In celebration of Boston Marathon 2017 registration opening, here is a recap of my time spent in Boston for the 2016 marathon.
During our week in Boston it was abundantly clear that Bostonions LOVE their city and are very proud of it. They love to show off the city highlights and interestingly, their recommendations for food, drink, and entertainment are all so similar! One of my (self-described) talents is being a tour guide and travel agent (one day, being a dentist will be my side job and I’ll be a professional tour guide) so I love learning about new places. I also had access to the best ever advice from a once-local, my friend Farida, and current local Betty sister, Alett so I was left with no shortage of things to do and places to see. I will also share some helpful hints for the days surrounding the marathon for anyone lucky enough to race in Boston.
I spent 1 week in Boston, Wednesday to Wednesday, with Marathon Monday in the middle. It was perfect for the experience I wanted. I have been to NYC before so I didn’t really feel the need to get there and April might be a bit early for visiting Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard; I suspect those areas are better visited in the summer but they’re probably beautiful all year! For the marathon you don’t *have* to spend a week, obviously, but it’s a long way to go from western Canada so I wanted my money’s worth.
Stay as close to the action as you can!
We stayed at the Sheraton Prudential Center. It was perfect for the race. Yes, the prime location hotels charge an arm and a leg but that’s to be expected and I’ve learned over the years the value of spending extra to be close to the race events. The expo is in the convention center attached to the Sheraton and the Prudential Center so you don’t even need to go outside to go to the expo! The Sheraton is also on the corner of the saying “left on Boylston” and the straightaway to the finish so very convenient for your supporters. There’s a Starbucks in the lobby so coffee drinkers will appreciate that (I don’t drink coffee but my mom does so it was great for her!) The Sheraton held a pasta buffet the night before the race and although we had dinner plans elsewhere, it would be an easy option for a pre-race carb load.
I really enjoyed arriving a few days before the race because the city was noticeably quieter on Thursday before the throngs of marathoners arrived. Also, I was really worried about the expo running out of my size of the unicorn jacket (I needn’t have worried, more on that later) but that would have been a disaster for me!
We arrived Wednesday night after a full day of travelling so we pretty much just had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (also in the Pru) and then fell asleep immediately after.
Take a Boston Duck Tour!
Thursday morning we had reservations for a Boston Duck Tour. This was a highlight of our trip, both my mom and I enjoyed it so much! We had a great driver/tour guide and learned so many interesting, quirky facts about Boston that we wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. The Duck Tours are in old WWII amphibious vehicles so part of the tour is through the streets of Boston then you drive right into the Charles River and have part of the tour from the water. It was so cool and a must-do for anyone visiting Boston.
I joined a group at the Adidas RunBase (Boston Marathon central) on Boylston for a run long the Charles. It was really fun to talk to some locals. There were only a couple of us from out of town who were running the marathon. I was constantly asked if I qualified for the marathon. At first I was completely confused because, yes, of course I qualified! That’s the only way you get to run the marathon! But it turns out that, from what I understand, a lot of locals are able to run for charity and really only locals know about it, or they only let locals do that. Regardless, when you say you qualified for the race, people are super impressed!
Go to the expo in the early days when it’s less busy
Friday morning was the big day at the expo. I went pretty close to opening time and there was no line at registration and package pickup. They had the ropes set up for the onslaught later on and if that snaking line was full, it looked like it would take hours to get through, so go early!
The expo was the biggest running expo I’ve seen. All the big running brands were there, all with their special edition Boston marathon gear, like shoes and t-shirts. Newton, of course, had the best Boston running shoes (duh! because the course runs through Newton!) and they also had the cutest t-shirt with a the course profile and a little broken heart at Heartbreak Hill! The official Adidas merchandise was awesome. The official colour this year was teal/turquoise as a throwback to the original Adidas design and I loved it. As I mentioned, there were a TON of jackets at the expo in all sizes so everyone who wanted one could get one. There were also jackets at the Adidas Run Base and Marathon Sports on Boylston. I picked up a pair of the special edition Adidas marathon shoes too, specific for the 2016 race so they’re teal.
Run or walk the BAA 5k!
On Saturday morning my mom and I walked the BAA 5k. It was so fun for my mom to get involved in the race a little bit and she even got a finishers t-shirt and medal! The race starts in Boston Common on Beacon Hill and winds it’s way through the beautiful streets of Boston and even crosses the marathon finish line. There is an elite field that seems to draw some really fast runners. We were at the back of the field and there was 10,000 runners I think so the elites were finished before we even got to the start line! I would really recommend this race as a shake out run before the big day.
Saturday afternoon we walked over to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox vs Blue Jays. The Sheraton is less than 2km away from Fenway! So cool! The game was a blast, even though Canada lost, it was fun for the home team to win and hear them play Dirty Water by the Standells. I don’t eat meat but my mom had a Fenway frank and we both had a beer (carb loading!) and really enjoyed the afternoon.
The day before the race I wanted to be able to keep things pretty chill. The few days before the race there are lots of meet and greets and talks with pros you can attend if you’re interested in that stuff. I attended a talk, invited by Betty sister Dorette, with Meb Keflezighi. I took a bunch of photos at the finish line, and pretty much everyone else in the race was doing the same thing!
Eat dinner (and dessert!) in the North End
Alett made us dinner reservations at her favourite Italian restaurant in the North end. This was our first time exploring a different part of the city and it was completely amazing! I felt like I was actually right back in Italy. There are about a million Italian restaurants which makes the pre race carbo load really easy. After dinner we wandered around for a bit and stumbled on celebrations for Patriot’s Day. Clearly, Patriot’s Day is a big deal in New England but I don’t think anywhere else in the US, and definitely no Canada, even knows that it exists. We saw a speech by Paul Revere on his horse, some singing of Yankee Doodle – it was all really fun and interesting but made me realize just how little (pretty much zero) I know about American history. Something to brush up on!
Wear your unicorn jacket AND medal the day after the race!
The day after the race if you’re not wearing your unicorn jacket AND your medal, you’re weird! That was awesome. My mom and I did a huge walking tour of Boston that I think really helped flush out my legs. We took the bus to Harvard. Hah-vahd. We didn’t take a tour there due to being a bit short on time but it was so cool just to wander around the campus grounds. I really love visiting famous universities so this was a highlight for me. We ate lunch at Shake Shack in Harvard Square which was absolutely delicious. I had the fried portabella burger and I’ve sort of been thinking about it ever since!
Walk the Freedom Trail
We walked the Freedom Trail and it was fabulous. Again, I need to brush up on my American Revolution history! I don’t eat seafood (I know, sacrilegious, visiting New England and not eating seafood, but yuck!) but my mom enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder in the North End. Her report was that it was excellent! Also, if you’re lucky, you can enjoy a pint of Sam Adams special 26.2 brew for the marathon!
Enjoy a drink in the drunk tank at the Liberty Hotel
One highlight was having a drink at Alibi in the Liberty Hotel. The hotel is the former jail and the bar is the former drunk tank for the jail! It was so cool. The whole hotel was amazing. And the drinks were top notch too.
Apparently it’s not a Bostonion thing to do, but really, what trip to Boston is complete without a stop at the Cheers bar? We didn’t go inside but we took pictures in front of the staircase like the tourists we are.
Overall, Boston was one of the coolest cities I’ve been to, not just in America, but in the world! I was really impressed. I think it often gets overshadowed by NYC. Both cities are cool, but really not comparable, they offer completely different experiences. Boston just felt very comfortable and manageable and after a week in the city it was very easy to see why Bostonions love their city so much! There’s a lot to love!