BOSTON -- The clock struck midnight, and Marathon Monday unofficially began here with hundreds of bikers looking to finish their own 26.2-mile route.
For the last six years, the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride has covered the Boston Marathon course the night before the race, as a way for more Bostonians to take part.
"It was a way for me, who is not a runner, to connect with Boston, to connect with all this marathon energy," said Greg Hum, the ride's originator.
Our video of the midnight ride and its enthusiastic participants is featured above.
Although the Boston Athletic Assn., which oversees the Boston Marathon, has never officially sanctioned the ride, it has become a celebrated tradition to help kick off Marathon Monday.
The night before the 2013 race, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Assn. even provided riders with a special commuter train to get them to the start of the route.
This year, however, race officials and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency asked that the ride be canceled, and the MBTA did not offer its Midnight Marathon train.
Hum said he could understand the decision: "It makes sense for them to have one less thing to worry about."
But the Midnight Marathon had momentum that he and the agencies could not derail.
Once word spread that there would be no train from downtown Boston to the starting line, riders began organizing carpools, vans, trucks and even a few buses via social media to help get them to the start.
"There's a lot of community spirit involved," Hum said.
According to Hum, that is when he informed the Boston Athletic Assn. and the emergency management agency that the ride would happen, with or without him at the helm.
So Hum and the two groups worked together to mitigate concerns and address security issues at key race points.
He said he gathered a ragtag group of volunteers to help organize the effort.
In the wee hours of Monday morning, they seemed like a well-oiled machine, although as one volunteer sought direction on loading up participants' bikes into waiting moving vans, Hum was overheard saying, "We truly are winging it."
Along the route, volunteers were stationed to help guide participants and warn them of upcoming railroad crossings. An emergency team also patrolled the route in several cars.
This year's suggested bike route did not follow the exact path of the marathon. Instead, it merged with the route along the way and veered off before crossing the finish line at Copley Square.
With several hundred cyclists, the pack of bikers this year was smaller than the 1,000 to 1,500 riders Hum estimated took part in 2013. They kept spirits high throughout the night, cheering one another on, blasting music from portable speakers and yelling, "Tonight we ride!" to pump up their fellow bikers.
At 2 a.m., there were even a few spectators lining the sidewalks to cheer on the Midnight Marathon bikers.
It seemed that the single moment of shared calm reflection for the riders came as they turned right on Boylston Street. Ahead stood the finish line, looming in the darkness. The heavy police presence there was just another reminder that everything was different now.
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