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How to track runners at the Boston Marathon 2021

How to track runners at the Boston Marathon 2021
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Today, the first-ever fall Boston Marathon takes place, with 20,000 runners heading to the startline of the iconic marathon in Hopkinton. After two Patriots’ Days without the marathon in Boston, the race is back for its 125th year. 

If you’ve got the day off work and want to follow all the action, we’ve found all the ways to keep track of the runners on the course. The elite field looks spectacular, with Jordan Hasay, Des Linden and Molly Huddle all returning to Boston to race on home soil. Here's how to watch the Boston Marathon online right now

The 2021 race kicks off earlier, with a rolling start to allow for more distancing on the course. The men’s wheelchair race starts at 8:02 a.m. ET, with the women’s wheelchair race starting at 8:05 a.m. ET. The handcycles and duos start at 8:30 a.m., followed by the professional men at 8:37 a.m., the professional women at 8:45 a.m., the para-athletes at 8:50 a.m. and then the rolling mass start from 9:00 a.m. 

How to track a runner at the Boston Marathon 

There’s a few different ways to track runners at the Boston Marathon. The first is via the official Boston Marathon app, which is free to download on iOS and Android. Using the tracker app, search for runners by name, bib, city or team. Once you’ve selected your runner, you’ll be able to see their live progress along the course, as well as their splits and times. There is no limit to the number of runners you can track, so be sure to add all your favorites! 

From the app, you’ll be able to get push notifications which will update you of your runners progress, as well as seeing the top leaderboards for the men and women’s elite races, as well as the top USA runners of both genders. 

If you accidentally select the wrong runner, you can remove them from the "upcoming" list on your tracker by clicking on the cross in the top left corner. You’ll then be asked to confirm whether you want to remove the participant from your list.

If you don’t want to download the app, or if you’re at work and can’t keep checking your phone, you can also track runners from the BAA website, which offers a lot of the same functions as the app, but from your desktop! You’ll be able to search for runners and see results and leaderboards in real-time. 

The Boston Marathon finish line

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to track a runner at the virtual Boston Marathon

As well as the mass-participation race, there will be a virtual Boston Marathon this year, where runners can complete 26.2 miles anywhere, at any time during the race window, which is between October 8 and October 10. 

To track your runner’s progress in the virtual Boston Marathon, simply type their name or bib number into the search bar. From the app, you’ll be able to see their own map for their 26.2-mile race, and their times. 

Other ways to track Boston Marathon runners 

One drawback of the official Boston Marathon app — with thousands of people using it on race day, it can sometimes be a little glitchy. There are other ways out there to track your runner, both by their running watch or fitness tracker and with certain running apps. 

Firstly, if your runner is wearing a Garmin running watch, and carrying their smartphone, they can turn on Live Track via their Garmin Connect app on their phone. This allows runners to share their live location with friends and family via email, Facebook, or Twitter. The downside here is that it also relies on a phone GPS signal, so might be temperamental on race day and won't be an option for runners leaving their phone in their kit bag. The Garmin Forerunner 245 LTE also has live tracking, and can relay a runner's position without needing a phone.

If your runner has an Apple Watch SE or an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, they will be able to share their live location with you before setting off. To do this, they'll need to add you in the Find People app on the Apple Watch and tap share my location. Once they've chosen you as a friend, you'll be able to see their location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely (depending on which option they chose — we'd recommend the middle one). This too will require them to carry a smartphone with them, unless they have a cellular version of Apple's Watch. 

Another app that works with most modern Garmin running watches and Apple Watches newer than the Apple Watch Series 3 is Strava Beacon. Strava Beacon allows runners to send a live tracking link to three different contacts. This is usually a safety feature on the app but comes in handy on race day — check out our full Strava app review here.

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.