There is now just one week to go before some 30,000 runners, including more than 2,000 Canadians, line up in Hopkinton to start their 42.2K journey to Copley Square in downtown Boston.
With the start of this year’s Boston Marathon less than one week away, the majority of training is now done and runners are tapering for race day. Most are no doubt excited and perhaps even nervous for the big day which is why it’s essential to do everything you can to properly prepare.
At this point, you are ready to race. There are few things you can do, running-wise, to improve your fitness. Have faith in your training, look back on all the work you’ve done and be proud of how far you’ve come. Here are a few of our best Boston-approved tips, tricks and advice for making the most of Marathon Monday.
Chill out this week
You’ve logged the miles, nailed the workouts and are now as fit as you’re going to get. With one week to go, you should be tapering your training and running no more than 50 to 75 per cent of peak mileage. Reduce the length and duration of every run this week but keep a small amount of intensity. If in doubt, do less!
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Consider trying a confidence-boosting marathon pace workout (3-5 x 1K at race pace with 400m or two minutes rest in between) on Tuesday or Wednesday and a few strides (6-12 x 30-second accelerations) on Friday or Saturday. Take a few days completely off to rest and recover before the big day. If you plan to run the day before, please keep it to less than 30 minutes and extremely easy.
Have a travel plan
Boston is a busy place on marathon weekend. Hotels are full, restaurants are packed and the streets and sidewalks are lined with runners (you can tell because they’re wearing their Boston jackets).
It’s important to have a plan regarding what you want to do and when. Know how to get to and from your hotel/accommodations, especially on Monday morning. There are lots of road closures all weekend long, so avoid driving if you can. The MBTA subway (the ‘T’) is a great and cost-effective way to get around the city. Obviously try to limit the amount of time you spend on your feet, particularly on Sunday.
It’s also a good idea to have a food/meal schedule. Seek out and make restaurant reservations for key meals well in advance. The pre-race dinner on Sunday at City Hall Plaza and provided free as part of your registration is well worth the short wait in line. Also plan what, when and where you’ll eat on race morning (some hotels offer extra early breakfast for runners). The same goes for celebrations post-race on Monday afternoon and evening.
The Boston Marathon expo is one of the world’s best. There are great deals on products and gear; lots of free samples and things to see and also great guest speakers and Q & A sessions with elites and organizers. It’s a tad overwhelming and hard not to spend too much of your time there.
Expect big crowds, be patient and plan in advance what you want to see and do. If you can, consider visiting the expo on Friday or Saturday allowing Sunday to rest and relax. If you must visit on Sunday, arrive early and try to limit the time you spend there. Two hours is probably more than enough.
Know the course
As far as marathon courses go, Boston is one of the most famous and universally known for it’s net downhill point-to-point course from Hopkinton to Copley Square. The route itself is fairly straightforward and features only a few significant turns, such as the right turn at the fire station in Newton, the left onto Beacon street and the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.”
Boston is also well know for it’s many rolling hills. Most of the attention goes to the four Newton hills that begin at mile 16 (26K) and end at 21 (34K) with the cresting of ‘Heartbreak Hill.’ These hills offer a considerable challenge at a particularly difficult point in the race.
But what few acknowledge is the notable amount of downhill that takes place in the first 10K. This section is arguably the most important in the entire race. Many runners make the mistake of going out too fast in these early miles which beat up the quads and calves and can come back to haunt you later on. Try to be as light on your feet as you can as you descend the many downhill sections of the race. The final 8K, after you climb Heartbreak, is also almost entirely downhill. If you’ve run a smart race to this point, you should be rewarded with a relatively fast finish.
Make a race plan
Given the challenging nature of the course (both its up AND downhills), deciding how to pace the Boston Marathon is one of the most difficult and important decisions you’ll make.
Like any marathon, it’s important to run at an entirely comfortable pace for the first half of the race. The first half (all the way to 26K in fact) is a significant net downhill and lots of runners opt to ‘bank’ some time early on which they then give back later in the second half (usually on the infamous Newton hills).
This strategy ultimately results in a positive split. While generally not recommended, running the second half of the course a bit slower than the first is often inevitable and possibly even preferred in Boston. That said, being conservative early on and picking up the pace in the second half (a negative split) is the recommended strategy for first-time runners in Boston.
Given the large and competitive field, it’s absolutely essential that you run your own race and not get caught up in what others are doing. You will be passed as well as pass many others. Your biggest competition is yourself and the clock so stick to your pacing plan and run a smart race.
Boston has some of the best crowds of any marathon in the world. As many as a million Massachusetts’ residents line the course from end to end and offer what seems like relentless encouragement, cheers and support. Take it all in and enjoy the experience as much as you can but be careful not to get too caught up in the excitement. It’s easy to waste energy and run faster than planned when trying to engage with the crowds.
Crossing that Boston Marathon finish line is a special and often emotional experience. You’ve just accomplished something few runners ever will. Be proud of what you’ve done and celebrate all the time and energy it took to get there. Every marathon is memorable. But Boston is extra special.