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Boston Marathon Race Day: What to expect at Athlete’s Village + lessons learned

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Athlete’s Village is the waiting area where the busses drop you off to chill before you head to the corrals closer to race time. Depending on what time you take the shuttle, you’ll have anywhere from 1-2 hours at Athlete’s Village before starting the race. The time went by much faster than I was expecting, and I felt very prepared, thanks to lots of tips from other runners. Here’s how the morning of the race and my time at Athlete’s Village went for me + my tips at the bottom.

I’ve got another Boston Marathon recap for you today! This is another long post, but I really hope it helps another runner in a future race since I wanted this level of detail leading up to the race and I couldn’t find it! 🙂 Let me know if you have any questions! Read my other Boston Marathon recaps here!

What to expect at the Boston Marathon Athlete’s Village

My race day really started the night before. Everyone who has ever raced knows that more often than not, you don’t sleep well the night before the race. Even Meb has interrupted sleep, so much so that he uses the multiple times that he wakes up in the night to eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to help him fuel for races. (I read that in his book Meb for Mortals, which I loved!) So, I fully expected to not sleep well the night before the race, which is why I slept in the day before.

But, I wanted to attempt a solid night sleep so I followed my usual routine – eat dinner around 7:45-8:00, watch a light hearted TV episode with Tommy (currently watching Schitt’s Creek – hilarious), and then get away from electronics by 9:30. Tommy watches the news while I do my nightly skincare routine, floss & brush my teeth and set out my running gear for the next morning, so we did that as well the night before the race. And then we both read in bed around 10 and lights out by 10:30. (I was reading Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and it was a perfect pre-race book!)

Having fully expected to toss and turn all night, I was SHOCKED when my alarm went off the next morning because I realized I had fallen asleep quickly, slept like a rock and woke up completely refreshed.


My race morning timeline:

Leading up to the race, I had detailed in 5-10 minute increments how my morning would go so I knew I would have enough time for everything I wanted and needed to do before heading to the bus. I also didn’t want to feel frantic or forget anything! A calm mind is a happy mind. And a happy mind makes a better runner, or something like that. 🙂

5:45 – wake up

5:50 – go get coffee at hotel Starbucks

6:00 – quiet time + water + coffee

6:15 – shower + stretch in shower + put on race day outfit

6:35 – eat toast + almond butter + banana + honey

6:45 – put on compressions socks and throwaway layers

7:00 – take hotel shuttle to gear check/shuttle area

9:00 – eat second almond butter + honey + banana sandwich

I didn’t really know how long the shuttle to the drop off, gear check and getting on the race buses would take, but I ended up getting on the bus right at 8:00. So plan an hour for all that to be safe if you’re driving to the start.

Waking up up on race morning

I very intentionally started my morning my regular morning routine – wake up at 5:30, drink a big glass of water, drink black coffee with collagen, and have quiet time. After about 15 minutes of sipping coffee and waking up, I took a hot shower, which I always do on race mornings. It helps me feel fresh and I like to let my muscles warm up a bit, and even do light stretching under the stream of water. I also wanted to get my core temperature up before I went out into the cold conditions!

I got out of the shower, put on my race day outfit, and then made breakfast. Again, I stuck to everything I do at home, which is why we did a Whole Foods run on our first day in Boston: two pieces of gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread with almond butter and a banana. I sipped on some Nuun while I ate breakfast and made a second sandwich to eat on the bus to the start line and prepped a water bottle with Nuun to take with me.


After I ate breakfast, I put on my compression socks and then put on all my ditch layers. Everything you take to the start line has to be tossed (they donate it to a local charity), so I intentionally wore things I was okay giving up. I also had packed dry clothes in my gear bag. It was NUTS how many clothes I packed in my suitcase just for the start and finish line!

Over my racing outfit (shorts + compression socks + tank + long sleeved shirt), I put on a pair of sweatpants, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, and two jackets. I also put plastic baggies over my compression socks and another pair of socks on top of those to keep my feet dry. Then, I put on an old hat and and old pair running shoes. My race day shoes went into a large plastic bag, which I carried with me.


Packing up for race morning

I was carrying a lot with me as I headed out the door:

  • My gear bag, which I would drop before getting on the bus
  • A large ziplock bag that came with my bib to hold my earbuds, spibelt to carry my phone, skratch fuel, sandwich and water bottle with nuun
  • A second clear garbage bag, which I really hoped they’d let me take on the bus. In it, I had my race shoes, an extra hat, a beanie, extra gloves, hand warmers, extra ziplock bags (to put on my feet over my shoes as I walked to the corrals), extra garbage bags juuuust in case and an inflatable pool float (more on that below!).
  • They do not allow backpacks or any bags that aren’t clear, but they DID let runners carry on an extra bag (beyond the ziplock bag they provided) with dry shoes. And they also let people bring yoga mats to sit on at Athlete’s Village.

