By Loren Savini
BU News Service
BOSTON – More than 700 people gathered at South Station Sunday night to ride the train to Southborough. But these weren’t your average commuters. They came from all over Boston with their bicycles to ride in the 5th annual Midnight Marathon.
Founded five years ago by Greg Hum, the event gives cyclists the opportunity to ride the Boston Marathon route the night before the roads are blocked off for runners. Hum launched the ride via a Facebook group and the participants have almost doubled every year since, he said.
Hum, 25, works in IT support for Boston University. He came up with the idea for the ride when he was a student in the BU Bikes cycling club. The idea, Hum said, was to get his friends together and take a train to the starting line. Then, they would ride the marathon route in the dark all the way to the finish line.
Hum said his favorite part is boarding the train. “Half the fun is hoping on the train at South Station and packing hundreds of bikes on the train. You make new friends, you’re surrounded by hundreds of people, it feels really awesome,” he said. “It’s like this crazy pilgrimage.”
South Station began filling with a fleet of excited cyclists ready to complete the pilgrimage around 9 p.m. From there, they would be loaded onto a train that would take them to the starting line of the Boston Marathon – the first leg of their journey.
Participants gathered in groups with their friends, chatting enthusiastically and posing for pre-marathon photos. Some took advantage of the South Station food court – buying last minute bottles of water and carbo-loading at a nearby McDonald’s.
Andrew Hall, a 26-year-old Somerville resident and first time Midnight Marathon rider was among the first to arrive. “I’m a little nervous. I was going crazy just sitting in my apartment waiting, so that’s why I’m here so early,” he said, leaning on his bike and checking the time on his cellphone.
But the collection of riders made it clear that the night was going to be fun and anxiety free. A young girl wore neon green zebra spandex while another had a string of blinking LED lights draped around her shoulders. Many people had taken the time to attach speakers to their bikes or zip-tie glow sticks to their handlebars.
A young couple stood in line with a red, low-riding tandem bike in tow. A girl in line took notice and turned to her friends: “Aw, next year we’re doing tandem bikes, okay?”
Monty Montano, a genetics professor at Boston University arrived at South Station in a full Spiderman costume. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the route, to do it vicariously, to live it on a bike. And there’s something about midnight. There’s something charming about it,” Montano said before the race.
“Are you going to be warm enough?” Montano’s friend asked him, laughing at his costume. “Probably not,” he said with a shrug and a wide smile.
When the time came, Midnight Marathon volunteers directed the cyclists out of South Station onto the platform, where they would begin boarding the train to the start line in Hopkinton. A stampede of Bostonians with their bikes erupted from the station, tickets in hand. The riders filed out of a door sitting under a massive Bank of America advertisement that read, appropriately: “To new thinking.”
Four hours later, from the finish line, bicycle bells could be heard echoing in the corridors of Boston’s streets. The first wave of riders arrived around 1:00 a.m. cheering and laughing euphorically as they pulled past the empty bleachers and across the wide, blue finish line.
The street in front of Copley Square filled with cyclists as they finished their 26.2 mile bike ride and a celebration ensued. Riders arrived in waves, the more experienced riders finishing first. People collected in groups to take photos – hoisting their bikes over their heads victoriously or embracing across a jumble of wheels and handlebars as they hovered proudly over their bicycles. Hugs and handshakes were available to anyone and everyone who crossed the finish line.
Greg St. Mary, 32, pulled off to the side to stretch out his leg muscles before heading home. “It was super fun,” he said, beaming. “The initial downhills were intense, a lot of fun.” According to St. Mary, the event was so popular this year that he had to scalp a ticket to get on the train, which had sold out quickly.
Gregory Tierotola had just finished the marathon with his 25-year-old daughter, Amanda, and took a fatherly moment to congratulate her and recognize the bonding experience they had just had.
“She got on a bike just to do this with me,” Tierotola said proudly. Tierotola, 56, said he has been cycling since the age of 16 but this was his first time at the Midnight Marathon. “It was terrific. I don’t know what the runners complain about, it’s all downhill,” he joked.
Tierotola said his favorite part of the ride was seeing all of the bike lights around him. “We stopped at the top of a hill and turned around and saw all of the white lights twinkling, like fireflies.”
“This has been an amazing experience, I would definitely do it again,” he said. “Now I can say that I did the marathon.”
Timelapse of the Midnight Marathon, 2011