Boston Marathon Preparation
With 5 weeks remaining before the 2014 Boston Marathon it’s time to focus on the final stage of preparation. Many of you are running your first marathon or will be running Boston for the first time, so the purpose of this message is to explain how to manage the remaining weeks of training.
Properly preparing for the upcoming 20 miler is the first priority. Depending on where you live, you may be experiencing warmer temperatures for the first time in months. Runners in New England have faced the most challenging conditions in decades. The recent 60 º day was more than many runners could resist and they wore shorts and exceeded their scheduled run by excessive and dangerous levels. I fear these runners may have placed months of hard work and their Boston Marathon preparation at risk.
It is always more prudent to err on the side of caution. You should focus on following the training schedule and completing the 20 miler injury-free. Don’t put too much stock in how you feel during the upcoming 20 miler. Having coached thousands of runners for the Boston Marathon the past 18 years, I have seen runners complete the 20 miler with ease, only to struggle 3 weeks later. Conversely, I’ve seen runners struggle in the 20 miler and finish the Boston Marathon in relative comfort.
Another common mistake is to not follow the training schedule during the taper phase. Tapering (i.e., reducing your mileage 20%, 40% and 60% in each subsequent week) is extremely counterintuitive. It’s analogous to being asked to not review your textbook just weeks before your final exam. No amount of running will improve your preparation during the final weeks of training. But too much running can certainly jeopardize months of hard work. Your body and mind need to rest, recover and prepare for the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston.
If your running shoes have more than 300 miles on them, you should consider replacing them before the 20 miler. If you’ve not had any issues with your current model, I recommend remaining with the same model and completing several shorter runs before the 20 miler to make sure there aren’t any issues.
This is the time where EVERYONE IS A MARATHON RUNNING COACH…even those that have never run a marathon. While most people are well-intentioned, I recommend following the advice of the Marathon Coalition coaching staff.
Attending the Marathon Expo is the beginning of an exciting weekend but it can be challenging to manage the sensory overload. Being with so many runners and running-related products can be overwhelming. Now is the time to take a deep breath and try to relax. Your energy is better spent on remaining calm and focused on managing Marathon Monday.
Marathon Monday promises to be one of the best days of your life. Enjoy every moment because you will reflect on this day for the balance of your life. The first priority is to be properly fueled and prepared to endure several hours of waiting before the start. Wear warm and comfortable clothes that you can discard before entering the starting corral.
I don’t recommend wearing the shoes you plan to wear in the marathon to the Athlete’s Village. Considering the record amounts of snow New England has received, it’s very likely the area where you’ll be waiting will be wet. Wear plastic bags over your shoes but don’t put the shoes you are planning to wear in the marathon on until after you depart the Athlete’s Village and head to the starting line.
Large garbage bags (worn as a poncho by punching a hole in the bottom and placing over your head) will help to retain your body heat. Bringing a piece of cardboard will also provide a layer of protection between you and the cold ground.
Once you are in the starting corral, focus on remaining calm and conserving your energy. You will notice runners burning fuel needlessly by whooping and hollering in excitement. You will NEVER have more energy on Marathon Monday than you have at the starting line, it’s your responsibility to effectively manage it so that you have sufficient fuel to make it to the finish line on Boylston Street. Trust me…you don’t want to miss that!
The best strategy for traversing the 26.2 mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston is to manage the distance in stages. Stage 1 is the first 4 miles into Ashland. This is the most extreme downhill section of the course and will set the tone for the remaining miles. It’s important to run conservatively and with absolutely perfect form to protect your legs and minimize the force. Land quietly and with as little force as possible. This is also the most crowded segment of the course so protect your territory by holding your arms up slightly to create a safe barrier around you.
Mile 5-15 is the flattest section of the marathon course. By the time you arrive at Mile 5 your muscles should be fully oxygenated and your rhythm established. This is the section where you can relax, settle in and prepare for the second half of the marathon. Wellesley College is near Mile 13. You will hear the Women of Wellesley long before you see them. They can easily disrupt your rhythm before you realize it. I ran like a Kenyan through this section during my first Boston Marathon in 1979 and struggled through the remaining 13 miles!
Just after Mile 15 (which is where you will see me) is a water stop. Just after this water stop you run down the biggest downhill on the course into Newton Lower Falls and enter Hell’s Alley. I consider Miles 15-17 the most challenging on the course because of the extreme downhill into Newton Lower Falls and the subsequent uphill over Route 128. This area is wide open so any extreme conditions are exacerbated and there are very few spectators. This two mile section requires determination and mental focus. Run with relaxed and efficient form.
Miles 17-21. When you arrive at the First Station at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Washington Street, you have single digit miles remaining! These are the hills of Newton, culminating in Heartbreak Hill from Mile 20-21. It’s extremely exciting to make it to the top of Heartbreak Hill at Boston College. DO NOT ACCEPT ANY DRINKS IN RED CUPS FROM BOSTON COLLEGE STUDENTS. They have been waiting for you the entire day and are eager to celebrate your accomplishment. However, they don’t have any regard for the next 5 miles you need to complete.
The final 5 mile stage to the finish line is the most exciting. The crowds are bigger from Cleveland Circle (Mile 21) to the finish than any other section. You’ll see the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square (Mile 25) and realize, possibly for the first time, that you’re actually going to finish.
The finish of the Boston Marathon is the most exciting of any marathon in the world. Right on Hereford… Left on Boylston and you see the finish line…it’s actually farther away than it appears. But savor every step to the finish. This is the closest you will likely come to being a Rock Star. The screams of celebration are so loud you won’t be able to hear anything else.
Take a moment to look to the sky and share your accomplishment with those that mean the most to you. Nothing significant is ever accomplished alone and you’ve received a lifetime of support and inspiration from countless people. This is your moment to let the emotions flow. Savor the accomplishment of training for months and raising thousands to provide hope and opportunity to those that have gone far too long without both.
Look up and express your joy when you cross the finish line…the cameras are above you. Nothing worse than having your finish line picture be of you looking down to stop your watch. Don’t worry, you’ll receive a postcard with your official time so focus on looking as good as possible after completing 26.2 miles!
Congratulations…YOU ARE A BOSTON MARATHONER!