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Hotels brace for Boston Marathon influx

With a total of 36,000 athletes expected to officially participate in the Boston Marathon next month, 9,000 more than last year, Marlborough hotels are offering blocks of rooms and transportation for runners and spectators looking for a less expensive option than staying near the finish line.

A year after terrorist bombs exploded at the finish of the race, a surge in runners and spectators means that 80 to 100 rooms are being added to those in Natick, Framingham, Westborough, and Milford where participants and their families have traditionally stayed.

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For the past several years, a group of Marathon runners has made reservations for the following year’s stay at the Courtyard Boston Milford hotel before even hitting the starting line in Hopkinton, 5 miles away.

On the night before the Patriots Day tradition, the runners meet for an informal reunion over a pasta dinner served in the Milford hotel’s Bistro restaurant.

This year, the Bistro employees are expecting to add a lot more pasta to feed a whole new crowd of athletes in town to run the race that has become a symbol of the Boston area’s resilience, following last year’s bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260.

“We definitely have repeat customers who come from all over the country, all over the world to stay here to run the Marathon, and have the pasta dinner the night before the race,” said Dan Daley, operations supervisor at the Bistro. “But this year, from everything we know, it’s going to be even bigger. We’ll be ready.”

So will the other hotels in area communities, with staffers working with the MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau and the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation to also provide additional transportation to all of the Marathon events over the weekend before the April 21 race.

Transportation for runners and spectators from the Marlborough hotels will be provided by Knights Limousine Service of Shrewsbury. Any gaps in transportation services historically provided from local hotels are being filled, according to Susan Nicholl, executive director of the MetroWest tourism board, which is coordinating the plan.

Transportation will include rides to the Hynes Convention Center on the Saturday before the race for each athlete to pick up a bib number, a switch from previous years when one person could pick up numbers for a whole group, according to Nicholl.

Transportation will also be provided from hotels to the starting line in Hopkinton, and then back to the hotels from the town center, where BAA buses drop athletes after the race.

Rides will also be offered to public transportation stations into Boston for spectators staying at the hotels, she said.

“We know that MetroWest hotels fill up with runners, spectators, and their families every year with people looking for more affordable options, and with runners who often bring their whole families,” Nicholl said.

This year, she said, there has definitely been an uptick in interest.

There is also a spirit of cooperation among hotels in Marlborough, a city approximately 11 miles from the race’s starting line with 1,500 hotel rooms, the greatest concentration of hotel rooms along Interstate 495.

“All the hotels came together and set aside rooms,” said Tim Cummings, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation. “It seemed like a great way for us to participate in this wonderful event.”

Kayla Ortiz, a guest services agent at the Embassy Suites in Marlborough, said two of the 10 rooms blocked off for Marathon participants have been booked, and the hotel expects more calls.

It’s the same situation at the Holiday Inn in Marlborough, where the director of sales, Brenda Diaz, also said two of the 10 rooms being set aside have been booked for the Marathon weekend.

“All the hotels are working together, and if we need to reserve additional rooms, we’ll do it,” she said.

In Marlborough there are currently no plans for pasta dinners before the race or community activities organized around the Boston Marathon, according to Cummings, who said local officials are still determining what will be needed.

Hotels in Natick will also be providing a selection of pasta dishes the day before the race, which happens to be Easter Sunday this year, for guests and others to load up on the traditional meal preparing for the 26-mile 385-yard run.

Skybokx 109 at the Hampton Inn Natick will be offering a pasta menu for the first time this year on the night before the race, and the Pantry restaurant at the Verve Crown Plaza will be offering the carb-loaded meal for the third time, according to marketing manager Justin Shapiro, who said both hotels have seen a spike in bookings this year.

“I think people are treating this year’s race as celebratory,” said Nicholl. “But there is also a feeling of reverence, of commemoration.”

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@ gmail.com
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