Mile 1 and the Start
The start line is right in front of the Tsongas Center at the intersection of Fr Morissette Blvd and Arcand Drive. The race starts on Fr Morissette. The Marathon Start line is on the left side of the road (looking west). Before race day it might be a bit faded (we repaint it each year, but heavy traffic wears on it). If you don’t see it – just use the crosswalk – it’s close enough.
On race day the sun will be at our backs, and the race will start by running west on Fr Morissette Blvd which turns into Pawtucket St. In the first tenth of a mile, we pass the Post Office (on the right) and we shortly cross the first of the famous Lowell canals – in this case it’s the Western Canal and it’s junction with the Northern Canal. From here the Northern Canal runs along the course on the right. At about .6 miles the road starts to bend to the right, the canal empties into the Merrimack River, and we pass the University Ave Bridge (aka The Textile Bridge).
At about 1 mile you cross School St (and the south end of the O’Donnell Bridge).
A word about the Marathon Road Markers: Every marker is a 2 foot white square with a blue mile number in the center. There are also 10K markers, a half-way and a 1 mile to go maker. On race day sign boards are setup to make the splits more visible.
After Mile 1, in about a tenth, you cross the Pawtucket Canal (yeah – we’ve got a lot of canals). On your right you can just make out the top of the Pawtucket Falls. Right away you come to John Sheely Park on your right. In a little less than half a mile you will come to the first water stop on the course. It is directly across the street from the Lowell Humane Society on the left side of the street (you might hear the dogs barking). Now the course bends a bit to the left and you ascend a gradual hill (one of the few on the course) to cross the old B&M rail line. On the other side of the bridge is the 2 Mile marker and the road name changes to Middlesex St.
Mile 3 & 4
Here we enter the Middlesex St Commercial district. In a little less than one mile we cross Wood St and the south side of the Rourke Bridge. After the CVS store on the right we come to the Mill View Estates on the right, notable because of it’s fancy brick wall and its name emblazoned on it. Here we find the 3 Mile marker (also here is the half-way marker – but we’ll come back to that).
Just past the end of the wall we will turn left onto Brouilette St (also shown as Grosvenor St on many maps – one end of this street is in Lowell and the other end is in Chelmsford – hence the name confusion). At the other end of the street we will turn right again onto Princeton St. We are now in Chelmsford.
In just over half a mile Princeton St will descend a gentle grade. At the start of the grade is the Glenview Restaurant and the site of your second water stop. The road bends to the left and then the right to join Route 4 from Drum Hill. On your right will be the PetroPlus gas station.
Miles 5 to 8
We’ll now be on a 4 plus mile north-west run to the Tyngsboro Bridge. Before we get there, in 4 tenths of a mile we’ll cross the B&M Rail line (again) and another minor hill. In another 3 tenths we come to Vinal Square in North Chelmsford. 3 tenths after the square, we are at the 5 Mile marker and well on our way to Tyngsboro.
At about 5.8 miles is the 3rd water stop. You are now getting glimpses of the Merrimack River on your right. About 2 tenths past the 7 Mile marker is the 4th water stop. The Tyngsboro Bridge is now very visible ahead of you. You turn right onto the bridge. After you cross the river, you immediately turn right and head south-east back towards Lowell. There is a National Carpet wholesale store on your right and you are now at the 8 mile mark.
Miles 9 to 12
At about 8.8 miles, across from the Tyngsboro Country Club is your 5th water stop. At about 10.4 miles is the 6th water stop where you will pass the Greater Lowell Vocational High School on your left. You might not realize it as you run – but you’ve actually been going down a gentle grade for 2 miles (don’t believe me – try it backwards someday).
We continue our run back to Lowell, crossing the town line shortly before the 11 Mile marker. We continue east to the Rourke Bridge at about 12.4 miles. Just before the bridge will be your 7th water stop. At the Rourke Bridge we turn right onto the bridge. On race day the bridge is closed to traffic and you’ll run in the travel lane. On other days use the pedestrian walk on the right.
Mile 13 and the second loop – Miles 14 to 22
After we descend the other side of the bridge we turn right back onto Pawtucket St to begin our second loop. Shortly after we pass the CVS on our right, we celebrate having completed half the distance.
From here we run the same loop we did the first time. The loop is about 10.1 miles, so the second loop markers (miles 14 to 22) are about one tenth of a mile before the first loop markers (you probably already noticed that).
Mile 23 and the run to the Tsongas Center
At about 22.5 miles we come to the Rourke Bridge for the 3rd and final time. We go straight east. Just ahead, on the right is the UML Bellegade Boathouse (home of the UML rowing team) and we pass the 23 Mile marker.
We pass the Sampras Pavillion and bathhouse on the right (during most of the year – the bathrooms are open). At about 23.6 we come to yet another water stop (the next to last stop) and the Pawtucket Falls are now visible on our right. We begin a gentle grade as we near the falls. We cross Mammoth Rd and the O’Donnell Bridge and start a final hill – it’s not steep and only lasts a quarter of a mile. Then we cross University Ave (and pass the north end of the Textile Bridge). From here we cruise down a welcome downhill that is not steep – but just right – a chance to let gravity help while you relax those tight muscles. As we flatten out we see the UML athletic fields across the way on the left. As the road starts bending to the right – we see the 25 Mile marker. As we go around the bend, we cross Beaver Brook emptying into the Merrimack. Just past this brook is the final water stop and the 1 Mile to Go marker.
At about 25.4 miles we see the Aiken St Bridge (aka Ouelette Bridge). We turn right and head for LeLacheur Park (home of the Red Sox affiliate the Lowell Spinners). At LeLacheur Park we turn left onto Perkins Street and pass along the historic mill buildings – now home to condo owners who have a beautiful view of the river (and today’s the race). In less than a quarter mile the road turns right and we are in the final stages – as pass along the west side of the Tsongas Arena. A short distance ahead is Fr Morissette Blvd (where you started almost 26 miles ago). It’s time to gather your remaining strength to turn left on Fr Morissette and then it’s left again on Martin Luther King Drive and now you see the finish line just ahead – it’s only 100 yards (or so away) – and now you’re finished!
Go head to grass behind the Tsongas and get yourself some well earned Chicken Soup! Congratulations!