date published: April 9, 2007

Responding to athletes’ longtime requests, marathon organizers the Boston Athletic Association have moved up the starting gun. Wheelchair racers now kick off the Marathon on April 16 at 9:25 a.m., followed by the elite women’s field at 9:35 a.m. Then, at 10 a.m., the elite male runners, along with just under 10,000 non-elite racers of both genders, begin. Finally, at 10:30 p.m., the remainder of the field of 20,000 runners depart from Hopkinton.

Benefits of the staggered starts range from giving more individual attention to the women racers, to protecting the lawns of Hopkinton residents along the course.

This year, a number of elite female runners will also be competing in a sort of “race-within-a-race,” as the Boston Marathon hosts the U.S.A. Women’s Marathon Championship. The race features a separate U.S.-only prize purse awarded to the top finishers. 

Since 1991, only one Boston Marathon men’s winner (Lee Bong-Ju of Korea in 2001) has not been from the continent of Africa, and this year’s field could easily produce another African champion. The men’s field in 2007 is led by defending champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot of Kenya, looking to become the first back-to-back men’s winner since Kenyan Cosmas Ndeti (1993–1995). Cheruiyot faces a pretty open field of competitors, with 8 of last year’s 10 top-ranked runners not entered this year. The top challengers are expected to be 2006 runner-up Benjamin Maiyo of Kenya, 2005 champion Hailu Negussie of Ethiopia and Kenyan Robert Cheboror.

Defending women’s champ Rita Jeptoo of Kenya will also be back to try and retain her title, and she’ll be pressed by top female runners like last year’s runner-up Jelena Prokopcuka of Latavia, fellow Kenyan Alice Chelangat and hometown hero Deena Kastor of Waltham, Mass.—who’s looking to become the first American women’s champion since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985.

Party like a Champion
While thousands of devoted athletes spend their whole year training for a grueling 26-mile run, there’s thousands more who spend the entire year training their livers for Patriots’ Day. If the extent of your personal goals is to have one heck of a party while the runners go by, here’s a few suggestions where to get wild in the midst of it all.

LIR, 903 Boylston St., 617-778-0089. This Irish pub located literally yards away from the finish line figures to be a popular vantage point for Marathon watchers all day long. The bar’s non-inclusive cover charge for the day is $20, but the Boston Young Professionals Association is hosting their own event at Lir on a private level of the bar—$35 gets you in, as well as two complimentary drinks and complimentary hot and cold appetizers. (Visit for details.)

CHEERS, 84 Beacon St., 617-227-9605. If you’re going to enjoy the quintessential Boston sporting event, you might as well do it in the quintessential Boston bar. Located two streets away from the Marathon’s home stretch, Cheers’ happy hour— featuring half-price appetizers at the bar—begins at 4 p.m., just as the majority of the non-elite racers struggle across the finish line.

GREAT SCOTT, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617-566-9014. If you’ve just run 26 miles, an evening of rock ’n’ roll is probably the last thing on your mind. However, if the most strenuous thing you’ve done all day is watch the race, you’re in fine shape for Great Scott’s third annual Patriots’ Day Blowout. Local rockers Jesse Malin, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Jake Brennan and the estimable DJ Carbo provide the tunes.

FOUNDATION LOUNGE, 500 Commonwealth Ave., Hotel Commonwealth, 617-859-9900. Foundation Lounge is sure to be hopping throughout the day and night of April 16. However, with its Euro-Asian vibe and upscale feel, it stands as a nice alternative to the sports-pub vibe found in the area, perfect for a cool, laid-back evening of Zensai appetizers and exotic cocktails.

