Boston Course Management

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

Now is the time to put the final touches on your marathon plan.  I break the Boston course into segments, this provides peace of mind as I know I’m focusing on the respective sections and avoiding being overwhelmed by the entire course.

Ironically, one of the most challenging aspects of the Boston Course is the first four miles because of the significant drop in elevation.  Many runners get into trouble early because of the long wait before the start, coupled with the need to exert pent-up energy.  It’s important to remain calm at the start and channel your energy into beginning slowly and finding your rhythm.  Going out too fast on the extreme downhills can wreak havoc on your legs and will be very difficult to overcome this.

The first segment that I focus on is the start to Framingham Center (Mile 6).  My primary objective is to go out smoothly, avoiding any mishaps at the beginning due to congestion, and waiting for the course to level off before I begin to push the pace (depending on how I am feeling).  The next segment is Miles 6-16.  This is the stretch from Framingham Center to just before the significant downhill into Newton Lower Falls.  This is where I focus on running a consistent pace before preparing for the most difficult segment of the course.  One cautionary note, you will hear the Wellesley College co-eds long before you seen them.  This is where a lot of male runners needlessly and unknowingly pick up the pace and pay the ultimate price later…don’t ask me how I know this.  Just a reminder men, they are screaming for the females!

Miles 16-21 are typically where you realize what kind of day you’re going to have.  Departing Wellesley is an incredibly steep downhill into Newton Lower Falls.  It’s important to ease down this section.  Heartbreak Hill is known for being the most challenging hill on the course because of its location (Mile 20-21) and it’s the last significant uphill.  However,  I believe the most difficult hill on the course is from Mile 16-17.  As you depart Newton Lower Falls you begin the ascent over Route 128.  This stretch has earned the well-deserved name Hell’s Alley.  It tends to be very windy crossing over Route 128 and the crowds are sparse.  Keeping mentally focused on your form, breathing and maintaining a positive attitude should be top priorities.  Turn right at the fire state (Mile 17) onto Commonwealth Avenue.  This may be the first sense that you’re closing in on Boston.  This is also where the Marathon Coalition runners should feel the home course advantage since we’ve spent the past 5 months training on this section.  Pushing the pace through this section is not advised.  It’s far more prudent to conserve as much energy as possible for the final 5 miles.

Cresting Heartbreak Hill at Mile 21 deserves a big sigh of relief.  The course is relatively downhill to the finish.  The final 5 miles are indescribable so I won’t make the attempt.  You simply have to experience the final segment of the course to fully appreciate how special it is.  Regardless of how you feel, the crowd will carry you to the finish line.  You will turn onto Hereford Street (slight uphill that feels more significant than it is) and then left onto Boylston Street.  Be sure your number is unobscured and savor all the emotions that are racing through your body…again indescribable.  DON’T STOP YOUR RUNNING WATCH AS YOU  CROSS THE FINISH LINE!  I’ve seen too many finisher’s pictures of runners stopping their watches.  The photographers are positioned about the finishing banner.  This picture may be the most important ever taken of you and will certainly be proof that you did finish the Boston Marathon…make it count!

  1. Cheryl Reed says:

    Thank you, Rick. The more specific tips and advice you give for that day, the less anxious I feel. Having not done Boston before, I feel like I’m heading into the unknown! I’m at my best mentally when I can plan, so right now I’m looking for as much advice on the specifics as possible! I can’t believe it’s so close……….

  2. Hello Cheryl,

    Proper planning and preparation are critical at this stage of training!

    Your Coach,


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