Boston Marathon Tips!
We’re officially a week out from Boston and it’s time for all the excitement! This will be my second time running Boston - last time was in that 2017 heat wave! I know there are tons of blog posts out there about how to approach this weekend and race, but I thought it would be a good idea to put together a post for first timers and for myself as I’ve had the chance to revisit my first Boston experience and some of the things I wish I’d done differently.
Let me caveat that with there are 2 ways to race any race. You go out for fun and pure enjoyment, or you go out to race it. Each requires work and preparation, but one requires serious intention that you are out there to crush a goal. This year I’m going out for enjoyment, but regardless of how you plan on approaching the race, you really need to be prepared for anything because this is Boston and literally anything can happen.
Tip #1 - Mind the weather + have multiple goals.
This is my #1 tip because this is the #1 thing I wish I’d done. I had a kick ass training cycle for my first Boston. All things were pointing me to a 3:12-3:15 and I felt fit AF. The weather kept changing in the days leading up to the race from a high of 55 to a high of 65, finally landing on a high of 75 for race day. I remember sitting at the Red Sox game the day before the race in 80+ degree weather sweating bullets. I was hydrating like crazy that day, but I didn’t ever think that my A goal needed to be sacrificed. Hell, I didn’t even have any other goals as backup plans.
Always have 3-4 goals going into a race so that when one goes down, you can focus on the next. My A goal for Boston the first time I ran it was to get the time I trained for. To get a 3:12-3:15. When I started to fall off pace, I didn’t pull myself back to chase my next goal, because I didn’t have a next goal. This year, my A goal is to race smart and attempt a negative split. I don’t even have a time linked to that. My B goal is to run a 3:20 or better. My C goal is to finish with a smile. Only one of these is time dependent and I’m most definitely going to accomplish at least one of these which will make the race a success. I failed miserably in 2017 because I didn’t have other goals. It made me leave Boston never wanting to come back because I felt like I’d accomplished nothing. Have multiple goals and be smart enough to know when to sacrifice one of them.
Tip # 1A - Have multiple race day outfit options.
This is a subset of 1 because you want to be prepared. Like I mentioned, the 3 days leading up to race day in 2017 looked pretty cool, but it changed drastically. Take clothes to prepare for all weather (another Boston 2018 can happen), so you have options with you for warm and cold weather.
Tip # 2 - Rest up.
There’s literally a million things to do on Boston weekend! Every brand has a shakeout run or event they want you to go to, the expo is huge and offers tons of seminars and opportunities to meet pro runners, all your friends from IG will be there to meet in real life, the Red Sox are always playing. This race brings together the entire running community in a way that is UNREAL. It can also leave you on your feet trying to do and see it all because the day after the marathon, everyone goes home. Last time, I went to the expo Sunday morning, Red Sox game in the afternoon, and hit up some of the shops after the game before finally getting to dinner and ended up walking somewhere around 10 miles the day before the race. No bueno. Pick one to two things you really want to do - Expo obviously, but don’t hit up every single booth. Limit your time there and then go to one other event - maybe a shakeout run with your favorite brand or group of friends so you can kill two birds with one stone (everyone needs a shakeout right??). Most of the shops on Newbury are open after the marathon on Monday afternoon, so hit those up later and maybe meet up with your runner friends for post race celebratory drinks!
Tip # 3 - Run without music. Please.
Everyone told me the crowds in Boston were amazing. That you could hear the Wellesley girls from over a mile away. I didn’t experience Boston’s crowds last time because I had turned my music up so loud in an attempt to drown them out and FOCUS on my race goal that I still hadn’t sacrificed at mile 20 when I started seeing spots. When I ran NYC 7 months later without music, I realized all that I’d missed out on in Boston.
You all know that I advocate hard for no music running - it makes you a more aware runner, not just of your surroundings for safety reasons, but also of your body and how it’s doing as the race progresses. But on race day, it no music allows you to enjoy the experience of an entire city that has shutdown for YOU to run their streets. Let them cheer for you. Let the sound of their screams take you over the Newton hills. They’re out here for you, so please listen and soak it all in.
Tip # 4 - Know your race morning plans.
This is a big deal because if you miss your bus or don’t know where you are in relation to the start or how to get there, you’re screwed (that’s dramatic, but not really). Make sure you review all the details of the bus pickup on race morning if you’re staying in Boston. Know how long it will take you to get to the buses you need to be on (all buses and departure times are based on waves). If you’re staying near the start, make sure you know an effective way to get there (public transport or Uber). This is a well organized and well oiled race machine. They do their best to ensure all runners are taken care of and know where they need to be, so plan. it. out. When you hit up the expo, make sure to ask questions to ensure you’ve got a smooth race day timeline. It will really help reduce stress.
Tip # 5 - Nutrition - take lots of food with you to the start.
You have a long wait from the time you get up and get on the buses to head to Hopkinton and the time you actually start the race. Take food with you to the start. I ate my usual oatmeal and banana at 5 am when I woke up. I took a bagel, apple, and Honeystinger waffle with me to the start and ended up eating all of it while waiting in athlete’s village because I didn’t start until 10:30 am. I’ve linked up our nutritionist Paula’s blog post where she shares some great tips that she has for race day nutrition as well as advice she received from other Registered Dieticians and Sports Dietitians who’ve run Boston before.
Tip # 6 - Don’t force it.
I was somewhere in Wave 2 when I first ran, but regardless of where you land, unless you’re in the very front (aka you are an ELITE), you are running in a sea of people. I spent the first 3 miles weaving like a crazy person trying to find the spot where things would thin out. I wasted so much energy weaving and being overly aggressive here. The roads in Boston were not made for 30,000 runners the way NYC’s streets are - aka they are narrow AF. The first 3 miles are the tightest, so my advice is to chill and roll with it. Don’t waste time and energy weaving. You’ll get more road space around mile 4. This is also the sharpest drop in the course and it’s easy to go out fast here. Just keep going with the crowds and allow yourself to ease into the race.
Tip #7 - The hills are hard, but it’s all relative.
I spent hours upon hours reading blog posts leading up to my first Boston. They all said different things about the hills - some said they weren’t that bad, some said they were awful. It’s all relative to your training, your abilities, the weather, and where things are at for you once you get to them. By the time I reached the Newtons in 2017, I was already toast and the hills felt like mountains. I didn’t train enough hills though and I’d kind of been stuck with this mentality that I was just bad at hills. The hills demolished me so much that in training for NYC, I incorporated hills into almost every run except recovery runs. I crushed the hills in NYC and they felt like cake. It was also 55 degrees and overcast and I never hit the wall, so there’s that. Like I said, it will depend entirely on how you race leading up to the hills and how well you’ve trained for them, but don’t get stuck on this because race day is here and the work is done. My advice is to know they are coming, focus on getting up each one, and continuing to move forward. See Tip #3 as well because the crowds can help you here.
Finally, enjoy the day. You’ve earned it.
Since I’m really running this year’s Boston as a training run for Grandma’s, some of these things are a little easier for me to take in (like adjusting goals based on weather and not forcing things) and I realize that. If you take nothing else from this post, I hope you take with you that the only experience that matters next Monday is your own. Everyone will be experiencing the hills, the weather, and the crowds, but each runner’s experience is unique. Know how hard you worked to get here, how hard you’ll need to work to get to the finish line, and revel in every moment you get to be on that course. You will soon be a Boston Marathoner :)