Watching the Boston Marathon 2000
For most of my adult life I have lived in Newton, Massachusetts. There are many things Newton is known for. It calls itself "The Garden City", which is where I got the name "Software Garden" for a previous company I founded. It is the inspiration for the cookie named the "Fig Newton". A hundred years ago there were cookies such as the "Brookline" named for other Massachusetts towns, but only the Fig Newton survived nationally. In sports, Newton is home to the Boston Marathon's famed Heartbreak Hill.
The Marathon is a big deal in Newton. Held each year on Patriots Day, the Monday that commemorates a famous Revolutionary War Battle, the Boston Marathon starts in the town of Hopkinton and meanders along from town to town until it ends in downtown Boston. Much of the section in Newton, starting nearly 20 miles into the 26 mile race, is a series of uphill climbs, separated by short plateaus. The course goes up Commonwealth Avenue, one of the main roads that traverses the city. To the runners, that section is known as "Heartbreak Hill".
Thousands and thousands of people come out to line the streets and cheer the runners. Crossroads are blocked off. People get together for parties to watch, vendors hawk their wares, etc. There is even a children's race the day before the Marathon, a one-mile run up and down one section of the hill, that draws kids from as far away as Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
This page is to give you a little bit of a feel for what it's like in Newton.
Getting around town is tough on Marathon day, which was the 17th of April this year. Streets even blocks away from the route are closed for hours. If you want to drive to somewhere on the other side of Comm Ave (as it's called) it can take you 20 minutes extra, going miles out of your way.
City police close the streets
You see people from all over walking to Comm Ave. Others ride bikes. If you drive, you try to find a parking place as close as possible, and then walk a few blocks more. It's fun to walk down the middle of normally busy streets. In the air, there are planes pulling signs, this year mostly for dotComs.
Thousands walk for blocks
The first marathoners to go by are the faster wheelchairs. Having no gears like a bicycle, it looks especially hard as they go up and up the hills:
I got there just in time to watch the first of the men runners. They are led by a group of pace cars. Chrysler was the "official" car company, so they provided a variety of vehicles. The first was a convertible holding 92-year-old Johnny Kelley, who won the race well over 50 years ago. Then came two of the new PT Cruisers, new cars that I've been waiting to see but that went by way too quickly to notice much other than that they are quite small and different from the front and back. I didn't get a picture. Chrysler, though, did get their money's worth to show off their cars. The last showoff car was a Viper:
One of the pace cars
Then came the big press truck, filled with reporters and photographers:
Next was the Jeep (Chrysler...) with a clock, one of the many motorcycles, and a TV camera truck:
More before the first runner
Finally, we get the first runner. This year, much to everyone's surprise, he is followed almost immediately by a big pack of other runners:
Here's the pack. The runner on the right, number 7, Elijah Lagat, went on to win the race, beating out two others in the final blocks in Boston. All three finished within 3 seconds of each other, the closest finish ever in Boston history:
Other lead runners including #7, who won
A few seconds later, they're up the hill, blocked from view by the crowd:
Lead runners go out of view
But watching the lead runners is a minor part of watching the Marathon in person. Often you get there a little late and miss them. If you just wanted to see them it would be better on television -- that's why there are so many TV trucks and people.
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