The Boston Marathon is unlike any race I have ever been to. It isn’t just that there are a lot of runners (30,000) but, it is the amount of spectators and town support that make this race unique. Most other cities feel inconvenienced by a marathon coming to town because of the crowds and street closures but every Boston local we talked to acted like it was one of their favorite events of the year. All of this love for the Boston Marathon does, however, make it challenging on the spectator. There are countless articles about how to train and prepare to run the Boston Marathon but what about how to watch it? Specifically, how can you see mom run while you are dealing with a baby? We just got back from the 2017 Boston Marathon and it was quite the adventure for the whole family so I thought I would share my perspective from the bleachers.
Location, Location, Location – Be wise when picking your place to stay as getting around that weekend (and especially the day of the race) is going to be very challenging. Staying at the finish line would be ideal but is the most expensive location. The race ends right in front of the public library so searching anywhere in that area you will find about a dozen hotels that are a short walk. The problem is, this is no big secret and everyone wants these rooms so the rates are crazy high. I believe the cheapest we found between hotels and “airbnb” was around $500 a night with several of them over a thousand. If you want a cheaper, but still fantastic, location I would recommend renting someone’s apartment on airbnb in Beacon Hill near Boston Commons. Boston Commons is where the bus picks up the runners on the morning of the race to take them to the start line and you are a quick walk to a couple train stops. There is also a ton to do and see in that area if you are wanting to tour around a bit while in town. Our small, one bedroom studio apartment was $220 a night, after fees. Getting a good place to stay makes life much easier on the whole family and is well worth the upcharge, especially when a baby is involved. One final note is to starting looking and booking as soon as you get registered. We started looking four months out and lots of options were already sold out.
Gearing Up For Your Adventure – If you are like me, this might be the first time you have ever taken the little one out by yourself for several hours without having access to much of anything except what you are carrying. I highly recommend wearing a baby carrier on your front and book bag (converted to diaper bag) on your back. I would not recommend going with a stroller. The stroller is too big, is a pain to get on and off trains with, makes steps challenging and makes it hard to navigate the endless crowds. The carrier also offers better protection for the baby as I had to use a couple of forearms to prevent collisions with eager spectators. Be sure to pack some favorite toys, lots of diapers and wipes, some throw away changing pads, burp clothes, a change of clothes, extra socks, extra sunscreen, lots of milk/formula, and snack and water for Dad. Be sure to check the weather the morning of, too. We were there for 5 days and one day the high was 87 and sunny and another day it was 45 and cloudy.
Picking Your Spectating Spots – The subway is your best way to get around as Uber is super expensive and you can’t drive unless you brought your car seat and base for your rental car. Your plan A should be to see your runner around mile 6 at Framingham and somewhere just before the finish line. To do this, take the T (subway) to South Station, buy a train ticket to Framingham and return ticket, see Mom, get back on the commuter rail heading to South Station and then get off at the Yawkey stop. Yawkey is around mile 25 but you can walk down a little closer to the finish line. Keep in mind it gets more and more packed the closer you get. You will be able to see Mom here, but it is unlikely she will see you as she will be exhausted and the crowds are loud, but it still makes for some nice pictures. Give yourself plenty of time as the trains were almost an hour delayed and packed, this year. In fact, Brooke and I had a rough start to our day on race morning so we went to mile 15 (Wellesley Hills stop), saw Mom, but the train heading back was full and wouldn’t let us on. I met up with a random guy and split $140 Uber ride as the next train wasn’t due for two more hours. If the morning would have gone better and we made it to Mile 6, like we planned, we would have been on that full train coming back.
Pick Your Meeting Spot – After the race, you will need to get up with your runner and that is easier said than done. Your runner will probably not have a cell phone so you need to plan something in advance. Also, your runner is going to be a bit delirious after the race so you need something simple. Now the family meet up area seems like a good choice but it was actually closed off because it was full. In fact, the street the race finishes on (Bolyston Street) was blocked for several blocks from spectators and the train at Copley is blocked on the day of. We met up at Fogo de Chao which the runner gets to by taking their first right after the finish line onto Dartmouth. Easy to get to, has a covered area out front, access to a bathroom if you need to run in and change a diaper or warm up a bottle, and they aren’t going to have access completely blocked to a restaurant. If you are staying in a room near the finish line, you could plan to meet there, but it is kind of fun to walk around among all the finishers for a bit.
Enjoy Yourself – The day goes by quickly, and is certainly stressful at times when your baby is about to lose it on a packed train or you are changing diapers on the side of the road, but I am actually really happy I got to do it. It was a great bonding experience and makes for a great story to tell. I know that baby is distracting and requires a lot of attention but do try to enjoy some of the race. I mean, this is 30,000 of the best runners in the world running through one of the most historic cities in the country. It’s pretty cool. And, this probably goes without saying, but don’t try to do too much, either. Yes, it is nice to give flowers at the finish line, or take a thousand photos, or have an awesome sign to hold up but you got enough going on and you don’t need anything else to do or carry.
Have fun with your little one running around Boston and a big congratulations to your runner. It is an amazing accomplishment qualifying for this event and even more amazing if you are a new mom.
Anybody else ever watch the marathon with a little one? Anything I missed?