Boston Marathon Route Description

Here’s a Boston marathon route description with some highlights of what you can expect along the way. In general, the Boston course is quite dynamic and goes from rural town to big city with many gently rolling hills (don’t you love that term?) winding roads and a handful of more interesting hills along the way.

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Here’s a breakdown of the route milestones so you know what you can look forward to from start to finish.

  • Start – Hopkinton - While Boston began in 1897, the Boston marathon route changed in 1924 which moved the start line to Main Street in the little rural town of Hopkinton.

You need to walk from the school yard where the bus drops you off about a mile away in order to get into your assigned corral at the start line. For the number of runners present (close to 27 000 runners registered in the 2011) it’s apparently the narrowest marathon start line in the world.

From the course motorcycles lined up, TV cameras and helicopters flying overhead, the energy and excitement of Boston really begins here! It’s pretty cool standing in your corral and taking this all in.

  • Mile 2 – Ashland – From Hopkinton through to the town of Ashland, the road remains pretty narrow up to about the 5 mile mark. Probably the most significant point to make about this early section of the Boston marathon route is that you are cumulatively running downhill for about 4 miles. While this sounds great, it is this early downhill section among thousands of other runners that makes controlling your pace quite difficult. If you haven’t done some downhill training, the concentric muscle contractions from the negative gradient can catch up with you later when you hit the Newton hills.
  • Mile 5 - Framingham – There are a bunch of railroad tracks and crossings at this part of the race which is at about mile 5. Things start to open up and you get some elbow room. There are many spectators on both sides of the road up until this point, including some local bands playing on their front lawns and little kids giving out fruits to the runners. This is special – hopefully you can take the time to appreciate it!
  • Mile 11.5 - Wellesley - Other than the finish line, this is definitely the coolest part of the course.
  • As you approach the halfway mark, all of the female students from Wellesley College line up along the sides of the road and SCREAM at the top of their lungs. You can hear the roar about a mile away. On top of this, many of them are looking for kisses! This tradition aptly gave this part of the course the name ‘Tunnel of Love’. I think ‘Rock Star Alley’ is more like it!

  • Mile 16 - Newton – Shortly after running into Newton, the famous red brick Newton Fire Station hosts quite a lively crowd and on hotter marathon days the firemen turn the hose on for a run-through cool down. This also marks the first 90 degree right turn of the course. You have about 17 miles behind you at this point so as with any marathon this is where the fun really begins. You will experience 4 decent hills starting at mile 16 as you run through the ‘Newton Hills’ which includes the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20.5 that is just short of half a mile in length. The hill itself is not such a big deal but it’s the culmination of the previous miles that makes this pinnacle so interesting and challenging.
  • Mile 21.5 - Brighton/Brookline - Cresting heartbreak hill and continuing on now through the Cleveland Circle onto Beacon Street you move towards Kenmore square right into the city of Boston. Shortly after cresting the hill, the John Hancock tower is within view but it’s still 4 miles away. After running through so many miles of rural towns, this is the more twisty part of the course and where the Boston marathon route really starts to take on a big city feel.
  • Mile 24.5 - Boston – The finish line is nearing and the excitement really mounts.

    At Mile 25 Kenmore Square is a part of the route where you can see the infamous CITGO sign. When you see this sign, you’ll know that you have just over a mile to go to the finish line. This is the point in the Boston marathon route where all of the fans from the ball game at Fenway stadium converge onto the course after the game to cheer you on!

  • Copley Square - Finish - The finish line is on Boylston street near John Hancock Tower in Copley Square. The entire last mile is loud and insane. Along with Wellesley College, this is a very emotional and unforgettable part of the course. Once you cross the finish line, the crowds remain thick as you are corralled along.

    You can expect to walk for another half mile just to get some elbow room. If you plan on meeting up with friends and family, pick a spot at least a half a mile from the finish line. Have a good look around you before you leave… you never know if and when you’ll be back to experience it all again!



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