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Running the Boston Marathon

Anyone not living under a rock has heard of the Boston Marathon. Occurring every year in mid-April on Patriot's Day, the Boston Marathon holds its place in history as one of the world's finest road marathons. For some the race is torture, for others it is the culmination of years of sweat and dedication, and for yet others it is a 26.2 mile party!

Bandit Running the Boston Marathon

Due to strict qualifying times, many runners will never have the opportunity to experience the thrill of running from Hopkinton to Boston. However, this hasn't stopped people from bandit running the race. Every year thousands of bandit runners ranging from eccentric college students to polite elderly runners line up at the end of the race or jump in along the course.

Running the Boston Marathon as a bandit runner is one of the most controversial topics in all of running. A quick Google search will bring up heated debates and arguments on both sides. Although I neither condone nor recommend running the Boston Marathon as a bandit, here are a few rumors I have heard about the race.

Getting to the Start of the Boston Marathon

The marathon begins in the town of Hopkinton, MA at noon on Patriot's Day. The roads in that area are entirely blocked off to private vehicle traffic. Official runners board specially designated busses from downtown Boston that take them to the starting area. For spectators wanting to cheer on the participants near the starting line, school busses pick up people along the perimeter of this blockade and bring them near the starting area. Rumors has it that bandits also board these busses to arrive in the town of Hopkinton. From there it's approximately a mile walk to the starting corrals.

The official race participants begin in corrals which are ordered by their qualifying times. Runners are grouped into blocks of one thousand runners and assigned to a specific corral. An official race number is required to enter the corral area. Bandits supposedly line up at the end of the corrals. Rumors has it that the civilian air patrol and attack dogs are stationed near the back, ensuring that unregistered runners remained behind the registered runners.

Running the Boston Marathon

If you were to hypothetically line up at the end of the corrals, you would not move an inch forward for about 25 minutes! Slowly the large mass of runners would begin moving and finally around 30 minutes later you would cross the starting line. The Boston Athletic Association has stated they have changed the starting procedures in 2006, so instead of having one large block of runners they will split up the approximately 20,000 runners into two waves of participants, one starting at noon and the other starting at 12:30. It is unknown how this may affect the starting time of the race, particularly for those lining up near the end.

If a race spectator somehow found himself running on the course, certain rules of courtesy should be obeyed.

  1. First and foremost, never interfere with anyone else on the course. They earned the privilege of being there, whereas you are only a spectator.
  2. Always yield to others. Never cut off other runners.
  3. Avoid creating congestion whenever possible, especially near drink stations and on the inside corner around turns. If a drink station is crowded, you should avoid entering the area and simply continue running. Besides, drinking Kool-Aid and eating orange slices and popsicles from small children in their front lawn is fun!
  4. Avoid the free beer given out by spectators at all costs.
  5. Do not even attempt to get a finisher's medal. They are reserved for the dedicated runners who earned their place and put in the effort to train, qualify, and compete.

Finishing the Boston Marathon

26.2 miles isn't quite a walk in the park. The general idea is to continue moving towards Boston, regardless of speed. Millions of cheering spectators lining the course definitely makes the long distance more manageable, but without proper preparation even that might not be enough. In case of injury, there are medical stations dotting the course which provide anything from Vaseline to prevent chaffing to ambulance services.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt
"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910


Boston Marathon 2005 Success!

After nearly 4 months of training, I successfully ran the Boston Marathon. I began intensely training in mid-December 2004 and continued to run up until race day on April 18, 2005.

The key to finishing is running a few longer-distance routes before the big day. I ran routes of 10, 13, and 17 miles, spaced out and well before April 18. Check out the links below for detailed training schedules.


Charles River Mileage Loops
Very handy for figuring out how far to run.
Gmaps Pedometer
Useful on those days when you just want to blaze your own trail, yet keep your mileage.
Idiot's Guide to Running the Boston Marathon
This site is simply brilliant! Hilarious description of the Boston Marathon.
Runner's World - Marathoning
General tips and tricks for marathon training and racing.

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