For the seventh year, Greg Hum and friends organized a bike ride on the Boston Marathon route. Riders, for a small fee, congregate near South Station in Boston to load their bikes on panel trucks. After loading, the participants walk to South Station to catch the commuter rail to Southboro, unload their bikes and begin the 26.4 mile ride. Two routes are offered for the ride back to downtown Boston.
What are the absolute essentials to know?
The ride is unsupported and show-and-go, meaning you can ride on the route with friends at any time on the roads as long the roads are open and you follow the rules of the road. The main group coming on the train arrives at Southborough Station at midnight, but many people organize their own carpools and rides.
NO BIKES WILL BE ALLOWED ON THE COMMUTER RAIL OR SUBWAY at all on Sunday or Monday of Marathon weekend. This will be strictly enforced by MBTA and Keolis staff. Please don’t try to bring your bike on any trains; you will likely be turned away.
Bike transportation is available for people who can get themselves to Southborough Station via train, taxi, or carpool. Only a limited number of tickets are available for bike transportation. Bikes will be picked up near South Station and trucked to the commuter rail station in Southborough.
Boston Common Coffee Company is organizing a post-ride Charity Pancake Breakfast. Buy your tix in advance!
Unlike last year, there are two route options thanks to the expected reopening of the Start and Finish lines.
New this year- a rest area along the way. The Wellesly College Sustainability Group.
Not far from South Station in Boston, in an industrial area off of Congress Street, sat four large panel trucks. Soon people with bikes began to gather. Hundreds of people with bikes. “A to K behind this truck” someone with an orange vest began to shout. Me, being an “S”, had no difficulty figuring that I need to be behind the next truck. Waiting patiently was also a good time to strike up a conversation. “Have you done this ride before?” I asked a woman that seemed close to my age.
“First time” she answered. I’m with a friend who is an avid biker but I’m nervous about that first hill on the Facebook page.
“Well I’m going around the hill and your welcome to join me. I have the route programmed in my Garmin”
At 30.6 miles, this is the traditional Midnight Marathon route- including a large, steep hill on Cedar St shortly after starting. This route brings you across the Boston Marathon Start Line in Hopkinton. Police ask that you do not stop at the Start Line for photos nor to wait for people. Please pedal straight through and on according to the Route A Map.
– This shorter route at 27.3 miles also benefits from avoiding the Cedar St hill. This is the route we did last year- joining the main Boston Marathon route at the 4 mile mark. If you’re starting late, looking to get downtown early, or just want to avoid that awful hill, check out the Route B Map.
As always, click any photo for big. Click again for bigger.
Using the truck train transportation option was a $40 investment. Thirty bucks for the truck and ten for the commuter rail to Southborough. When we signed up, we had a few options as to where any excess money would be donated. Last year Bikes Not Bombs of Boston received the two thousand dollar in excess funds from the truck option. This year organizer Greg Hum offered the diverse options for those funds. All were bike and safe streets organizations.
Again under the dark cloud that often accompanies me on my bike adventures, the order came as I was about to offer my bike to be loaded onto the truck.
“This truck is full, move down the line to truck 4”.
Now all the people at the back of the line were first, and those of us at the front were relegated to the end. Being a veteran of this ride and knowing there was still two hours before the train left the station, I graciously moved to the back of the line. Sneaky little me realized that the last bikes on, would be the first bikes off the truck. Do I want to wait in line now, with an hour plus to kill, or at Southborough when everyone is riding away?
I never did find my two friends whom I offered to lead around the big hill. I waited around to see see if anyone was taking the shorter non hill climbing route. Nothing, nada, no one. When I noticed how dark the route was it was an easy choice to suck it up and climb the hill. As I began to ride, two bikes came screaming down the road. They began climbing the hill, but after walking for a bit, changed their minds and opted for the shorter flatter route. They were two twenty something women that I joined without asking. This is a group ride after all but I sensed that they were unsettled. Two young woman and an obvious older man wearing a gator that covered his face. (It was 45F when we began riding). I tried to ease things by asking personal questions, “Do you live in Boston? Are you students” Where are you from?” I sensed that my talking made things worse so I settled in and just rode with them. It was dark but our lights were sufficient when added to the occasional street lamp. I had my Garmin they had a paper printout.
When we came to a crossroad, we all agreed that the correct route was to take a right. My Garmin said different, but their directions and the street sign contradicted it. We went right, rode more than a mile in pitch blackness. We began to question our decision and I stopped to double check my Garmin. This time I put on my glasses. The device said, “ride east” , the compass said we were riding west. We turned around and when we got back to the street sign we realized that the sign post was askew. Once we got back on track, we settled into an easy spin and got more comfortable with each other. Soon enough we finished the loop around that hill we dreaded and got back on the marathon route. I thanked the two women for letting me ride with them and rode off ahead to their relief I’m sure.
