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Health & Wellness

Marathon Monday a Time to Keep Safe

Race security includes knowing limits when it comes to drinking


The 121st Boston Marathon on Monday, April 17, is sure to be a heavy drinking day, and not just for the 30,000 water-guzzling runners trying to stay hydrated. Last year, 13 BU students were transported to the hospital for extreme inebriation over the five days culminating on Marathon Monday, according to Student Health Services (SHS). Monday is Patriots Day as well, a legal holiday in Massachusetts, making it a three-day weekend for many.

In the three years before 2016, the transport numbers were 10, 7, and 4, which is why, on a typical Marathon day, “we’re getting alcohol calls by 11 a.m., noon,” says Scott Paré, acting chief of the Boston University Police Department and BU deputy director of public safety.

“Every year, there are different houses and spots with a lot of drinking going on,” agrees BUPD Captain Robert Molloy. “It’s like Mardi Gras out there.”

SHS personnel are advising students to drink responsibly during this year’s race, out of a concern arising after they conducted student interviews that yielded troubling information: some student spectators engage in all-day imbibing and watch the race from potentially dangerous venues such as rooftops and balconies, operating on the presumption that drinking is an essential part of Boston’s iconic spring ritual.

“Students can end up having a much higher blood alcohol level than on a typical weekend,” says Katharine Mooney (SPH’12), SHS wellness and prevention director, with students telling her that “hard liquor is the drink of choice on Marathon Monday” and in the days leading up to it.

SHS is aware of one student-oriented, nonalcohol viewing venue, although it is not sponsored by BU: the so-called CLIF Cheer Zone, on Heartbreak Hill (the final hill in the race, 20-plus miles in, near Boston College). Hosted by the CLIF fitness bar brand and Fit University, an online health source for college students, the free watch party includes an all-day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) DJ, a barbecue for the first 150 people who register for the party, an all-day coffee bar, and obviously, CLIF bars.

Drinking aside, security procedures for the race will be the same as last year, Paré says. That includes a ban on drones along the route, implemented last year after terrorist attacks in Europe and California. Security already had been tightened after the 2013 Marathon bombings that killed Lu Lingzi (GRS’13) and two others.

Two official, tethered drones will monitor the area around the race starting line in Hopkinton to provide live video to race and law enforcement authorities, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). MEMA tested security and response preparation this week, as they readied for an expected one million spectators lining the Marathon route.

As in recent years, spectators are asked to leave at home any backpacks, shoulder bags, large blankets, larger packages, coolers, glass containers, liquid containers larger than one liter, rolling and other suitcases, and weapons and fireworks. A list of all proscribed items is here.

“Bandits,” or unregistered runners, are prohibited and will be stopped by security officers.

About 5,000 law enforcement officers will be on guard along the 26.2-mile race route. The BUPD’s major responsibility is securing Audubon Circle. “Our bike units are part of the mobile field force of about 100,” Molloy says. “They’ll travel around in large groups. If we have a problem in the BU area…we can get 100 police officers there, if we ever needed it.

“Our motorcycle officers work closely with Brookline police,” he adds. “They’ll patrol different areas. Usually it’s the Coolidge Corner area all the way down to Audubon Circle.”

Bikes will not be allowed on any Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) trains or buses on Monday. The MBTA’s Copley station will be closed the entire day, and the Green Line B branch South Street stop and C branch Kent Street and St. Mary Street stops will be closed between 10 a.m. and approximately 6 p.m. The #57 bus will end its run at Blandford Street, with no service to Kenmore Station. Outbound connections will be made at Commonwealth Avenue and Sherborn Street, while inbound connections will be at Comm Ave and Blandford Street.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

One Comment on Marathon Monday a Time to Keep Safe

  • Dan G on 04.14.2017 at 2:24 pm

    I love the Boston Marathon. I look forward to it each year. I hope that this years event goes smoothly and the weather is warm.

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