Boston Marathon Gear Bag Drop

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge and the MAIN reason I booked that hotel was because they offered a shuttle to the race buses in the morning. I didn’t want to worry about navigating the train or getting an Uber who couldn’t get through or having to walk too much on race morning. Again, my goal was to minimize stress and frenzy!

I went down for the 7:00 hotel shuttle (vs. the 7:30 option) since I’d heard it would take quite a bit of time to drive over to Boston Common. It took over 30 minutes (vs. a 10 minute drive on a normal day). I got off the bus and walked to the gear check, which was about a 10 minute walk. Then, I went to the line of buses which was about 5 minutes from the gear check. All runners have to go through a security checkpoint before being allowed into the bus area. They looked in my bag and cleared me to carry on everything, including the pool floaty. Woot!


Boston Marathon Shuttles


You’re assigned a shuttle load time based on your wave start time, and my shuttle window was 8:00-8:45. I fully expected to have extra time before they started loading my wave onto the bus, but it took longer to drive from Cambridge and drop my gear bag than I expected. I got to the shuttles at the beginning of my assigned time, and I was glad I did since I ended up feeling like I had juuuuust enough time in Athlete’s Village. If I’d take a later shuttle from the hotel or a later bus to the Athlete’s Village, I would have felt very rushed.


The Ride from Boston Common to Athlete’s Village

It’s about a 45 minute drive to Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, so I took a quick stop in the porta potties before boarding the bus. There was NO one in line, weirdly. And then it was onto the bus! I sat next to a girl I met on the hotel shuttle, and we chatted the whole way. She was from North Carolina too, and it was so nice to have a friend to navigate the morning! We talked about our training, how we fit it in around life and laughed at the snow on the ground as we got closer to Athlete’s Village.

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Arriving in Athlete’s Village

It was so fun walking up and seeing the Athlete’s Village sign, which I’d heard so much about.


Athlete’s Village is essentially a big field with tents and a million porta-potties. (I’m not sure how I missed this detail, but Athlete’s Village is set up at a school.) I didn’t realize it but there was a second field with another tent if you walked straight through the entrance and to the right. But, as I walked past it on the way to the corrals, it looked like that area was actually more crowded than the first area.

Unfortunately, because of the heavy rain, the field was complete mud. Like, thick, deep, sink 2″ kind of mud. Thankfully I had my throwaway shoes on, and I had baggies on my feet inside of them to protect my compression socks but it was still very hard to walk. I was terrified of getting my compression socks wet because I knew if I was freezing when the race started that I might not ever warm up. And then that would put me at a higher risk for hypothermia, which I’m prone to anyway. (If I stay in wet clothes after a run, my lips turn blue, even if it’s 90 degrees outside. I got hypothermia during a Ragnar Relay in Utah in August one year!)

Chillin’ at Athlete’s Village on a pool float in the rain

Charlotte and I stood in line to use the bathroom, and then headed to the nearby tent. We walked around the back since we couldn’t even walk in the closest entrance, let alone sit down. We found an open area and spread out the pool floaty I brought. The thick and completely waterproof material was perfect for keeping us totally dry. Blankets would have gotten wet and a garbage bag would have been too small and slippery. I knew it would take too long to actually blow it up, so we just sat on it without any air in it.


As soon as I sat down, I put my feet into an extra garbage bag with two hand warmers. Again, I was trying to keep my feet warm! I ate my sandwich and started to get my gear unpacked and organized.


Charlotte decided she wasn’t going to use her arm warmers and gave me those to run in – seriously an answer to prayers! And she didn’t have an extra pair of gloves and hers were already soaked, so I gave her some. (I’d packed three pairs.) It’s amazing when God connects the right people like that.

As we sat there, I put on my bib, pulled on the arm sleeves, put on a long sleeved shirt over that and pulled it back over my neck like a weird shrug. That way it kept my bib visible and I could easily drop it, which I planned to do. I put my fuel into my shorts pocket, my phone in my flipbelt, and got my earbuds and music ready so I could turn it on midrace when I wanted it. And as soon as we got settled with all our gear, it was time to head to the corrals. Check out my sweet outfit.


Walking to the Boston Marathon Start Line

They had a loudspeaker announcing when each wave needed to head to the corrals. We were both in Wave 3 so we waited until we heard it was time for the blue bibs. We gathered up our things and dropped extra stuff in the garbage. I left the pool floaty on the ground for someone else to use. And as soon as we walked away, two women had already moved onto it.

As we started to leave the tent, we realized they had coffee so we stopped for a few minutes to drink that in hopes of warming up a little.

While we shuffled towards the corrals, I heard a voice behind me and immediately recognized it. In the midst of all the runners, I somehow ended up right next to a dear friend from North Carolina, Jeannette! It was so fun to see her!!