This is one of the most unique, fun, eclectic ride I have done in my decades of bike riding. My guess is that the average age was somewhere in the mid to late 20’s. There was the occasional senior riders, those over 40 and even fewer in my age category, retired. Because of the demographics and taking place in a college town, the ride took on a very party attitude. Boom boxes, drums, singing, hooting and hollering were evident throughout the night. Also this was not a ride for roadies. The Midnight Marathon Bike Ride is a very casual event with very few riders hammering through the course.
Throughout the night there was also lots of activity preparing for the Boston Marathon. Street sweepers, barricades being set up, a hefty police presence and lots and lots of press. There was also much talk among the riders about the infamous “heartbreak hill”. It’s not a big deal as Wikipedia describes the history.
Heartbreak Hill is an ascent over 0.4-mile (600 m) between the 20 and 21-mile (32 and 34 km) marks, near Boston College. It is the last of four “Newton hills”, which begin at the 16-mile (26 km) mark and challenge contestants with late (if modest) climbs after the course’s general downhill trend to that point. Though Heartbreak Hill itself rises only 88 feet (27 m) vertically (from an elevation of 148 to 236 feet (45 to 72 m)), it comes in the portion of a marathon distance where muscle glycogen stores are most likely to be depleted—a phenomenon referred to by marathoners as “hitting the wall.”
It was on this hill that, in 1936, defending champion John A. “Johnny” Kelley overtook Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, giving him a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed. This gesture renewed the competitive drive in Brown, who rallied, pulled ahead of Kelley, and went on to win—thereby, it was said, breaking Kelley’s heart
After ascending heartbreak hill the rider comes upon Boston College. It’s a spectacular sight at night and I couldn’t resist getting off the route to ride around the campus a bit. That’s when I began to hear the birds chirping. I originally though that I had disturbed them from their sleep when I noticed the time on the clock tower. Twenty one miles in three and a half hours. I guess this WAS a casual pace.
As I got back on route things began to change. It was a gradual shift from suburban to urban city riding. Normally during the day, the street we were now riding would be chaos. Speed, blowing horns, one finger salutes and all the crazy stuff that happens on busy big city roads would be the norm. Tonight however, the roads were very quiet. The occasional vehicle gave the riders plenty of room when they passsed. All of them going fully into the oncoming lane.
As we approached Cleveland Circle the pace of the riders began to pick up noticeably. Like the cows smelling the barn, we could all sense that the finish line was near. The activities on the route were also increasing dramatically. Buses, trolleys, and for the unlucky ones, tow trucks. Any vehicle now on the marathon route was being towed away. The most unique sight however was a company setting up Drone Shield technology. In short….
The DroneShield system compares sounds within range of its omnidirectional microphone to acoustic signatures for common consumer drones. If it detects a match, DroneShield sends an alert by text or email.
A little before 4 AM I made the final turn taking me to the finish line. Last year bicycles were not allowed near either the start or finish lines. Nothing else was banned but the powers decided in their wisdom that bicycles posed a threat. Cars, pedestrians, taxis, buses, drones etc were OK. Bikes? No way. This year, everyone calmed down and we were allowed to take in the whole wonderful experience of the Boston Marathon.
The final part of the Midnight Marathon Bike was the after ride pancake breakfast at the Boston Common Coffee Co.
The seventh edition of the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride was an undisputed success. Hundreds of riders took advantage of the truck/train option. Two large groups rode out and back on the marathon route and many more opted to have someone drive them to Hopkinton to begin the midnight rider back to Boston.
The riders spanned the generation gap with the young, old and all in between taking advantage of this unusual yet wonderful ride. The caveat of having no support did not dampen the enthusiasm at all. I witnessed a few breakdowns on the route and every time there were many riders offering physical and moral support to those in need.
The spectators were down from the running part of the Boston marathon. I couldn’t count them on one hand, but two hands is enough to count the 9 spectators I saw on this 26 mile route. Seven of them I’m sure were sober.
This was my second riding of the Midnight Marathon Bike. It’s the highlight ride of the year for me, trumping the NYC five boroughs event because of the midnight start. I look forward to next years ride and go out of my way to preach the joy this ride brings to so many people. It’s very cool.
See more of this and other bike stories at http://amidnightrider.com
amidnightrider after the midnight marathon bike