If you are looking for your Boston Jacket (it’s all about the jacket!) they tend to run out of sizes in the Adidas Boston Marathon gear at the expo so don’t wait to buy what you want.  There is a Marathon Sports Store on the street close to the finish line. They often have a better selection of sizes than the expo by the last day and the lines are shorter. You can also find the Adidas gear including the race jacket at other sports stores in the area. The Adidas gear does not go on sale before the race but lots of other stuff does late Sunday. If you are in the area its worth stopping by the expo a couple of hours before it closes.


Masks are required on the bus and up until you start running

To get to the start take the race buses from Boston Common

After 2013 the BAA added many restrictions about what you can bring with you and run with on race day. These restrictions are enforced and can be found here.

The bus loading in Boston  takes place on Charles Street between the Public Garden and Boston Common. you have to take the bus at the time recommended for your bib number. You do need a bib to get on the bus. There is a security pre-check in the park where they will go through bags. It’s a long ride so if in doubt use the potra-potties before you get on the bus.

If your hotel does not provide transport or is not located on the subway you may need to drive to Boston Common to take the bus on race day.  In general, the subway does run early enough to get to the bus loading but the trains do not. There are parking  garages around Boston Common.

You will get a small clear start area plastic bag that you can take on the bus to Hopkinton.  

Gear Check

You will also get a finish area gear bag in your race kit which you can check in race morning between 6:30 am and 9:15 am at the gear check tents which are on Boylston and Berkeley. It is not beside the buses so leave yourself enough time to walk to and from the gear check.

The finish area in Boston is shaded and tends to be windy and cold. If you are not staying close to the finish line you should seriously consider checking some dry clothes.

The Runners Village.          

There is no actual runners village this year, You will basically get off the busses take a short time to use the bathrooms, stretch and change and then to proceed to a rolling start.

There is NO BAG CHECK in Hopkinton. Anything you are not wearing to run will be left behind and donated to charity.

Here are a few things you many still want to bring

  • Body Glide- keep in mind you will have to leave the container behind or run to Boston with it.
  • Sunblock- with the race being point to point you get way more sun on the right hand side!
  • Your race number and pins or a race belt. (you will need to show your number to get on the buses)
  • A permanent marker so you can write your name on your arm or leg. (people will call out encouragement to you by name if they can see it)
  • Us Canadians tend to have a maple leaf or flag somewhere on our running clothes as well.

Things to put in your checked bag

  • Dry clothes
  • Sandals to put on after the race (when you have that I never want to wear these shoes again feeling)
  • Money for a cab? or Subway- Subway is no longer officially free with your bib although you may still get on for free.
  • Cell phone? (there is a risk it can get lost in the baggage bus but it can be very useful for finding friends at the end) – with the new set up if you have a place to put it running with your phone may be the better option

Lots of people wear extra clothes to start the race and toss them in the first couple of miles. There are T-shirts, gloves and hats everywhere (some really nice ones too).


The course is challenging. It’s hard to do but you have got to hold back at the beginning.

There is a lot of downhill.

Heartbreak hill is actually the last of three hills in Newton none of which are all that bad. You can find a good course guide here

All the cool things they say about Boston are true but you need to see that for yourself.

Water stops are every mile on both sides of the road starting at mile 2. The stations on each side of the road are staggered. It’s a very well run efficient course. I have never had any problems getting water or Gatorade on the course.

Each aid station has water and Gatorade Endurance Formula which is NOT the same as what we get in Canada it’s a stronger formula with a higher salt content.

Energy Gel Stations

  • Three Maurten gel stations will be located on the course: mile 11.8 on the Wellesley town line; mile 17 in Newton; and at mile 21.5 just after Boston College.

If you have friends who want to watch you run the best bet is to have them look for you somewhere before the last few km where the crowds are very thick. It also helps to agree before the run on where they will be looking for you and which side of the road you will be on so you can look for them. It is disappointing when they stand there for hours and miss you as you go by.

Getting to the finish area from areas along the course on race day can be challenging. The trains and subways do run (the stop closest to the finish line is closed) but they can be very crowded. If you friends plan to follow you it will take them much longer than usual to get anywhere!


Take a cape even if you don’t think you need it. It gets cold fast and it takes time to find friends and family.

The family meeting area can be a zoo. We usually pick a place to meet in Boston Common with a back-up indoor spot. DO NOT PLAN TO MEET AT THE FINISH LINE only VIP’s can get near it.

If you lose a runner send another runner to look for them. They might be able to get back into the finish area with a race number and a little fast talking.

The athlete alert system is great but it can be very slow on international cell phones. It will give you the correct lap or finish time but you may get it an hour after the fact.


Take a tour of Fenway Park Tickets must be purchased in advance.

The Freedom Trail This 2.5 mile route through historic Boston is actually painted on the sidewalk. You can do it self-guided or take a guided tour.

Hop on Hop off Bus Tours and Boston Duck Tours There are several companies that do this in Boston and it’s a great way to see the sights without walking too much before the race.

The New England Aquarium  Lots of cool stuff including a penguin colony. Central and easy to get to by subway. Warning- There are a lot of stairs!

Boston Children’s Museum  Also central.

Over 21 only:

Harpoon Brewery Tour. More central. Open Saturday and Sunday.

Have fun!

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Published by judyapiel

Runner, triathlete and coach. Owner of RunK2J, Community Events at Bushtukah. Always looking for a new travel adventure.

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