The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the most prestigious running events in the world. Every year, thousands of runners from around the globe come together to tackle this iconic 26-mile race through the historic streets and neighborhoods of Boston. For spectators, it’s an unforgettable experience full of energy and excitement. Whether you’re a first-time spectator or have been watching for years, our Boston Marathon Spectator Guide will help make your experience even more enjoyable!
Dive into this comprehensive guide for detailed information on the event, including maps of the race course and spectator areas, advice on where to stay and eat near the finish line, tips for getting around Boston and more. Get ready to cheer for your favorite runners by knowing more with our Boston Marathon Spectator Guide!
History of the Boston Marathon
Knowing the history of the first Boston Marathon is an invaluable way to understand and appreciate the magnitude of this event today. It all started in 1897 when 15 daring runners set out on a 24.5-mile route from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to the Irvington Oval in Boston. John J. McDermott emerged as the first winner at 2:55:10, and since then, this incredible display of athleticism has grown to become a beloved global phenomenon, with over 30,000 runners from around the world attending each year.
Boston Marathon Map
The Boston Marathon will follow the same route as past years, starting at the Hopkinton Common area in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and finishing at Copley Square in downtown Boston. The marathon will take runners through some of the most iconic sights in Massachusetts, including small towns such as Natick and Wellesley, as well as the grounds of Harvard University and Boston College. The route will also take runners through the iconic “Heartbreak Hill” section of Newton, which is known for its difficult course. By the time the runners reach Copley Square, they will have completed a total distance of 26.2 miles!
To participate in the marathon, first, you must qualify through one of the Marathon’s Official Qualifying Races. Qualifying times vary based on age and gender, so make sure to check the Marathon’s official website for more information. Once you have qualified, you are then able to register for the Marathon, which starts in Hopkinton Common and ends 26.2 miles later at Copley Square in downtown Boston.
Best Place to Watch the Boston Marathon
The best place to watch the Boston Marathon will depend on your preference. If you want to watch near the beginning or middle of the race, then Hopkinton Common or Natick make great viewing points. If you’d like to watch at the end, then Copley Square in downtown Boston is an ideal spot to cheer on and congratulate participants as they complete their incredible journey. Additionally, there are several spectator areas set up along key points in the course for friends and family members of participants.
The Boston Marathon will be an incredible event for all involved and a terrific showcase of athletic talent and endurance. All participants should arrive at the starting line in Hopkinton Common, Massachusetts, two hours before the official start time of 9 am ET.
The start times for each division in 2023 have been officially announced as:
Please note that Boston Athletic Association always labels these times as “tentative” — there can be last-minute changes.
Boston Marathon Pro Tips
Getting to the Marathon
The Boston Marathon will start in Hopkinton and finish in Boston, Massachusetts. Starting from the Hopkinton Common, the route proceeds broadly southwest along Route 135 before turning onto Main Street and joining Route 16 toward Ashland. From there, runners will pass through Framingham and Natick before entering Wellesley where they will be greeted by enthusiastic crowds. The course then proceeds to Newton Hills and turns onto Boylston Street in Boston, ending at the John Hancock Tower.
Participants must meet certain requirements, including running a certified marathon that follows the same distance as the Boston Marathon (26.2 miles or 42 kilometers) within a set amount of time from the date of application.
5 Other Things to Do While You Are in Boston
Copley Square is the heart of Boston and a must-see destination for everyone visiting the city. Located near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, there are plenty of attractions to explore in this bustling area!
Boston City Hall Plaza is an iconic area of the city located in the heart of downtown and surrounded by attractions. Here are five things to do while visiting this historic site:
These are just some of the activities you can enjoy during your visit to the Boston City Hall Plaza. Have fun and explore the many attractions that this area has to offer!
Boston Public Garden is one of the most beautiful and iconic places in all of Boston. With its lush green spaces and picturesque views, it’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or an outdoor picnic. Here are a few things to do while you are visiting this public garden:
Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an exciting adventure, Boston Public Garden has something pleasing. Enjoy your visit and soak up all the beauty of this park!
The Boston Theater District is a vibrant and lively area of the city filled with world-class theaters, restaurants and nightlife. Here are some things to do while you are in the district:
Whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or an evening at the theater, you will always grab excitement in Boston’s Theater District! Enjoy your visit.
Beacon Hill is one of the most iconic and historic neighborhoods in Boston. With its cobblestone streets, gaslit street lamps and beautiful townhouses, this area has a unique charm that can’t be found anywhere else. Here are five things to do while you are visiting this lovely district:
Whether you’re looking for an outdoor escape or a taste of history, Beacon Hill is the best place to stay and explore all the unique sights this historic neighborhood has to offer.
The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is a living history museum located on the waterfront in Boston, Massachusetts. The museum offers visitors an immersive experience that takes them back in time to the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Visitors can explore the museum’s interactive exhibits, including the tea ships, museum exhibits, and live reenactments of the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. The museum also offers guided tours, educational programs, and special events. It’s a great place to learn about American history and experience what life was like during the early days of the American Revolution.
If you’re visiting the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, there are several other nearby attractions and places of interest that you may want to check out. Here are a few suggestions:
These are just a few of the many attractions and places to visit in the area. Depending on your interests, there are many other museums, historical sites, parks, and landmarks to explore in and around Boston.
Ghosts & Gravestones is a unique tour of Boston’s rich history that brings to life the city’s spooky past. On this night walking and trolley tour, visitors will be taken on a spooktacular journey through the cobblestone streets and hidden alleys of historic Boston. Along the way, guests will discover tales of hauntings, unsolved mysteries and the hidden secrets of some of the city’s most notorious figures. From the old Fort Warren to the dark corners of Chinatown, you never know what might be lurking in the shadows. Don’t miss your chance to experience a spine-tingling tour of Boston’s haunted history!
An Old Town Trolley Tour is a must-do in Boston for any visitor looking to make the most of their time in this historic city. This tour takes guests on a narrated journey through the streets of the city, allowing visitors to explore its rich culture and history at their own pace. The tour includes various stops including the USS Constitution, the Bunker Hill Monument, Beacon Hill, Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and more. Not only will guests get to go sightseeing in comfort and style, but they’ll also learn interesting facts and stories along the way. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore one of America’s most beloved cities!
It is traditionally held on the third Monday of April.
It is a 26.2-mile course that starts at the Boston Common and ends near Copley Square. Along the route, runners pass through eight cities and towns in Massachusetts, including iconic landmarks such as Fenway Park, Harvard University and Beacon Hill.
Yes, non-runners who have never taken part in it can still experience its spirit through the Marathon Expo. The Expo will take place in conjunction with the historic marathon. It is a free event that allows non-runners to explore the world of running and the marathon. There will be exhibitors and vendors, as well as speakers and activities to bring the experience of the Boston Marathon to all visitors. The Expo is a great way for non-runners to enjoy a day of fun and learning at this once-in-a-lifetime event!
Yes, there is an entry fee for runners of the Boston Marathon. This fee covers a variety of services, including race support and medical care. For non-runners, it is completely free.