26 Miles to Glory
Panorama's primer on the Boston Marathon and the best places to watch it
HOPKINTON:  A typical sleepy New England town that, for one day each year, becomes ground zero for the world’s elite distance runners. Watching the race’s start is challenging—plan on arriving pre-dawn to claim a spot, and be prepared for wary glances from homeowners’ whose lawns literally border the course. Crowds thin slightly by the one-mile mark, where spectators can view the Spirit of the Marathon statue (pictured above) commemorating Greek marathoner Stylianos Kyriakides’ 1946 Boston win. FRAMINGHAM:  Framingham: Crowds assemble on Waverley Street, by the commuter rail station, to watch the runners hit roughly the six-mile mark. After runners pass and you need to fill your body with fuel you’d never recommend to a marathoner, you can sample fresh-baked delicacies reflecting the town’s heavy Brazilian population at Magic Oven Bakery (470 Waverley St., 508-370-8008), or head to The Chicken Bone Saloon (358 Waverley St., 508-879-1138) for some of the area’s best buffalo wings in an authentic honky-tonk, biker-friendly atmosphere.
NATICK: Natick: The town common along Rte. 135 is a charming greenspace in a charming downtown, great for spying your favorite marathoner. And either before, during, or after watching the runners go by, you can duck around the corner to Park Street Ice Cream Shoppe (14 Park St., 508-655-8113) for delicious homemade ice cream and frozen yogurt, which could come in handy—while it’s not the norm for April, temperatures during the Boston Marathon have occasionally been known to reach the 80s..
Below is a list of other race-related events. All of them, except for the Fitness Expo, are open only to athletes, their guests and the media:

> The free 30th annual John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo (April 13 from noon–6 p.m. and April 14 & 15 from 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) at the Hynes Convention Center is the official number pick-up for runners, and features more than 200 sports equipment and apparel exhibitors displaying their wares.

> The B.A.A. Freedom Run offers runners and their friends a 2.8-mile warm-up course that winds through scenic Boston neighborhoods, April 15 starting at 8 a.m. from Copley Square Park.

> The annual Pre-Race Pasta Dinner takes place April 15 from 4:30–9 p.m. at City Hall Plaza. This year, entertainment is being provided by the Big Apple Circus, set up under the Big Top at the Plaza.

> The Post-Race Dance Party caps off the big weekend with a celebration showcasing video highlights of the race April 17 from 7:30 p.m.–1:30 a.m. at The Roxy and Pure nightclubs, 279 Tremont St.

WELLESLEY:  Just before the midpoint of the Marathon, runners pass by Wellesley College. It’s here the athletes are either given a huge lift or are permanently deafened by the encouraging and powerful screaming of Wellesley’s all-female student body. And if you’re in the mood for a spot of fine cuisine at this point, celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s acclaimed Asian-fusion restaurant Blue Ginger (583 Washington St., 781-283-5790) can be found just up the road. HEARTBREAK HILL: Just after mile 20, runners face their biggest challenge—four sharp inclines, the last of which is known as Heartbreak Hill. It was there, in 1936, that Marathon legend Johnny Kelley (pictured right) passed fellow runner Tarzan Brown, giving him a playful tap on the shoulder as he did so. Brown was so incensed that he found his second wind and blew by Kelley to win. Local sportswriter Jerry Nason consequently dubbed it Kelley’s “Heartbreak Hill,” and the apt name stuck.

MARATHON GOES INTERGALACTIC: There’s long-distance running, and then there’s what U.S. astronaut Sunita Williams (pictured) is doing. The Needham, Mass. native—who qualified for the Boston Marathon by running last year's Houston Marathon in 3:29:57—will be running the Boston race on a treadmill from her current vantage point aboard the International Space Station while her sister, Dina Pandya, runs the actual race down on earth. Now, since zero gravity would give Williams something of an unfair advantage, it’s unknown whether her time will be considered official: however, her Boston Athletic Association bib number and runner’s medal will be official enough—and will be delivered to Williams via space shuttle as she completes her six-month stint in space.

ROSIE RUIZ:  In 1980, Cuban native Rosie Ruiz took the women’s title with the third fastest women’s time in Boston history (2:31:56). Ruiz achieved this with almost no previous marathon experience, went unnoticed by observers throughout the race, and seemed strangely energetic at the finish line. An investigation quickly concluded that Ruiz had slipped onto the course near Kenmore Square, running only a mile or so. Ruiz was stripped of her win, but still maintains she was the victor, refusing to return her first-place medal.  

KENMORE SQUARE/BOYLSTON STREET: Kenmore is always chaotic by the time the lead runners come through, with the 10:05 a.m. Patriots’ Day Red Sox game letting out at nearby Fenway Park. So, duck into trendy Eastern Standard (refer to listing) for food and drinks. If you choose to take your vantage point at the finish line on Boylston, plan on fighting crowds. Luckily, Boylston is laden with drinking establishments, such as the Cactus Club (refer to listing), where you can sip a margarita and wait for your favorite Kenyan runner to break the tape.

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