Boston Marathon: What to Expect
As I am preparing for my 2nd Boston Marathon, I find myself at peace going into this marathon. More peaceful than any other race I have gone into before. And as I know this is a rare feeling, especially when it comes to the Boston Marathon, as most people are nervous or anxious, or at least I know I was.
This is the ultimate victory lap as many people view it, which builds up the anticipation more than we sometimes realize. So I’m here today to tell you what I believe the 4 secrets to tackling your first Boston Marathon.
[I know I’ve only run it 1 time, so I am by no means an expert, so these are my personal experiences :)]
Heartbreak Hill isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
Heartbreak hill is this scary beast that whenever you train for Boston, that is your main foe. And yes it is a big hill, especially for those of us coming from flat land like Chicago, but really, it isn’t anything harder than the other hills, at least in my opinion. Just put your head down, power up the hill, use your arms, drive your knees, and you are at the peak. Tame the beast :)
2. Find a friend.
Whether it is in the Athlete’s Village or along the course, smile and say hi to someone. Trust me. Boston is such a unique experience that is a bonding opportunity, so take advantage of that. The photo of my first Boston Marathon, the woman next to me, couldn’t tell you her name or where she is from, but we ran together for about 3 miles and I know what her goal finish time was and her bib number. We encouraged each other along in the unexpected heat that day towards our goals. After I finished, I went to look up her bib number and smiled as I saw she had still managed to hit her goal time. Find a friend, even if it is just for a few miles.
3. If you find the hills taking their mental and physical toll on you, here’s my tips for tackling them.
Advice given by many different coaches over the years to me:
-Focus on your form. Drive the knees. Think “push” “push” as you strike off each foot
-Take each hill at a time. Don’t think about the collective hills, but one at a time. Like a tempo workout or speed workout. One interval at a time.
-Put your head down and just run the hill. Don’t look at the peak. It will seem so far away. Focus on your breathing and your form and before you know it (60 seconds later) you are at the peak and going down hill.
-Have a mantra. Marathon’s are tough in general, but Boston is a tough one because of all the emotion surrounding it. Be prepared and have a couple mantra’s ready to go for when the going get’s tough.
4. Adjust pace and nutrition on weather.
It happens every year. The days surrounding Boston Marathon are beautiful and perfect racing weather. But Patriot’s Day, not so much. So be prepared with Plan A and Plan B, maybe even a C. This may seem self-explanatory, but weather affects your heart rate and your sweat rate, which tell you appropriate paces and more importantly, how much fuel you should take in. Here’s a good rule of thumb:
If hotter temperatures, your body’s adaptation is to cool itself off, usually sweating more. So increasing sodium and other electrolytes intake is important, as well as hydration needs. In hotter temperatures, many athletes also experience GI distress from a gel they have been training with and the only difference is the heat. Be prepared for this and slow the intake of the gel and focus first on hydration and electrolytes.
If cooler temperatures, your body’s adaptation is to warm itself up, usually creating more energy, therefore using more glycogen than originally needed for 26.2 miles. Increase carbohydrate intake to account for higher burning of fuel during colder temperatures. Shivering of the body alone can burn up to 400 calories per hour, to generate heat! Keep emergency fuel with you during a race.
These are my 4 tips to prepare your body and mind for whatever may happen on race day. And these apply to many marathon courses, but the reason I relate them to Boston is the emotion surrounding this race. It’s an emotional experience. All the hard work you put in to not just qualify but to train for this coveted race. So my final tip is…
Take it all in. Enjoy every minute, no matter what the outcome of the day is. You never get back your first Boston Marathon experience. Savor it.
Good luck to everyone running Boston Marathon this year! See you out there on Heartbreak hill, powering up it together!
Share your race day tips because we learn best from each other :)