April 15, 2018
The light at the end of the tunnel for Boston Marathon runners making the final turn onto Boylston Street will be shining a little brighter this year. One of the changes the Boston Athletic Association made to the finish line for Monday’s 122nd running of the race is a new digital display board, affixed to the photo bridge above the finish line, that will be visible even if the forecasted rain falls.
“The finish times are going to be displayed big and bright and in color on that video board so that the participants and the spectators on Boylston Street will be able to see from afar what the time is,” said Jack Fleming, Chief Operating Officer of the B.A.A.
For their first year with the new board, which is similar to those that ring Gillette Stadium or TD Garden, the race organizers intend to go with a conservative approach and minimal animation. On Friday, it displayed a countdown clock for Saturday’s 5K and on Sunday it will show a tribute to One Boston Day. But the digital display opens up a new path forward for the finish line, and Fleming said that the B.A.A. could use lights and sound to enhance the spectator experience in the years to come.
“Boylston Street is like the home stretch of the Kentucky Derby or when the team comes out of the tunnel in Gillette Stadium,” he said. “We want our participants to feel that same way.”
In 2021, during the 125th Boston Marathon, don’t be surprised if the roar of the crowd over the final 500 meters is set to a background beat. But Fleming said the aesthetic changes will be made in keeping with the tradition of the event. Of course, no matter what sounds are added, the loudest noise in the runners’ heads will always be the ticking of the clock.
To that end, the organizers swapped the old clock — suspended by cable and beam above the street — for two consoles with double-sided clocks facing the oncoming runners on one side and the world’s media on the other. The race tape will be suspended in between the two consoles, and after the elite runners break the tape it will be wheeled out of the way.
Dave McGillivray, the race director, said that runners will notice some changes this year and a few more next year, building towards 2021 when the B.A.A. plans to showcase the finish line as part of the quasquicentennial celebrations. For that race, the organizers are also considering a request for an increased field size or more ancillary events around the Marathon.
The Boston Marathon finish line: a painted strip across a city street that’s taken on a meaning far beyond that.
“Everything to do with 2013 showed us just how loved Boylston Street is by our participants, by our fans, by the neighborhood, by the community,” Fleming said. “So that was sort of the inspiration for taking some actions on it.”