Get Ready for the 2016 Midnight Marathon Bike Ride
The tradition continues as more than 1,000 cyclists are expected to bike the route the night before the race.
On the eve of the Boston Marathon, while the rest of the city sleeps in preparation for race day, a projected group of more than 1,000 people will traverse the 26.2 mile course not by foot, but instead on bikes for the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride.
Now in it’s eighth year, the Midnight Marathon involves hordes of cyclists making their way to the Southborough Station near the starting line in Hopkinton to ride the entirety of the Boston Marathon course. And yes—they begin the journey at midnight.
There’s no fee, no registration, and no need to qualify. The carefree spirit that inspired the event’s inception has continued throughout its now almost decade-long tradition, which was what Greg Hum, the original founder of the ride, had in mind from the start.
Hum was a BU student when he first thought of the idea in 2009. Thinking it would be a fun, one-time thing to do with a few friends, he had no idea that it would garner more than 1,000 riders in the coming years.
“It was one of those spur of the moment, crazy ideas that I thought might be a fun thing to do with my college buddies,” Hum says. “I had no idea that it would become this big, or still be a thing in eight years. As far as I knew, it would be a one-time quirky thing to do with my friends on bikes, and that would be it.”
According to James Cobalt, another Midnight Marathon organizer, the event in 2009 involved about 50 people, made up of Hum and his friends and their friends. The next year was about 70, then it grew to more than 300, 700, and then 1,000.
Cobalt credits teaming up with the organization Boston SOS (or “Society of Shenanigans”), of which he is a member, as a key reason for the event’s growth. “When we told the Boston SOS people, it just exploded,” he says.
Hum also mentioned the internet and social media as huge contributors to the bike ride’s success. “The word of this Facebook event spread really fast around Boston, and a lot of people caught wind of it and thought it was a novel idea, to bike the marathon the night before,” he says. Biking blogs and forums around Boston also began linking to the event.
Despite the large number of participants the event draws, the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride still remains relatively DIY. Anyone can participate—all you have to do is go to the starting line and join the party. The organizers do offer some safety guidelines and help transport people to Hopkinton. In the past, the event organizers were able to secure a whole commuter rail train just to transport people’s bikes, but since the Boston Marathon bombings, bikes are not allowed on the rail, so now they hire truck drivers to take bikes to the start line. Participants can find more detailed information on Cobalt’s website.
Once you’re there, the event is—as it always has been—an enjoyable and quirky activity for thousands of riders.
“We’re doing it for ourselves. We just want to meet people and have a good time, and there’s nothing behind it,” Cobalt says. “We are all students or we are all working, and we just need a break.”
As the website says, the event is “unsupported and show-and-go,” but the organizers and community members come together to make it as smooth as possible. A Truck ’n’ Train ticket will get your bike to Southborough Station, the Wellesley Sustainability office organized their own water refill station and rest area on the route, and Boston Common Coffee Co. offers a pancake breakfast, with proceeds going to the Tyler Foundation.
The spirit of friends and strangers coming together remains the guiding force of the ride. “All of these community organizations come together and build this amazing tradition together,” Hum says. “That part is really rewarding. Being able to contribute to building this amazing community, and being part of it. It went from this weird novel idea in my head to it becoming a reality. Every year since, it’s become this really special experience, to celebrate this amazing Boston tradition in this unique way that doesn’t involve running, but involves one of my favorite things. Sharing this with thousands of people since that first time has been really special.”
April 15, 2016, 10:30 a.m.: An earlier version of the post mentioned the 2008 event having 50 people. It was 2009. We regret the error.