Mike Coughlin perched on the seat of his bike while surveying the crowd of silver-ponchoed runners who hobbled toward him. He was waiting to give out pedicab rides near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but, due to the drizzly weather, wasn’t having much luck.
Then, a young woman who had just finished the race limped up to the cart. “Do you know where the Marriott is?” she asked Coughlin, her eyes filling up with tears.
“It’s just down the street,” Coughlin said. “I can take you if you want.”
“I don’t have any cash, though,” she said, her voice cracking.
“I also take credit cards and Paypal,” Coughlin said.
“My family’s at the Marriott, and maybe they can ...” she trailed off.
“Why don’t you go ahead and climb in,” Coughlin said. He backed the pedicab up closer to the curb and helped her step inside. Once she sat down, he covered her with the blanket.
“I have some snacks,” she said while holding up the bag of free food given to all race finishers. “I can pay you in snacks.”
Coughlin smiled. “We’ll figure it out,” he said. “The good news is, you’re done! You did it! You finished the Boston Marathon.”
As Coughlin backed up, the woman’s crying slowed. She touched the medal around her neck and smiled.
This is the eleventh year Boston Pedicab offered rides to marathon runners and attendees. Ben Morris, founder and owner of Boston Pedicab, said Marathon Monday is usually the busiest day of the year for the company, followed closely by the 4th of July. This Marathon Monday should have been even busier because of the Red Sox game.
Then, it rained.
“The weather is making it really hard today,” Coughlin said as he pulled out his phone from the pocket of his green pants. He opened a weather app and flipped to the radar screen.
“We’re having a break now, but that big green monster is coming for us,” he said while pointing to a map, which showed rain moving toward Boston. “I knew that today most of the business would be in the morning because the weather is so bad.”
Morris said his drivers (yes, that’s the technical term for a pedicab operator) typically give rides to anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 people on Marathon Monday. This Marathon Monday, however, the numbers were lower because, after the marathon, runners and spectators hurried inside to warm up instead of requesting rides around the Back Bay, said Boston Pedicab Manager Jenn Brundage.
Around 2:30 p.m., Coughlin said he’d personally given about 20 rides that day, most of them to Red Sox fans that morning.
“I did give a ride to parents who had their son’s clothes in a bag and wanted to bring it to him after the race,” he said. “I told them I could get them pretty close, so this is where I stopped.”
Coughlin parked his bike a few blocks from the marathon’s designated “family meet-up center.” Because so many roads are closed to cars during the marathon, Morris said pedicabs are a desirable mode of transportation.
Boston Pedicab operates on a pay-what-you-want model, which Morris says has worked for them thus far. Coughlin agreed, but with no passengers in sight and the wind picking up, he wasn’t sure how much more business he’d get.
“I’m probably gonna roll soon,” Coughlin said. “It’s cold and that’s the main pack of runners who finished. The next one will probably be my last ride of the day.”
As he waited, Coughlin gave directions to lost-looking runners who staggered up to the pedicab. He said he might like to run the marathon one day, but today was happy to help this year’s participants by giving them rides, and the chance to sit down.