Running the Boston Marathon has been an unbelievable experience for me. In 2009 I went to Boston with the dream of ending the drought of American victors. Although I fell 9 seconds short of that goal, it was an experience I will never forget. I headed back in 2011 with my 6 month old son, and Boston awarded me with a PR of 2:24:53. I returned again in 2013, a bit banged up and not as fit as I should have been, but had a great time running with the lead pack for about 22 miles.
I used to be obsessed with winning Boston, I felt that I had to do it for all that loved me and supported me. It began to be a bit unhealthy, and although I plan on returning to Boston again, I no longer put the pressure on myself that I must win to complete my career.
While I may not obsess over Boston day and night anymore, it is still one of the greatest Marathon venues in the world. Anyone who races Boston gets to experience its magic. There really is only one Boston, and if you get the chance to run it, you won’t regret it. But, it always helps to be prepared, so I give you my guide to running Boston.
RIDE THE ROAR
Get ready for some of the loudest cheering you’ll ever hear in your life. The first time I ran through Wellesley the screaming was so loud it was deafening. I couldn’t help but smile. The fans are so intense at Boston. They know the history and they appreciate the race in a way that is special. I was shocked at how loud the fans were and how the cheers extended the entire course. Wellesley and the final mile bring the largest crowds, but the entire course is lined with spectators. That is pretty amazing.
ABSORB THE ENERGY
Once you make it up the Newton hills and turn left onto Commonwealth, you have about 6 miles to go. This is where the crowds really start to build in consistency. At this point the course is mostly flat. Only running up Hereford less than a mile from the finish is a hill. Take this section in. The crowds are outrageous, you are running with history. Really pay attention to the energy at this point.
BREAK IT UP
I like to break Boston down into sections to make it feel mentally easier. The first section would be through Wellesley which is about the halfway point. So you are going a half marathon through rolling terrain. There are some uphills, but there is an overall net drop in elevation. Hold back the first half, this is where people can get into trouble. Enjoy how good you feel, how fast you are moving along. The next section is from about 14-20. This is where the race gets a little tough. You have to cross over the highway which is an uphill section that no one talks about. And then you start approaching the Newton hills. This is the hilliest part of the race. Remember, after each of the Newton hills there is a nice flat section to recover. Three big hills with recovery stretches between them. Once you take a left on Commonwealth you have about six miles to go and now is the time to go for it if you have anything left. Remember, there is one more hill with about a kilometer to go. I call it Mt. Hereford. It doesn’t seem like a hill until you have 25+ miles in your legs. Once you get up Mt. Hereford you take a left on Boylston St. At this point you are home free. It’s a straight shot home.
The weather in Boston is unpredictable. You can’t control it. Just be prepared for anything and know that everyone else has to deal with the same elements as you.
If it is chilly, be sure to be layered up with lots of items you can easily discard. A head band or a hat, gloves, arm sleeves. Items that are easy to toss off but will keep you warm as long as you need them.
FALL IN LOVE
Finally, get ready for the intimacy of Boston. I fell in love with the Boston Marathon course training there before I raced it in 2009. The course is very intimate. For the majority of the race you are just running through neighborhoods. I actually love the section of the Newton Hills because it reminds me of my hometown in Duluth, MN. One of the things I love about Boston is that it feels like you could be out for a run from your very own home. The neighborhood and trees lining the course makes it feel intimate and less daunting.
So there you have it! My guide to the Boston Marathon. Good luck and enjoy the ride!!