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Boston marathon tips

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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  JohnP on Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:54 pm

This is all great stuff. I printed out an elevation map and taped it to my monitor at work so it's right in front of me all the time now. next will be to go through this hill advice and pencil it in the map. I even watched some YouTube videos of the Wellesley college cheerers. Sounds like the beginning is going to be a blast, I definitely need to be in the moment then and put everything else aside for then.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Lauren on Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:55 pm

I am so stinkin' excited. I woke up yesterday morning with the realization that it's 6 weeks away, and last night spent some time googling 'Boston marathon elevation' which somehow led to me watching countless youtube videos of everything relating to the Beantown race. Yes, I know. Call me a complete and total nerd. I'm okay with it.

Thanks for this advice-I had heard the start is fast and I'm going to have to put some brakes on and try to curb the excitement. I'm finally thankful for this hilly terrain I've been cursing the last few months of training here in East TN. Smile
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Chris M on Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:52 pm

I've got some more Boston specific tips to add to the good ones already here:

1. The expo is both "can't miss" and a "be careful" thing. This expo is unlike every other marathon expo. In fact it kind of ruins you for ever attending a race expo again. After attending a Boston pre-race expo, every other race is just a packet pickup with some booths. There are soooo many cool vendors and things to see and free samples and famous/interesting speakers.....but......don't wipe yourself out energy wise going to it. I'd recommend visiting it Saturday if at all possible if you are going to spend a lot of time there. Prepare for runner sensory overload and enjoy it fully but don't overdo it and wipe yourself out for the race.

2. Speaking of the expo, if you are going to buy your official Boston jacket (I think they call it the "celebration jacket") there's no real need to buy it at the expo and there are long lines there. I've bought mine online in advance the past two years. If you want the "I bought it at the expo itself" feeling, knock yourself out as I did the 1st time. But the same jacket at the same price can be purchased now and then you have more time to really browse for other cool stuff at the expo itself.

3. I'm signed up for the 5K on Sunday (8am) again as I ran it with my daughter last year and its a great way to do that last shake out run and a really cool event. I like my shirt from that more than the one we get for the marathon itself. The 2012 5K is sold out but remember it for next year. But after the 5K both the last 2 years, I've watched the schoolboy/schoolgirl invitational mile races followed by the professional men's/women's mile. They start at 9:30am at the Boston Marathon finish line area. Seeing the pros run a 3 lap city course mile and finish down the same stretch you'll be coming down the next day? Way cool.

4. We went to have a drink either Saturday or Sunday at the Top of the Hub lounge. That's at the top of the Prudential Tower. It is great to go up there and then try and trace back the end of the marathon route in reverse. But in general, the views from up there are awesome and I like it now as much as I did when I was a little kid and used to go there. If you want to be fancy, they have a really nice Sunday brunch but we've just done the drinks in the lounge thing.

5. I wanted to echo Jim's comment about there being dozens of porta potties near the start that are open and without lines 30+ minutes before the race whereas the Athlete's Vilage ones will always have a line. Close to race time, everything will have a line although there are some hidden ones along the left side of the course next to the corrals that you can use AFTER you've already shuffled in to your correct corral.

6. The finish line area is amazingly crowded for hours before people start finishing so forget about meeting up with your family seconds after you cross the line. It will not be possible for them to be in an area where you can see/talk to them right after you finish. You will have to walk down several city blocks with your space blanket and medal on and be directed into the bag pickup area before you are released back into gen pop where you can meet up with your friends and family. What has worked for us is to pick out a spot (in front of THIS hotel at this corner) and then I actually call them with my cell phone once I get my bag because it will be a good 20+ minutes after you finish before you can possibly reunite with a spectator.

7. I'm happy to host anyone from here in my room for beers post-race. We are staying at the Hyatt this year. Very close to the finish. Runners who nail monster PRs (Wiltse, Schuey) are just as welcome as those who go down in hitting the wall flames (me!...but I've had company on that front and the beers still taste good).
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Schuey on Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:52 pm

I will just add that after running this race the past 6 years here is were I consider some gut check areas:

1. Don't be fooled by miles 9.5 to 11.25 and then again 13.75 to a little over 15 miles. These stretch of the race are actually slight incline grade. It has taken the last couple to years to figure out whey this section of the race was somewhat tough and that is because you really don't notice the fact that you are running mostly incline most due to the fact that it is not steep.

2. Mile 15 to 16 this has been a good spot for me tell what shape my legs are in. Unlike some advice you may hear, I like to hammer this downhill, it is the steepest since the start of the race. I can normally tell at this point if after the hills I'm going to have a hard time with the downhills due to how my quads feel.

3. The toughest hill of the whole race in my mind is the one that starts at mile 16 and ends around a little after 16.5. It is not the steepest hill but it is the longest hill that you will run all day. It is also at this point in the day were you will start to feel the actual weather. I still remember the 1st I ran Boston how this hill took me by surprise and to be honest after 6 times of running it still the toughest of all the hills. Sure it might not be apart of the so call Newton Hills but be warned that come race day I willing to bet of all the hills you run this will be one that you won't forget. I think that Michele has express the same opinion for this hill.

4. As for Heartbreak hill don't be fool when you crest the first top of it, because well there is still one more little bump you have take on before you start the massive downhill.

5. Downhill from just under 21 miles to a little past 24 miles, yep this is were you will truly find out how you feel, how your training was and if today is your day or not. I do believe this section of the race is called the graveyard and for very good reason. There is no doubt this will be a suck it up moment for all on race day. You will feel and hear you quads yelling at you like crazy!!! My recommendation is to easy into section of downhill running. There are a few bumps were you go back up but very little and very short. As you gain moment and feel as if you can handle more then start to put the hammer down some and test the waters to see if you can put it down for the next 5 miles.

6. I would also add that VW is correct about the first hill at the start of the race the happens around .60 of mile and last for about .30 if I'm not mistaken the grade is around 3% to 4%. I remember the first year I ran the race I was like were did this come from,now I enjoy the fact of seeing the expressions of first timers as they hit this hill.

7. Also do remember the I think it is the next to last aid station right before you cross the train tracks after BC that they are only handing out water and gatorade on the right side of the street. All the aid stations before this one are on the left and right. Also take note with the roads being pretty narrow they become even more narrow at the aid stations even though they have them slightly staggered.


Chris as for running a huge PR I can assure you that it is not going to happen this year. I will leave that up to all of other Boston runners this year. I running it for fun this year and would be happy and lucky if I was to break 3 hours, my training has really sucked this past winter and my focus is on getting back into a groove. I'm glad things have played out this way it has given my mind and body a much needed break. Time for someone else to standing in the Sun and enjoy a huge PR in Beantown. I have had a great run over the last 4 years in Boston 2008 3:20:xx( ran with two stress fractures), 2009 3:10:xx, 2010 2:55:xx and 2011 2:49:16. So it is safe to say I will be happy just going to Boston and having fun and taking it all in this year.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Martin VW on Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:47 am

Expo: Whenever you go, go as early in the day as possible. In the afternoon it's impossible to move.

Finishers shirts run big, but you can try yours on and exchange it just past the bag pickup.

Gear: Look for the official adidas kiosk up the street from the Expo, next to the finish line. No lines, same gear. You can also buy the gear at Marathon Sports, a local chain with downtown and suburban locations, several of them on the course.

Hills: Schuey is right about hidden hills. About 1 1/3 miles out of 26.2 are what I would consider "continuously flat." The rest is up, down, up, down the same 50 feet of elevation over and over. Spend the final 6 weeks running on as little flat ground as possible. Even your fartleks, try to run on ground that varies, so that some are uphill, some are downhill.

Ignore the signs at the top of Heartbreak claiming "it's all downhill form here." It isn't true. The final 4 miles are filled with little rises that are mentally defeating if you think you can charge down the back side. Two of the more famous ones are when you run under Mass Ave, a major route that provides car access to/from the Back Bay and therefore stays open. You go down, and then up, just past Fenway/Buckminster Hotel, about 3/4 to 1/2 of a mile from the finish.

And as soon as you come back up to the surface streets, you make an immediate right onto Hereford Street for your last uphill. From Hereford, you turn onto Boylston. Be ready for that moment, that first glimpse of the finish line will be etched in your memory. The Bull has one of the best Boston Marathon pictures ever as he charges around that corner. The crowd is deafening here.

And it is DOWNHILL to the finish!

Some "cool" gear that's getting local attention are at http://rightonlefton.com/ - 'Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston"

You Saw It Here First: Comm Ave has what is called a "carriage road" that runs parallel to it that all the area runners train on, because there's virtually no car traffic, while Comm Ave is a state highway. Someone has graffitied the Carriage Road in two places: at the very beginning of Heartbreak (between Hills 3 and 4) it says "Is your Heart...Beating?" About a third of the way up it says "Is your Heart...Breaking?" I've loved seeing those in training.

But we don't run on the Carriage Road on race day, we run on a closed Comm Ave. So, I've arranged for those to be redone in chalk by a friend on the race course, hopefully without any arrests being involved. Look for them and tell me, if you see them, if you get a huge emotional lift at a really tough part of the course.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Ben Z on Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:15 am

Mike MacLellan wrote:For us Boston noobies, is heartbreak the last? I thought it was the first...

Nope, #4 of 4 in Newton.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:54 am

Martin VW wrote:
You Saw It Here First: Comm Ave has what is called a "carriage road" that runs parallel to it that all the area runners train on, because there's virtually no car traffic, while Comm Ave is a state highway. Someone has graffitied the Carriage Road in two places: at the very beginning of Heartbreak (between Hills 3 and 4) it says "Is your Heart...Beating?" About a third of the way up it says "Is your Heart...Breaking?" I've loved seeing those in training.

But we don't run on the Carriage Road on race day, we run on a closed Comm Ave. So, I've arranged for those to be redone in chalk by a friend on the race course, hopefully without any arrests being involved. Look for them and tell me, if you see them, if you get a huge emotional lift at a really tough part of the course.

I'll be dying (and looking) at this point in the race.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Mike MacLellan on Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:40 pm

This is all just making it more and more exciting... As well as making me nervous. I keep having to tell myself that most of the country isn't hilly, and 50' rollers are what I call "flat." Still, I have a feeling that even my "easy" pace is going to take something out of me.

Speaking of... Schuey, let me know if you decide to go "easy" for a 3:15. Just sayin'.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Jerry on Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:45 pm

Is that just me? Every time I read/hear about Boston, I get excited and miss it. Then every time the tactics or hills are mentioned, I get discouraged. study
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Martin VW on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:13 pm

Mike MacLellan wrote:This is all just making it more and more exciting... As well as making me nervous. I keep having to tell myself that most of the country isn't hilly, and 50' rollers are what I call "flat." Still, I have a feeling that even my "easy" pace is going to take something out of me.

Speaking of... Schuey, let me know if you decide to go "easy" for a 3:15. Just sayin'.

You'll have to get in line for Schuey's services. If he decides to run at a plus 3 pace, I'm first in line. Of course, you could always run faster than 3:15. Twisted Evil

Be excited. That's why I posted the stuff that I did, for those running the first time, as well as for those that don't have the benefit of knowing the intricacies of the course from running it multiple times.

You're correct on the "rollers," you won't even notice. It was only after I started running it in training that I noticed how "unflat" the course is in its entirety. When I moved here, I realized the entire area is like that.

But, they will still chew you up. That's especially true of "flatlanders" that don't train their legs at all the different angles and speeds, or people that make it through the winter by running on a treadmill without changing the elevation.

I did a lot of my training the first time (2008) on a Rail to Trail because it was safe to run on at night. Even on the weekends, since it was only my second marathon, and the first I was going to run all out, I suffered from fear of faliure, and running on flat training routes allowed me to hit paces that I was worried I couldn't hit. Which was dumb. I believe that's a large part of why the race itself was so hard for me. So I vowed to do that differently this time. I don't care what my paces are, I've been hitting the hills.

My "favorite" so far was a couple of weeks ago. I drove to Hopkinton and ran from the start, at MP, down the 4 mile initial downhill, then back uphill at LSD pace, then doing the same thing a second time. Basically 18 miles with 16 @ a constant 4% to 8% grade and 8 @ MP. Kicked. My. Ass.

I've also run Newton at MP - twice. Once as part of the back half of a 21 miler from downtown to the Firehouse, and back to the finish line, the second this past weekend as the final 7 miles of an 18 miler from BC to the Wellesley Town Hall and back, with the section at speed being from the top of the hill feeding down to the Lower Newton Falls, to Cleveland Circle.

I'm hoping to do both of those one more time each over the next 4-5 weeks.

One additional piece of "local knowledge" - On March 24th, a TON of people run on the course as their last 20+ miler three weeks before the race. My understanding is that vendors go out to Hopkinton and set up booths. And I know from asking around that the entire course will be supported that day (water stops, gummies etc.) by various charities and running clubs. So, to anyone interested, if there's a way to visit the area, driving or using cheap airfare, and the idea of a "dress rehearsal" sounds attractive, it's available.


Last edited by Martin VW on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  wrichman on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:23 pm

This will be my 5th Boston and I'm still intimidated by the hills - not so much the ups, but the downs. Living in flat-as-a-pancake Chicago is not conducive to downhill training (or up, but I can do the tmill for that). I need to drive 45-50 minutes to get in a hilly long run. Hard to find the time w/ work and class (in post-grad. school), and the Chicago traffic! Evil or Very Mad
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Martin VW on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:46 pm

I lied. One more piece of data. The course is permanently measured by way of mile markers painted into the double yellow line. I measured that GPS error on that first four miles due to satellite positioning is about 1%. So, if my 405 said I was running a 7:00 pace, I was actually running at a 7:04 pace. Very little tangent impact since it's a pretty straight shot.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  fostever on Wed Mar 07, 2012 2:58 pm

Agree with VW and Schuey about the last part of the race being the toughest especially on 50+ yr old legs. The part about the rises near the end being killer is true. Summary: it's a tricky and tough course that can trash you if not run wisely, smart doing as much research as possible. It is so much fun along the course you can get distracted easily and not realize what's happening. For first timers I'd say leave plenty in the tank for the last punishing sections. I'm still a relative newby myself so hope I take heed of my own advise as well as others!
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  fostever on Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:03 pm

Mike MacLellan wrote:This is all just making it more and more exciting... As well as making me nervous. I keep having to tell myself that most of the country isn't hilly, and 50' rollers are what I call "flat." Still, I have a feeling that even my "easy" pace is going to take something out of me.

Speaking of... Schuey, let me know if you decide to go "easy" for a 3:15. Just sayin'.
Pretty sure that's not gonna happen, but I'll let the "Bull" address that officially. Hard for a bull to hold back, ya see!
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Jeff F on Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:50 pm

Wow, lots of memories reading this. I would not say I am a Boston veteran as I only ran it twice, but there is some great information in this thread. I can hardly wait to read this year's race reports.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:27 pm

fostever wrote: For first timers I'd say leave plenty in the tank for the last punishing sections. I'm still a relative newby myself so hope I take heed of my own advise as well as others!

Steve - This will be my 11th official Boston, 15th overall during the actual race, and like VW, I've trained on the course in the past - and I still have not mastered it!

(I am proud to say that I finally mastered the new Atlanta Half Course this year and I plan to run the Georgia Half course well next week too. Maybe we learn more in our old age).

This is an excellent summary of the course by the way: http://www.runnersworld.com/events/boston06/i_secrets.html I reread it constantly.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Mike MacLellan on Thu Mar 08, 2012 11:48 pm

So here's a question: If my party comes to watch the start, can they expect to see me somewhere between miles 13-16 and then again between 24-25? Or will traffic be terrible?
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:04 pm

Mike MacLellan wrote:So here's a question: If my party comes to watch the start, can they expect to see me somewhere between miles 13-16 and then again between 24-25? Or will traffic be terrible?

Yes, it is possible to do this, but you really need to know where you are going. I think an easy place that they can see you is at the Natick-Wellesley line around mile 12 and right before the college. They can exit Rte. 9 at Oak Street and go right. Follow Oak St. to the end (Lilja (my) Elementary School will be on your left) and then take a left onto Bacon St. Bacon St. takes you right to the course, and I'm pretty sure you can park along the street and walk to see the runners go by. The school is literally a mile from the intersection of Bacon St and Rte. 135 which is the course.

As for the next meet up, if they take Rte. 9 into Boston city proper, it becomes Huntington Ave. Huntington Ave. will take you to the back side of Copley Square and the Prudential Center. This is again just minutes from the finish area and Kenmore square, but I'm not sure about the exact exits etc since I have not lived there in years and I do it by feel and landmarks. I think you could have also exited Rte. 9 in Brookline and gone towards Simmons College and Fenway (Brookline Ave??) and they would be in the 23-24 mile area. MVM or someone else truly local now can help with the exact roads.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  mountandog on Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:56 pm

Two best tips I ever received:

1) The hills are only a big deal if you let them be. The anticipation is far worse than the bite. Other hills in other marathons are much tougher. Don't freak out, but don't run the ups like they're downs either.

2) Take a disposable water bottle or sports drink with you with a closeable sports top on it for the first 6 miles or so. You can skip the very crowded, early aid stations and toss the bottle later. I figure carrying the extra weight was more than made up for by being able to run past them.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  wrichman on Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:02 pm

[quote="mountandog"]Two best tips I ever received:

1) The hills are only a big deal if you let them be. The anticipation is far worse than the bite. Other hills in other marathons are much tougher. Don't freak out, but don't run the ups like they're downs either.

ha, yep.... run Big Sur 13 days later and Boston will seem like bumps in the road.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Sat Mar 10, 2012 8:52 pm

[quote="wrichman"]
mountandog wrote:Two best tips I ever received:

1) The hills are only a big deal if you let them be. The anticipation is far worse than the bite. Other hills in other marathons are much tougher. Don't freak out, but don't run the ups like they're downs either.

ha, yep.... run Big Sur 13 days later and Boston will seem like bumps in the road.

Well, only if you count Hurricane Point, but that is early in the race. Loved Big Sur however!
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Mike MacLellan on Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:05 pm

I noticed that after checking out the B2B challenge - you go from these 50-100' rollers in Boston to a 600' monster on Highway 1. Nuts. Thanks again for all the tips, everyone!
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Randy E on Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:29 pm

Lots of great advice here.

I think the hardest part of Boston are the downhill sections. During the race I actually look forward to the uphills to give the quads a break. No matter what you do to prepare your quads will be very sore from the downhills.

The only other piece of advice is, just run and breathe. Don't over analyze.

Not sure if this has been mentioned but give yourself plenty of time to get to your start corral. When you leave Athletes Village you be shocked at the parade of runners ahead of you. Good luck all.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  Bob on Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:45 pm

Wondering why nobody has mentioned getting hammered at the Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon. That's where I'll be.
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Re: Boston marathon tips

Post  mountandog on Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:56 pm

Bob wrote:Wondering why nobody has mentioned getting hammered at the Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon. That's where I'll be.

Oh, I'll be getting hammered, just not at the Sox game. BTW - anyone start to organize anything yet?
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