Found on RunnersWorld and written by Jon Marcus
Some Bicyclists Will Carry on Boston Tradition
Those who ride marathon course day of race have been asked not to.
For all the meticulous planning that goes into the Boston Marathon — especially this year’s — there’s one thing that has always happened spontaneously:
Hundreds and hundreds of bicyclists show up on the course in an underground tradition that takes advantage of the Massachusetts holiday of Patriot’s Day and the rare luxury of closed and cleared streets in place of the usual heavy traffic and parked cars.
The guerilla ride was never sanctioned, but it’s been tolerated by authorities, as long as the bikes were off the course before the wheelchair competitors were on it.
Now cyclists are being asked to stay away so that the route can be secured. And while some are making alternate plans, others plan to continue the ride.
“More people than ever in the past year, strangers, have come up to me and said, ‘I was thinking about doing this ride last year but I am definitely doing it this year, because just doing the ride gives me a way to connect with the marathon and unite with the city,'” says Greg Hum, who in 2009 came up with the idea of the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride that leaves from Hopkinton for Boston at midnight on marathon eve.
“We had a lot of bottled-up joy from the ride last year when tragedy struck the next day,” Hum says. “A lot of people feel that they didn’t have a chance to celebrate the ride and the marathon. This year we want to have that.”
Public officials are not thrilled about this plan. In meetings with ride organizers, the Boston Athletic Association asked that the ride be “put on pause” this year, Hum and others confirm. Attempts to find a compromise were unsuccessful. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has canceled a designated train it ran last year to carry 700 midnight riders to Southborough, near Hopkinton.
“At the request of local public-safety officials, the MBTA will not be operating a special train for bicycles this year,” T spokesman Joe Pesaturo confirmed.
But cyclists are chartering buses and renting trailers, or pedaling to the start, Hum says, to join in the spontaneous event that has no formal leaders, sponsors, or permission. He and others who publicize the ride are confining themselves to passing along advice.
“We met with the BAA to listen to their concerns about this, and we decided that the best course of action was to put out those concerns and figure out the safest way to do the ride without getting in the way,” including by staying away from the starting line in Hopkinton and the finish area on Boylston Street in Boston, Hum says.
“There’s so much community energy and excitement for this ride. It’s a way to connect with this amazing tradition of the Boston Marathon that’s much more accessible than running it — to get to experience what the route’s like,” he says. “As long as the roads are open, people will still be riding out there.”
That’s true, says David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition: Cyclists cannot legally be barred from roads that are open to cars.
Which means more serious cyclists of the Spandex-clad variety are forgoing their much faster Marathon Monday rides, which began in 1996 and have historically set off at dawn.
Several sections of the course will be sealed off by then, police say.
“Sadly, we need to find an alternative route,” says Amnon Gavish, who annually rides the course beginning at 5:45 a.m. with his cycling club, Crack O’ Dawn. Several other cycling groups are also on the road at that early hour, including the Boston Triathlon Team; most have sped from Boston or the close-in suburbs to the starting line and back for a total of 52.4 miles. The wheelchair start is at 9:17 a.m.
“It’s a tradition,” Gavish says. “The route goes through areas that are typically crowded and packed with cars, and that we never ride. We collect more riders on the way and it becomes a very, very long peloton of people by the time we get to Hopkinton, and we take a picture of all the riders below the sign at the starting point.”
This year, instead, Crack O’ Dawn is mulling a ride to Lexington, where costumed re-enactors play out the Battle of Lexington that Patriot’s Day commemorates.
“In general people are a bit disappointed, but they understand the reasoning behind it,” Gavish says.
The marathon-morning cyclists are among several groups that will be kept from the marathon route this year, including active-duty military “ruck-marchers” who march the course with fully loaded rucksacks on their backs. The ruckers, too, will relocate to the Minuteman Battle Road Trail in Lexington and Concord, except for 130 Massachusetts National Guardsmen, who have been given bib numbers to march.
The Boston Marathon itself was originally proposed to run from Lexington and Concord to Boston, on the route the British took on April 19, 1775, the first day of the American Revolution. But that distance proved too short.
Cyclists say they would prefer to ride the actual course.
“It’s important to note that cyclists, like everyone else in the Boston area and probably the rest of the world, understand the sensitivity surrounding the marathon this year after the events of last year,” says Watson, of MassBike, which has no formal connection with the Marathon Monday rides.
“Bicyclists just want to be part of the marathon,” he says. “They just want to experience it in a way that’s unique to bicycling.” Gavish hopes that will be possible again someday. “Time will tell,” he says. “It’s a nice tradition, and we’ll see. Maybe over time it will be reopened. If it does, we’ll be the first to renew the tradition.”