The race starts and ends roughly in the same place (starts at the Pentagon, ends at the Marine Corps Memorial). There are nice hotels in Rosslyn and Pentagon City / Crystal city that can walk to the start/finish.
They are all rather pricy though.
Your next option is anything located on the metro, which is the ONLY real way for the non-DC savvy to get to the race other than walking.
As for the spectators, it's pretty friendly...after the start (which is hard to pick people out), walk accross the Memorial bridge to the Lincoln Memorial (about mile 11) then to the head of the tidal basin (mile 14) and then back over to the finish.
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