Hi, Runners – In this episode of the 5-minute Warmup, we are talking Boston Marathon Racing Strategy.
Now the Boston Marathon is coming up in October. It’s generally in April. It’s in October this year, and I just wanted to share a few tips for you as you think about running the Boston Marathon.
The first one is that the weather is always crazy when it comes to Boston. It can be sweltering. It can be frigid. It can be rainy. It can be the worst conditions ever. There can be a headwind. There could be a tailwind. It could be the best condition ever. And we’ve seen all that at Boston through the years. So a lot of people are saying, “Well, October’s going to be hard because it’s going to be hot in Boston.” We don’t know. You have no idea. You have no idea if it’s going to be hot. It could be hot in April. So if you’re thinking Boston’s going to be more challenging this year because of the weather, it was hard in April. And so it’s kind of up in the air. The key thing is at least now you’re training in the summer for the race, and so you’ll be a little bit more heat adapted than if you’re training in the winter for a hot event in April. So, that’s the first thing. Don’t sweat the weather too much.
What you do want to sweat, though, is the topography of the course. It’s a challenging course. I’ve run three Boston Marathons. My marathon PR is 2:58, and my Boston PR is 3:02. Take that into consideration as you think about who to take advice from. But what I will say is what I think makes the course hard is that when you get to that starting line, and maybe it’s your first Boston, perhaps it’s not your first Boston, you are going to be amped beyond belief. You’re going to be amped because you’ve been training a long time. It’s the Boston Marathon. It’s very prestigious. And you’re going to be surrounded by people in your wave that are just as good as you. So when that start line happens, and you take off, you’re going to be surrounded by runners who are capable of running just as fast as you are because they qualified for Boston in a very similar time. That creates this momentum and this adrenaline that’s just going to make you run really fast, and you can’t do that. You can’t do that because the first half of the Boston course is downhill, and so you’re going to feel good because the course is aiding you because it’s downhill. You’re going to be excited. The course is downhill, and you’re going to be running faster than your goal marathon pace, and you’re going to feel amazing. But where the course gets very hard, I think, is at miles 16 to 21.
Do your training mentally and physically now to get through miles 16 to 21, which are the set of Newton Hills. In my calculations, there are four of them. None of them by themselves are all that hard. But where they come in the race at the point where you’re starting to experience glycogen depletion, where you’re getting tired, it hurts, and it’s a tough place to have the hills. I think the best advice is until you get that first half of that marathon, the first 13 miles, you don’t want to be running much faster than your goal marathon pace. You either want to be right at it or a little bit slower. You want to be saving something because when you get to miles 16 to 21, you will not be able to run at your marathon pace, most likely without expending too much energy. You’re going to have to give pace back to get over those hills. Be comfortable with that. Be prepared for that.
When you crest that last hill that goes up to mile 21, Heartbreak Hill, there’s a big downhill after that. And for the last five miles, there’s a couple of little hills. There’s a couple of mean ones towards the end, but they’re nothing like miles 16 to 21. If you can get through miles 16 to 21 feeling good, maybe being a little bit off your pace when you crest Heartbreak Hill, you can get it back that last five miles. You can accelerate on those downhills, and you can really dig deep those last three miles and get time back.
In summary, don’t get too amped at the start. Hold back in the beginning. Focus all your attention and energy on getting through miles 16 to 21. Be okay being off pace. Let it rip the last five.
Best of luck to all you guys running the 2021 Boston Marathon.