Posted April 15, 2020

An Insider’s Guide to Viewing the Boston Marathon


Joe Capalbo

Hotel Marlowe GM Joe Capalbo, a dedicated runner, offers his tips for enjoying the Boston Marathon.

Joe Capalbo is General Manager of Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, MA, and a dedicated runner who knows the Boston area inside and out. He runs down the best places for celebrating and viewing the Boston Marathon, which will take place Monday, April 20.

The annual running of the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day here in Boston is one of the most exciting days of the year in our city. The energy that can be felt all day long can only be described as electric. As a marathon runner myself — wait, how did that word “marathon” get in there? Let’s try this again. As a runner myself, I’m drawn to the commitment, passion and dedication these 30,000 runners from all over the world will bring to Boston when they converge upon us for what is undeniably one of the most exciting sporting events to watch.

Hotel Marlowe

A river runs past it: Take a run with Joe along the Charles River, which fronts Hotel Marlowe, in honor of the marathon. #RunWithTheGM

During the week of the marathon, we’ll kick-off our #RunWithTheGM program, where I, along with other Kimpton managers, will head out in the mornings to run with our like-minded guests. I generally run four miles, about three or four times per week. I throw on the Nikes, exit Hotel Marlowe, head to the Charles River (which is right across the street) and run along the river, which affords some of the best views of the Boston skyline. We’ll cross over the Mass. Ave. Bridge and loop back by the Esplanade, then run up to the Museum of Science and circle back to the hotel. Depending upon our pace, this typically gives us a good 45-minute run.

Speaking of views, there are some key locations along the Boston Marathon route which offer great vantage points to watch and cheer on the world’s most elite runners:

Hopkinton (Start to two miles): Since this town is where the marathon begins, the area is packed with locals who live west of the city. Head a mile or so away and you’ll get a good view of the racers as they zip downhill from the starting line.

Boston Marathon

The 119th Boston Marathon gets underway on April 20 in the town of Hopkinton.

Wellesley (11.5 to 16 miles): This town’s business district features the exact midway point of the 26.2-mile race, and screaming Wellesley College students make this viewing spot a lively and loud one.

Chestnut Hill (20 to 21.5 miles): This is the make-or-break section of the race because of infamous Heartbreak Hill. You’ll encounter another noisy college crowd here as students from Boston College, at the top of the hill, enthusiastically cheer on the runners. If you know someone running the race, this is a great spot to offer cheers of support and encouragement, and a likely location where they will need it most.

Boston (24.5 to 26.2 miles): If you want a rowdy, in-the-thick-of-it-all atmosphere, head to Kenmore Square. The crowd swells here when an 11am Red Sox game (MLB’s only morning game) gets out. And whether the Sox win or lose, spectators here are the loudest along the route since they know runners only have a few more blocks to cross the finish line. This can be one of the most inspiring spots to watch the race.

Boston Marathon

Running with the pack: USA’s Meb Keflezighi, third runner from right in sunglasses and socks, won last year’s race. He was the first American to win since 1983.

All of this cheering will certainly build an appetite. As you head closer to the finish line from Kenmore Square, you might want to visit Towne Stove and Spirits in the Back Bay on Boylston Street for post-marathon cocktails. Towne is literally in the heart of all the action. If you want an indoor viewing spot, arrive early and hang out at McGreevy’s or Dillon’s on Boylston Street. These locations are just feet from the finish line and fill up quickly in the morning, so plan on arriving around 8am.

For any runners in need of carbo-loading the day before the marathon starts, I would suggest heading to Strega in the North End or their more Instagram-worthy location on the water at Fan Pier. Giacomo’s in the North End is also a great spot for pasta. Order the fusilli with lobster and shrimp or butternut squash ravioli. It tends to get very crowded, so plan on waiting a bit and be sure to bring cash since they don’t accept reservations or credit cards.

Boston skyline

One last point — the finish line to the Boston Marathon is ready four days in advance, beginning on Thursday, April 16th. There will be a light shining on it every night leading up to race day. It’s a great spot to snap keepsake photos, and in light of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, it’s also a moving place to pause for a moment and reflect on those who lost their lives and thank the many first responders who continue to keep Boston safe.

The Boston Marathon is an amazing, unforgettable experience: Once you’ve seen it, you’ll treasure it forever. It’s magnitude and the spirit of the runners who successfully complete it every year — from world-class athletes to runners doing it for the first time — make this one of Boston’s most magical and inspiring events.

Elite women runners photo: JD/Creative Commons; elite men runners photo: John Hoey/Creative Commons.


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  1. Misthi says:

    any times i think about to take a part in Boston Marathon but i cant.

    • Mark Hiss says:

      Well, whether you want to run in it or just watch next year, you’ve got some time to figure out a strategy. Go for it!