2023 Boston Marathon Tips
A few tips, collected over the last 19 years on running the Boston Marathon.
This is updated as of October 2022. I will update again once the final details for 2023 are available but most of what is below should be accurate.
COVID-19 Policy for 2023
The B.A.A. encourages all participants to be fully up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations prior to participating in the 127th Boston Marathon. At this time, proof of vaccination will not be required for participation in the 2023 Boston Marathon. However, all participants are expected to follow B.A.A. protocols and procedures related to COVID-19 mitigation and public health including, but not limited to, potential proof of negative testing, potential proof of vaccination, and wearing a face mask in designated areas. B.A.A. COVID-19 mitigation efforts are subject to change and will be guided by policies and procedures established by the CDC, state, and local public health officials in the lead up to April’s event.
The Boston Marathon App which can be downloaded to your phone is your best source of up to date information. It will be available closer to the race date.
You can also find up to date information here https://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/enter
Where to Stay
I get asked about this a lot. I have stayed in many different places over the years. there are pluses and minuses to them all.
Staying Close to the Finish Line
This is very expensive. The best “deals” are probably through Marathon Tours. It is also worth looking for a place to stay a year in advance. If you get lucky the prices will not have been adjusted for race weekend. There are some big advantages to being within walking distance of the finish line and the busses to the start, but there is no cheap way to do it. Many of the hotels have little extras for the runners. At the Boston Park Plaza the staff gather in the lobby and clap for the runners when they return from the race. Parking in downtown Boston is also expensive.
Staying in Other Parts of Downtown Boston
There are several hotels along the waterfront and out by the airport. If you can find a hotel which is on the subway line or close to it this can be a good, more affordable option. The subway runs early enough in the morning to get you to the start busses and it will get you home again after the race. The green line trains which run along the race course are very crowded after and during the race.
Staying on the outskirts
There are a few options here and I think I have done most of them over the years!
You can stay along the red subway line out towards Braintree. It’s a bit of a trek but it cheaper and you can use the subway race day.
You can stay in one of the towns along the course. This is much more affordable and it’s a good option if you have family who want to cheer you on. They can cheer from a spot close to the hotel where there are smaller crowds and they don’t have to deal with traffic and crowded transit. The downside is that you will probably need to get someone to drive you to the start busses and to pick you up. You can also drive yourself and leave a car in one of the parking garages by Boston Common.
Finally, you can stay outside of Boston in one of the towns which is not on the course. This is the cheapest option but you really need a car to do it.
Getting Around Boston
Driving in downtown Boston is a challenge. The area around the finish line is closed for most of the weekend. Parking is expensive. The easier way to get around is public transit. The core is well serviced by the subway. You can buy a 7 day pass for $22.50. We usually buy a pass because it encourages us to walk less and save our legs for race day.
You can use the MBTA travel planner to pre-plan your trip.
It can do almost anything and it changes at the last minute! In 2004 the temperature hit 96F. In 2018 it was 37F at the start with pouring rain and winds gusting to 45 mph. Bring what you need to run in any weather because anything can happen.
This year’s expo will probably be 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’s a big expo with most major run vendors present. It can be hot and crowded.
Expo Hours- If you can go Friday it is always quieter!
Friday, April 15: 11:00AM–6:00PM
Saturday, April 16: 9:00AM–6:00PM
Sunday, April 17: 9:00AM–6:00PM
Digital Number Pick-up Pass
- an email will be sent to all participants that includes a PDF attachment and links to access your Digital Number Pick-Up Pass.
- 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!
Before the pandemic there was a free poster handed out by the Adidas booth. It had the names of everyone running the race on it (half on one side and half on the other). It has not been there for the last two years but you will find a wall of names.
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. 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.
The marathon finish line is about 500m down Boylston from the expo at Copley Square. It feels longer on race day!
It’s a popular spot for pre-race photos and it’s also where you will find Fan Fest. An outdoor celebration including, displays, entertainment and featured speakers. It’s free and open to the public. They also have Boston Marathon gear for sale and they have a booth where you can get a personalized patch added to your Boston Jacket for free.
- Friday, April 15: 12:00PM–8:00PM
- Saturday, April 16: 10:00AM–8:00PM
- Sunday, April 17: 10:00AM–4:00PM
While you are there take the time to visit the memorial for the victims of the 2013 Bombing. A new one was recently built.
And then pop into the Church of the Finish Line, The Old South Church. It’s a lovely building and they have s service every year to bless the runners. I have never been to the service, but in 2014 they gave out scarves hand knit by people all over the US with the message “This scarf is interwoven with love and courage”. I still have mine.
To get to the start take the race buses from Boston Common. You can find a schedule here
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.
One additional note about getting to the start. If you are staying really close to Hopkinton there is a parking lot on South Street just off Rt. 495 where you can get shuttled to Hopkinton. B.A.A. has return buses leaving Back Bay all afternoon. The B.A.A. does not really talk about this shuttle on the website they only mention the return buses to Hopkinton. If you plan to do this make sure you confirm it still works! I have not done it since 2005 and I would hate for anyone to miss the start!
You will also get a finish area gear bag in your race kit which you can check in race morning between 6:15 am and 9:30 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. I am not sure why but in 2022 there was a lot of congestion around the gear check and the buses to the start. It took us much longer than usual to get our gear checked, get back to the buses and to get on a bus based on 2022 I would suggest being in the area at least 45 minutes before your scheduled bus time.
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.
The official busses will drop you off at the Runner’s Village which is 1 km away from the start line. You will hang around here until your group of bib numbers is called to go to the start. There are big open sided tents but you are still pretty exposed. Come dressed for the weather. We always make a pre-race trip to the thrift store for extra clothes. On wet years we have even brought rubber boots. A shiny post run cape or a garbage bag to sit on is also highly recommended. Every year you see runners on the buses in a singlet and shorts! Don’t be that runner!
There is NO BAG CHECK in Hopkinton. Anything you are not wearing to run will be left behind and donated to charity. We just leave the thrift store clothes behind as our donation.
There are hundreds of porta-potties but the lines are still very long. Don’t panic if your wave gets called and you are still in line, there is a second set on the way to the start corals for last minute stops. The lines there are usually shorter.
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) – 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).
Don’t toss too much too fast, as you get closer to Boston it can actually get cooler.
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 are 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! The map below provides a great overview of the Commuter Rail and Subway stops along the course. You can find up to date info and a trip planner here.
AT THE FINISH
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 and it’s in the shade. 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.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN BOSTON
The BAA 5K is held on Saturday morning. If you are in town and have family and friends joining you this is a great chance for you to cheer them on! The winners are very fast but it’s a big fun event for everyone. The race starts and finishes in Boston Common and passes through the Boston Marathon finish line.
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! See you all soon in Boston!
If you are looking for more personal insights, you can find race reports below.