It could be argued that during the past 110 years, more things have stayed the same with the BAA Boston Marathon than have changed. Tradition is a very important asset of this venerable race. However, as time changes, so do many of the objectives, conditions, and issues surrounding an event of this magnitude.
As much as we want to preserve what is good and what works, we also recognize the need to adjust and change so as to accommodate and meet the different needs and concerns that arise from year-to-year.
All of us at the BAA regularly put specific areas of this race under a microscope and analyze it every which way known to man. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is not our mantra. Constant improvement and a desire to make the event the best that it can be is more like it.
This year is no different. If fact, many changes are on the horizon and all of us involved in the planning are excited about the improvements in store for everyone involved in the race. The keys to successful change are fourfold: identifying what needs to be changed, coming up with a workable plan, communicating that plan and the rationale behind it, and getting everyone's cooperation in following and supporting the plan.
Below I have listed some of the major changes runners can expect, along with the rationale behind the change:
ATHLETES' VILLAGE: We will be doubling the size of the Athletes' Village in Hopkinton and will be managing two separate and distinct areas of assembly. This will give runners much more needed room to rest and relax before the start of the race. Additionally, with the increase in space, we will be adding over 100 more port-o-johns which will cut down significantly on the long lines from the past. It is our hope that all runners will now stay in the Village until instructed to depart for the starting line (similar to what we did at the 100th Boston Marathon).
TRANSPORTATION: Two separate Villages will set us up to have two separate bus drop off locations in Hopkinton. If we load much faster in Boston we can cut back on the amount of time it will take to transport 20,000 runners from Boston to Hopkinton and thus cut down the amount of time runners need to be "hanging out" in Hopkinton before the start of the race. Baggage buses will also be re-positioned next to each Village, thus allowing easier and more efficient access to them.
TWO WAVE START (in addition to the Elite Women's Start): The race will effectively be divided into two distinct groups - Wave 1 / Section 1 / Blue Numbers and Wave 2 / Section 2 / Red Numbers. Each will have approximately 10,000 runners assigned. As in the past, runners will be assigned bib numbers according to their qualifying times; thus, the faster runners will be seeded up front in the first wave. Unlike the recent past, the line up of runners will be limited to Main Street only. We will be removing all the runner corrals from the residential neighborhood, thus, away from Hayden Rowe and Grove Street. The space available on Main Street will only allow approximately 10,000 runners, thus one of the many reasons for the two wave start. Wave 1 will be released from the Athletes' Village at 11:10AM to make their way to the starting corrals. Wave 2 will be released at 11:45AM. Runners will be assigned to a specific wave and will NOT be allowed to move to or start in the other wave. However, on a limited and space available basis, runners from a lower corral may move back to a higher corral but only within the wave they are assigned to.
Barricades will be set up all the way from the Athletes' Village to Main Street along Grove Street not allowing runners out of this passageway or to stop for any reason, thus, keeping them off of residential property and eliminating all external gridlock. No water stations or port-o-johns will be set up between the Village and Main Street, eliminating any reason for runners to stop along the way. Colella's Supermarket parking lot will serve as the major water station and port-o-john stop. We have increased the number of port-o-john units there, too.
In the past, it has taken the first 10,000 runners about 9-minutes to clear the starting line. However, it has taken the last official runner almost 30-minutes or until 12:30PM to cross the starting line. This year, Wave 1 will start at 12:00 noon, as in the past. Wave 2 will start at 12:30PM. Thus, if it takes the second wave 9-minutes to cross the starting line or 12:39PM, we are only talking a difference of 9-minutes from last year's "one gun, one start" for the last person to cross the starting line, not 30-minutes as many may initially assume.
In summary, some of the numerous benefits of the wave start include:
- runner line up taken off of residential streets;
- less time to cross starting line;
- more room to run once runners cross the starting line;
- less time standing in corrals;
- less time needing to be in Hopkinton;
- shorter lines and more efficient use of port-o-johns;
- better emergency access throughout the town.
No runner will be at a disadvantage over past participants and most will reap significant benefits.
COURSE IMPACT: There will be no impact to or from Wave 1 or activities normally conducted before noon. The mobility impaired race will start at 10:00AM, the wheelchair division at 11:25AM and the Elite Women's Start at 11:31AM. The key responsibility and challenge for cities and towns along the route and the BAA is to maintain full road closure and clearance until Wave 2 starts and eventually closes the gap, similar to the experience from Elite Women's Start to the Main Start at Noon. Spectators need to realize that once the last finisher of Wave 1 passes by the race is not over and that there are another 10,000 runners coming their way! The course clocks will display time from noon only, although most runners use their own watch for time checks. Most importantly, water stations will better be able to fill cups and keep up with runner density as it will be more spread out for a little longer period of time and the stations will be able to re-load between the two waves.
FINISH IMPACT: The impact on the finish is a positive one, too, spreading out the density of finishers a bit more. This should all occur without extending the last finishing times much longer then previous years, again perhaps by only 10-minutes or so. In the past, there has been a significant spike in runner density at the finish between 4:00PM and 5:00PM. Due to the wave start, this spike should not be as severe and, in fact, should become two smaller spikes. As such, this should ease some of the pressure in the medical tent at normally high volume times, as well as easing the demands of services areas after the finish line including baggage retrieval, thus allowing finishers to travel through this area much quicker, too.
TIMING AND SCORING: Gun time will be used to determine prize money winners. Overall order of finish and age group winners will be determined by net time, a HUGE benefit to every runner this year over past years. The official finish line cut off time will be extended to 6:30PM, thus 30-minutes later than in the past. Since it will take Wave 2 about 10-minutes or less to cross the starting line, this extended cut off time will now give Wave 2 runners up to 20-minutes more than last year to actually cover the course.
OTHER CHANGES AND IMPROVEMENTS:
Slight Course Change: In an effort to provide vehicular relief on the Back Bay, we have also agreed with the City of Boston's request to have the race go under the Mass. Avenue bridge rather than across it. This will have a significant impact on relieving the North and South traffic gridlock in the Back Bay that is normally created by the race. True, this means another slight decline and incline for the runners at the 25.2-mile point in the race, however, it is not severe and if runners know this in advance (which they will), they should be able to adjust their stride accordingly and handle this without any degree of difficulty. Bottom line is that the second half of the race field is slower today than years ago, thus tying up city streets much longer and as such we need to respond to city requests to offer some relief. And, although it is Patriot's Day (Monday) in Boston, it has become less and less of an off work day than in the past, thus generating much more vehicular traffic during this rush hour time of day.
Race Registration and Expo: Race registration and the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Exposition will be held at Boston's World Trade Center on Saturday, April 15th and Sunday, April 16th from 9:00AM to 6:00PM (not at the Hynes Auditorium).
Course Re-Opening: And finally, we are focusing a lot of attention this year on a more organized and synchronized course re-opening program and will be communicating to all runners this back end of the race policy.
Lastly, we are making numerous other changes and improvements this year which may not be as noticeable but will have significant benefits to all: additional medical support along the course and at the finish, a few adjustments to the water station program, new and more visible course mile markers as well as some tweaking of our lead vehicle programs.
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo