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How to incorporate a tune-up race in your Boston build

Tune-up races are a great way to prepare for Boston (or any spring marathon). Here's how to do it

The 2019 Boston Marathon is fewer than 100 days away, and many athletes across North America are already well into their training block. Many of them will incorporate a tune-up race or two into their build as a way of testing their fitness, practising fuelling and trying out gear as they anticipate the journey to Hopkinton. Here, we offer some tips on how to use tune-up races to fine-tune your marathon training.

RELATED: Tune-up races: Why, when and how to race before you race

Photo: Boston marathon (Facebook)

More than 30 members of the Halifax Road Hammers are planning to head to Boston for the big day on April 15. We spoke to head coach Lee McCarron, who likes his runners to find a half-marathon five or six weeks out. Though not usually an issue in the fall, McCarron says there aren’t many races to choose from on the east coast that early in the spring. His club typically chooses the Moose Run Race, a 25K out-and-back in Cow Bay, N.S., which is four weeks out from Boston. “Generally we aim to run this at marathon pace,” says McCarron.”It’s a hilly course, so it allows for race day simulations.”

“The Moose” in Cow Bay, N.S. Photo: Moose Run 25K

Some other great options across the country for a Boston tune-up half-marathon include the following:

Merigomish, N.S.: Pictou County Hypothermic Half-Marathon, March 4
St. Isidore, N.B.: Demi-Marathon de l’Acadie, March 4
Ottawa, Ont.: Hypothermic Half-Marathon, March 2
Burlington, Ont.: Chilly Half-Marathon, March 3
Burnaby, B.C.: Green Sock Half & Shamrock’n Race, March 11

Chilly Half-Marathon
The 2017 Chilly Half. Photo: Suzanne Parrot

While the half-marathon is the best test of your fitness ahead of a full marathon, a successful race is not a guarantee you’ll have a good marathon, since they are very different distances. But it’s a useful change from the weekly long run. As McCarron says, “racing typically requires more focus, and allows for a dress rehearsal before the big day.”

He cautions to leave enough recovery time between your tune-up half and the big day. (Two weeks is likely not enough.) Also plan an easier week after the tune-up race, to maintain your fitness while recovering from the effort. 

Regarding shorter tune-up races, McCarron suggests a 10K at some point can be also be a good way to gauge how your training is progressing. You can also use it to mix things up a bit if you find yourself doing the same speed workouts every week. He suggests even running the 10K as a fartlek session, varying your pace throughout the distance.