I had heard and read that it was a bit of a walk from Athlete’s Village so I was prepared for that. It was about 15-20 minutes maybe?


I’d also heard there were a LOT of porta-potties without lines closer to the corrals. But, when we got to the porta-potties, the lines were massive and not moving. I really think people were just standing in them to stay dry and warm. We eventually did our last minute pit stop and then headed to the corrals. I grabbed a little bottle of water they were handing out and sipped along the way.

Boston Marathon Corrals

I was in the first corral of Wave 3, so I said goodbye to Charlotte (who was in the third corral) and all of sudden I saw people around me starting to jog. At first, I thought they were warming up but then I heard someone say, “We have 5 minutes!” I was nervous I wouldn’t make it to my corral in time, so I started to jog as well – and I’m glad I did. I popped into my corral, stripped off my sweatpants and both heavy jackets, and prepped my music and earbuds. And as soon as I readjusted my hat, the 60 second countdown was on and I was off!

I wish I’d looked around because I read later that Meb was in my same corral! And it wasn’t very crowded so I probably could have seen him.


Lessons learned + tips for the Boston Marathon Athlete’s Village:

  • Pack more garbage bags than you think you need
  • Don’t wait to take the last shuttle in your assigned wave time
  • Bring a thermos of coffee
  • Sit as soon as you get there – get off your feet!
  • Bring a pool floaty to sit on, to keep you dry from the ground. And if you have time, blow it up for a little cushion. (I bought this one off Amazon and packed it with me. I got this tip from a childhood friend who’s dad has run the Boston marathon multiple times! It saved me!)
  • Don’t toss your layers until you’re in the starting corral. They had garbage bags lining the corral to drop clothes in before you start.

If you’ve run Boston, what tips do you have for Athlete’s Village?

Also, I have no advice for a warm weather at Athlete’s Village. But I imagine it’d be much less hectic and you wouldn’t have to pack as much! If you’ve run Boston on a warm year, please share your experience!

Read the rest of my Boston Marathon weekend recaps here.

See my Boston Marathon training weekly recaps here.

Read about my Boston Marathon training plan here.

My Race Day Gear

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    14 responses to “Boston Marathon Race Day: What to expect at Athlete’s Village + lessons learned”

    1. Great post! Our weather was very different so it would be interesting to get some tips from people who ran in the heat – bring sunscreen and that people may be giving out sunscreen as you walk to your corral is one that I would add. Any shade recommendations beyond the crowded tents would be nice.

    2. So were you able to bring your Nuun pre-mixed? When I ran NYC I couldn’t get a straight answer if I could being an already opened water bottle through security – I use Tailwind and it’s clear. So I mixed it at Athletes Village and made it too strong, which I’m sure contributed to my GI issues. I’m hoping to pre mix it for Boston. I’m loving these detailed recaps, thanks!

    3. If its hot, dump water all over your head at any chance you get! I was pretty soaked at the start (intentionally, ha!). Also bring extra body glide? Putting ice cubes in your bra rubs it all off and the chafing was baaaddd. I also brought an extra gatorade for calories + non-water hydration.

      • HEAT would be so so so much worse. I don’t know how you did it. Let’s hope we have perfect conditions when we run it together – 2020?

        Good tips – I need to remember all of this all summer…

    4. I will never run the Boston marathon, but I truly enjoyed reading about your journey the morning of the race. Thank you for sharing!

    5. Ok, so running a marathon seems hard enough. But running one in this type of weather is just badass. I’m a wimp in the cold and get Raynaud’s in my hands and feet, so thinking about all the logistics of staying warm sounds mentally exhausting… and that’s all before you’ve even started running. SUPERSTAR!

      • Ugh, I get Raynaud’s too – I HATE it. And seriously, the logistics of staying warm were super exhausting!! I was so nervous about what to wear/change into/change into again/what to race in, etc! But it all turned out okay!

    6. I ran Boston in 2010 so reading your recap brought back all the feels! I didn’t practice the later starting time in my training so was a little off in my water consumption as in I drank too much while I was waiting in athletes village and had stomach issues during the race. I will add that you are a ROCKSTAR for crushing it in those conditions and making the best out of it. In all your recaps and insta posts, you were never negative about it which I am sure helped your performance.

      • Ugh, I can’t imagine having stomach issues mid-race. That’s so tough! The later starting time was tricky – I’m glad a friend suggested to practice later runs + fueling a couple weeks out b/c it changed my plan since my stomach got upset on the first try!

        And thank you for your kind words about my race!!!

    7. I’m running Boston for the first time Monday – this is super helpful, thank you! In your experience, was there space for a warm up, drills or strides in Athlete’s Village area, or anywhere around it? Thanks!

      • Not really in Athlete’s Village. But, when your corral gets called, you’ll have about 3/4 mile walk to the start line and you might be able to fit in some strides there. There are a LOT of people walking but you might be able to get a free space.

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